Some of the students were listening, others were looking out the window with that faraway, dreamy look that I remember well (and still have once-in-a while). Other students had that intense, burning, pay-attention look. I was giving a demonstration to area high school students at Iowa Wesleyan College on how to weld junk together to make sculptures. I also spoke about writing and photography.
I told the story of how I got started welding, how I had two pieces of old farm junk that I thought would look good attached to each other. So, I had bought the cheapest 110v welder I could find and, not knowing squat from sic’em about welding, had gotten the job done. I now have a nice 220v welder and, if any of the students wanted the little welder, I would give it to them.
Asa Crowe was one of the students with that burning look. She talked to me after class about writing, photography, and welding. She lived in Donnellson, actually, Charleston (next to New Boston) and was a junior at Central Lee High School. She asked if I was serious about giving the welder away. I told her I was.
Sometime later, on a Sunday afternoon, Asa dropped by with her mother to pick up the welder. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, but a man is only as good as his word.
I didn’t hear anything more from Asa for more than a year, and wondered if she was getting any use of the welder. Then this email popped into my inbox, along with a photo: Dear Mr. Swarm, One year and a high school graduation later, things have finally settled down enough for me to get into welding. I attached some pictures of my first project, Humbert the Volkswagon Beetle. You’ve been a huge inspiration to me, as I went through a phase where I started to doubt the benefits of art, but since talking to you and the opportunity that you’ve given me, I’ve really seen the light. I carry a camera with me everywhere (I even got some blue ribbons on my pictures at the fair) and I’m going to try majoring in journalism in the fall. Thank you not only for the generous gift of the welder, but for the dreams. Best of wishes, Asa Crowe.
I was stunned, pleased, and impressed. So, I met with Asa for lunch and bribed her with strawberry pie to tell me her story. Her parents are Joan Crowe and Andrew Witter. She is an only child, but not spoiled (my observation). She was salutatorian of her graduating class, and is now off to the University of Iowa. One of the teachers who inspired her the most was her music teacher, and an old bud of mine, Daryl Coffin, of Salem. What does she want to do with her degree in journalism? Work for NPR.
In studying the sculpture, “Humbert,” that she made from junk, I was a little envious. So, I found me an old grill and bumper from a ‘47 GMC truck, a couple of hubcaps (for eyes), and two hood springs (for antennae). I’m gonna make me a “Jimmy.”
Idea copier? Yep. The teacher inspired the student, who in turn, inspired the teacher — a new twist to the epic tale of the student coming back to challenge the master (“Rocky,” “Star Wars”). I’ve experienced this over and over again: the greatest value in teaching is what you learn from the pupils.
Good luck in the future, Asa. I’m a little envious here, also. She doesn’t know this right now, but she has the world by the tail. Or should it be, tale?
Have a good story? Call of text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at (319) 217-0526, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com. Curt also records his stories on www.lostlakeradion.com.