At an auction I once bought three gallon jars full of wooden spools to get three spools. They were the large size, many of them green, and had been saved by our friend and neighbor, the late Velma Bennett. Velma was an excellent quilt maker. I wanted one spool to keep and one spool each for Nancy and Walt to remember her by.
In 1953, when we moved to our farm, I asked Velma to make matching wedding ring quilts for the children's beds. She pieced and quilted them with the tiniest stitches and bound the edges with the same care for $18 each. What a great neighbor she was.
No wonder she had so many spools!
"What in the world will you do with all of those spools?" a woman asked as I won the bid. "Well, I could make a lot of tractors and tick-tacks," I said, remembering my childhood.
We used to make these great toys out of spools. You'd start by cutting notches all of the way around the edges of both ends of the spool. A rubber band provided the tractor's power. By inserting the band through the spool hole and using a short piece of matchstick through the rubber loop, it would keep the band in place.
My trick was to rub dry soap on the other spool end for lubrication and then insert a 3-inch stick through the other band loop. This was for winding the rubber band. I'd crank up the motor by turning the long stick until the band was tight, and hold it in place as I set the tractor on the rug. After letting go, the little tractor would slowly move several inches as the rubber band unwound. Two tractors could compete for distance or race to a finish line.
As with sling shots, spinning tops, swords and other toys, making the toy was a big part of the fun.
"Trick or treat" meant "trick" to me. We didn't wait around for the treat. We did harmless, mischievous things, such as scaring people we knew with a tick-tack noise maker.
To make a tick-tack, I'd cut notches as with the tractor and insert a skinny pencil or other stick into the spool hole. I'd leave it loose so the spool could rotate, then attach a twine string, about 4 feet long, to the body of the spool. Finally I'd wind it around the spool in the same way thread was wound.
To make this noise maker perform, you'd hold onto the long stick as you place the spool so both notched ends touched the window. Holding the other end of the string, we'd give a sudden yank on the string. Those notches on the spool made a scary, blood-curdling noise.
One Halloween night, we decided to pull this tick-tack thing on our friends, Edna and Berkley Pace. Mom turned off the car lights and parked at the end of Pace's driveway. We kids sneaked up on to their porch.
Only one room was lit, and I decided to tick-tack the high window by the fireplace. This meant I had to climb up on the porch tailing and reach around the corner of the house to get to that window. I had to tip-toe on that railing and twist to reach enough to get the spool against the glass.
R-r-r-r-rp! screeched the tick-tack on that dark night. And I was about to fall! No one responded. I rewound the string and took that precarious position again. R-r-r-r-r-rp! again, louder and longer. No response.
Just as I finished the third try, wham-o! Someone swatted me a good one on my backside with a cane. Mr. Pace had done a little sneaking in the dark, himself.
I should have guessed that Edna and Berkeley were off doing their own Halloween tricks and only their dad was at home.
Mr. Pace had made and used a few tick-tacks of his own in his youth, and he had guessed that I was the one holding the spool against his window. I was the one who was really tricked that night.