So I like steampunk. But I’m not Steampunk, in the same way that I own cats and a dog, but I am neither a Cat Person nor a Dog Person. Similarly, I admire a lot of the hippie/crunchy/locavore aesthetics, but I don’t really fit into any of those subcultures, either.
But I do have a deep and abiding love for steampunkery, though far more for its punk aspects than its fascination with Victoriana. The DIY aspects. The idea that with a pile of scrap metal, rudimentary tools and elbow grease, you can make something that’ll power your house.
See, I grew up with folks who didn’t just believe in that ethic, they put it into practice. And I finally uploaded some photographic evidence. This is one of my grandfather’s steam engines. Notice I said one.
Here’s Grampa posing in his driveway, circa 1979. The barn in the background was moved there overland to replace the one that burned to the ground. The toolshed, which you can see in the upper left of the picture, was built with the 18″ support beams left over after the previous high school’s gymnasium was torn down; there was a family joke that you could drive a tank on top of the toolshed roof and not fall in.
That CASE eagle logo was a familiar sight in my childhood. When I was in grade school, Grampa and dad got their hands on the boiler (the big cylinder part, and the large vertical part into which you throw coal) of another Case and built an outbuilding around it in the backyard, with the logo visible through the front window. They dug a trench between the outbuilding and our house, ran hot water pipes between, then outfitted the house with finned-tube baseboard heating. Every autumn after that, us kids spent a couple of weeks with my dad out in the woods, cutting cordwood to heat the house. I was the only kid I knew who came home from school and started a fire so she could take a bath that night.
Grampa again, this time in front of his wood shop. Behind him, you can see the top of the Giant Stride, a diabolically fun piece of playground equipment he built for us grandkids. It was basically a big flagpole set into cement, with a four-armed spindle on the top. From each arm hung a rope with a little three-rung ladder on it, just big enough for a kid to sit in. We’d get that thing going fast enough that there was usually an even-money chance somebody’d clip their ankles on the windmill. Good times.
So that’s a tiny fraction of my steampunk lineage. No wonder I grew up to be a do-it-yourselfer — self-publishing’s a walk in the park by comparison.