A Lesson From Dad

scan0031I'm not sure I actually remember breaking the window but I certainly do remember learning how to fix it. It was one of those incidents of childhood, retold so often that it becomes part of the family legend obscuring the dim line between memory of the story and the memory itself.

I was about six years old. For Christmas, I received a cowboy outfit complete with hat, vest and holster belt containing two toy six-shooters. Like every other boy in those thrilling days of yesteryear, whose Dad was a devoted fan of Marshall Dillon, I knew just what one was supposed to do with those six-guns.

First you stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees bowed out, elbows bent so that your hands hang loosely just to the outside of the pistol grips. Your fingers wiggle and twitch. Suddenly, at the drop of a hat or the blink of the bad guy's eye, you grasp the pistol, draw and fire, as quickly as you can.

Having dispatched the bad guy, you lift the tip of the gun barrel to your lips and blow away the lingering wisp of smoke. As you drop the gun back to waist level, you twirl it by the trigger guard around your trigger finger and deftly replace it in the holster.

I had the draw part down pretty good. But one day as I stood alone in the living room, practicing, the exercise went bad. As I initiated the twirl, after a particularly difficult shot, the gun predictably flew off my finger and hit the front living room window, dead center, shattering the windowpane.

I do not recall what happened next, or my mother's immediate reaction. Nor do I have any particular recollection of my father's reaction. Perfectly capable of losing his temper on occasion, I do not recall that this was one of those times. So what do I remember?

dad Nomad001.aThe window in question looked out the front of the house onto an enclosed front porch. I remember sitting on a stool, on the porch, in front of the window. My father was beside me. He removed the remaining glass shards still stuck in the window frame. This left a slot where the glass had been. One wall of the slot was the rabbeted edge of the window frame. The other was formed by the putty used to hold the glass in place. We inserted a putty knife into the slot and using the window frame as a fulcrum, broke the old putty loose. Old-fashioned window putty is not soft and pliant like modern sealants. It dries hard like cement and is tough to remove We then used a chisel to clean off the remaining putty, down to the wood frame.

Dad lifted the new glass pane into the window. While holding the glass in place, we insert the glazing points. These are little metal triangles. One point of the triangle faces the wood frame. A putty knife or screwdriver is placed against the opposite flat side and pressure is exerted. The point is embedded into the wood frame to hold the glass in place.

With the new glass firmly in place, we applied new glazing putty to form a fillet where the glass meets the frame. The putty will harden and help to hold the glass in place but its primary purpose is to seal the window against wind and water.

I sat on that stool through the entire job. I don't remember how much of the actual work Dad made me do other than to try a little bit of each step. I know that I learned two things from this experience. I learned how to repair a broken window and I learned to be more careful and not break things in the first place.

scan0004

Dad singing to my daughter

The window in question is behind the lamp.

William Hunn

William Hunn

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