Leaving a Trail

Reinventing the Spool


The wind whispered outside the kitchen window as it carved a new signature into the gentle peaks next to the house. Tomorrow would mean shoveling out in the farm yard, but tonight we were safe and warm inside.

Delmer was on a mission, searching through a drawer. “DeAnn, come help me with this. Donald showed me how to make something really cool.” He filched a wooden spool from Mom’s stash. “Hey, find me a rubber band.”

I grabbed the flat jar in which they were stored and plunked it on the table.

Thanks. Yeah, one of them should work.” Delmer added a thumbtack and a stack of stick matches to the array. He used his jack knife to make tiny notches on the end ridges of the spool. “Gotta have traction.”

I got caught up in my brother’s excitement as I parked next to him. He carefully sliced off the burny parts of the matches. He dug in the jar for a wide rubber band and threaded it through the hole in the spool.

You have to fasten it on one side.” He angled the thumbtack point into the loop as it peeked out and firmly stuck the tack in next to the hole. He dangled the spool in the air, grasping the open curve of the rubber band. “Now, we have to wind it around the match.”

One end of the match protruded next to the flat side of the spool. Delmer used his right index finger to turn the square-sided stick as he held the spool with his left hand. He wound it around and around like the minute hand on a clock. The rubber band tightened. At last, he sucked in a deep breath. “Let’s try it.”

Holding it with both hands, he slowly lowered the wheely-deal to the table, held onto it a second, then lifted both hands at once. The spool lurched forward. The matchstick flipped to the back but dragged along behind. The contraption traveled about ten inches, then stopped. “Oooh Hoo! It works!” My brother’s silver-capped smile flashed. He wound it up again.

About this time, I decided I needed one of these gadgets, too. I found a smaller spool. Delmer helped notch the ends. It took a while to find a rubber band that didn’t bunch up at the windy end, but finally one endured the twisting around the match. Show time! Much to my little-sister dismay, mine only traveled six inches.

Let’s try racing them!” Delmer held his at one end of the table and nodded where I should put mine.

I tasted a few agonies of defeat, then proposed a head start. I smirked and lined my little spooly-car up to the center line of the table, where the extra leaf went in for company. “No fair!” my brother moaned, as my car took off for the win.

We tried threading two spools together right next to each other to make a roller-car. We experimented with longer and shorter rubber bands. Squinting eyes tightly shut and holding our breaths, we tried winding the stick tighter and tighter. At the time, we had no idea we were applying basic principles of science. We didn’t realize we were creating an invention that was a combination of simple machines.

No, on that wintery night long ago a boy and his little sister just thought we had made something really cool.

Love Those Memories!

Need a special Valentine for someone you love? Give them memories and smiles! “Putting On the Big Boots,” “Back to Forward” and “Once Upon a Midwest Sunset,”compilations of the stories from the author’s columns, along with her Promises to Keep series, are available on Amazon. Signed copies can also be purchased at the Harrison County Welcome Center AND the Loess Hills Visitor Center & Gift Shop in Moorhead. All make excellent Valentines! Contact her at deannkruempelauthor@gmail.com