Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Man Cave: Our Silver Dollar Tradition

My Grandpa Paul has always been oddly associated with silver dollars. I remember stopping with him several times at the 10,000 Silver Dollar Bar near Missoula, Montana. True to its name, the walls there are encrusted with literally thousands of them. It was also his tradition to hand them out to the grand kids at every visit. I spent every one he gave me. I have wished many times that I had held onto a few of them. Thankfully, I do still have the first thing I ever bought with my silver dollars....and I use it every day.

The silver dollars Grandpa handed out weren't like the dollar coins of today. Those Eisenhower dollars were, big, heavy, and felt significant, especially to a kid whose hand's were barely big enough to hold them. When I think about it I can still feel the weight of two or three of them in my pocket. Grandpa was also an avid fisherman. It's no surprise to me that the first thing I ever bought with a couple of those silver dollars was a plastic tackle box. I'm sure my collection of fishing lures, weights, and bobbers was fairly small, but owning a tackle box made me feel like part of the club.

I was only around 5 years old when I got it, but I can still remember several details about that day. My cousins and I walked the few blocks to the store from Grandpa's house. It was a blistering summer day in Nampa, Idaho, and the store's air conditioning felt positively chilly as we walked in the door. I already knew what I wanted, so it was just a matter of finding one in my budget. I scanned the aisles, and there it was: bright orange, and only two dollars. I remember plunking those heavy dollars on the checkout stand and walking out the store with it, feeling very satisfied that my money had been well spent. I had no idea.

That was nearly forty years ago. In truth I only used the tackle box for its intended purpose a few times. It very likely would have been lost and forgotten if not for a stroke of good fortune: at age fourteen I started playing the guitar. In an environmentally conscious move well ahead of its time, I "repurposed" the tackle box into a guitar toolbox, and it remains in service as such to this day. For twenty-five years it has stored soldering irons, string winders, wire clippers, screw drivers, and other assorted tools used for adjusting and repairing guitars, and every day I open it and think of my grandpa and those heavy silver dollars.

There aren't many things you can buy for two dollars that will last for forty years. Eventually my toolbox is going to wear out, and I'll be genuinely sad that day, but the memories grandpa purchased with those silver dollars will last until the day I die.

They were two dollars well spent indeed.

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