That’s right. Hit the tree.

We’re getting our first snowfall for the year (nothing really significant around here, much worse if you’re north of the city). Anyway, it reminds me of a story.

I was tobogganing with a friend from school. It had been snowing hard and there was a rare (for Toronto) deep layer of white fluffy snow covering everything. The day had that "winter wonderland" quality to it.

The hill we were on was terraced and dipped into a small gully before the main stretch. At the bottom was a field planted with a few (carefully arranged) trees.

We’d taken our run and wiped out in the gully. From there we couldn’t see the bottom of the hill, only the top of some of the larger trees. As we were dusting ourselves off, another kid tore past us, easily making it over the little lip and headed at breakneck speed down the remainder of the hill.

After he’d passed, we heard his sister watching from the top of the hill say – "That’s right. Hit the tree." We turned, there was a short pause, a dull thud, and a FWUMP! as the crown of one of the larger trees shuddered and dropped it’s load of snow.

I think not seeing the actual impact made it that much funnier.

Buffy Porson

One of the coolest projects I built as a kid was from the book The Buffy-Porson: A Car You Can Build and Drive (see more here). I spent the entire winter when I was 12 building it. The finished car was gloss black and looked very cool. I remember scouring all of the bike shops I could find in Ottawa looking for wire spoke tricycle wheels. I finally found a set of 4 – 12 inch wheels in the basement of some shop on Bank Street (I’m sure all of the shop owners thought I was nuts).

We came back from spending the summer at our cottage that year and someone had broken into our garage and stolen it – I was crushed. I never saw it again.


I came across this picture of a finished (and heavily modified version). Makes me want to hunt down a copy of that book and get me a 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ ply. 🙂

My first hack

I think I was 3 or 4. I’d found a small light-bulb somewhere (maybe a dismantled Christmas gift) and I’d begged my dad to help me build something in his workshop. – so we built a flash light.

I remember nailing the blocks of wood together to form a small box that held a C-cell battery. A piece of wire acted as the contact to the cathode and a screw made contact to the anode and acted as the switch (loosening the screw pulled it’s point into the block of wood broke the contact with battery).

We used a trio of common nails partially driven into the end of the box to hold the lightbulb. I think I used the same technique several times later in other projects.

It’s quite amazing how clear some of those memories are. I think that was a pretty influential experience – it certainly set the stage for my later experiments.