Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

Dad’s House by grassroothawaii
August 26, 2010, 4:38 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Gary Dunn

I am a believer in self-reliance. I have my parents to thank for that — my father grew up on a homestead farm in Montana, my mother on a farm in Oklahoma. People familiar with my Open Slate project ( know that one of the project’s cornerstones is that students build and maintain their own personal computers. The goal is not cost savings, but self reliance. Knowledge of how a computer works, how to fix it when it breaks, and how to make it better should all be second nature, as natural to these students as knowing how to play Guitar Hero, or how to upload a cell phone video to YouTube. Or, for you older readers, how to sharpen a pencil.

Recently I had the opportunity to enjoy a California road trip. The hi-lite of my adventure was finding the house my father built — still standing. It was around 1949. My father, a pilot during WW-II turned aircraft mechanic in peacetime, was earning $600 a month as the mechanic for what turned out to be the first commercial helicopter operation on the west coast. He had married the company secretary and, still living in a tiny trailer in Sunland-Tujunga, they had a daughter. When I entered their plans my mother insisted they have a house, so my father used his GI Bill to buy a half-acre lot and set about building their house all by himself, after work and on weekends. He poured the foundation, he laid the bricks, he framed and shingled the roof. He did all the plumbing and the electrical. I remember seeing the tools he used, the cement trowels, pipe threader, table saw and shingle hatchet. Not only is the house still standing, it looks exactly the same as the last time I saw it fifty years ago.

Sad to think that the same thing is so unlikely today. My parents lived on their land, in their trailer, even as they built their house. Today our government protects us from … ourselves, with a maze of permits and regulations and limitations. Sadder still, most people would never consider taking on such a task. We have become specialized. We are a this or a that. We shrug off the other things we do as “just a hobby.” For my dad, building a house was not a hobby. It was just one of the many things he did with excellence. He was truly self reliant.


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Wonderful story, Gary! It’s incredible how the WWII generation (dubbed “America’s Greatest Generation”) were the ones who built this country to greatness. They worked, sacrificed and fought to keep freedom alive. Then along came my generation – the baby Boomers. What will be our legacy? I’m embarrassed to say that we’ve tried to destroy it all.

Comment by giliar

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