THE MIGHTY SHOP VAC. SO MANY USES….SO LITTLE TIME

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Yes, it’s a heavy duty vacuum, but that’s not all….oh no, dear readers. Not in the least.

The Flowbee obviously comes to mind. It sucks, as it cuts. Thank you, Wayne. Thank you, Garth.

Allow me to offer up a couple more uses for this miracle machine.

My family notoriously plays the lottery, they always have. As Jeff Foxworthy so famously says, regular folks have 401k’s, Rednecks have Nascar Collector Plates and the lottery. That’s our investment strategy.

What does this have to do with a Shop Vac? Plenty, friends. Plenty.

When I was a kid, my mom’s ex-husband was what I would consider a “professional” lottery player. There were the usual methods of choosing numbers. Birth dates, Anniversaries, us kids taking turns drawing numbered slips of paper from a ball cap, the “auto lotto”…you get the picture. But as time went by and we never won, patience was wearing thin on our little hobby farm. Something had to give.

And so it did.

One day I came home from school to the hum of the running Shop Vac. This was nothing unusual as the house we lived in was a hot mess from day one and there was always some type of building or remodeling project going on. Thankfully we had moved beyond the “tear down the chicken coop and shoot giant rats” phase, but still. It was what one might refer to as a “fixer-upper.”

As I approached my stepfather, I noticed a clear absence of building materials. He was bent over in a chair, and he kept turning the Shop Vac on and off. Repeatedly. And that’s when I saw it: The Lotto Bucket.

Let me describe in full detail the components of this contraption. First there was a large bucket, the kind that would contain vast quantities of paint or say, drywall mud. There was a hole drilled in to the bottom of the bucket, and a hole drilled in to the top. Out of the top hole rose an empty toilet paper tube, gloriously duct taped in to place. And ping pong balls. Lots and lots of ping pong balls, each individually numbered and placed inside the bucket. Lastly, there was the Shop Vac, hose shoved in to the bottom hole in the bucket, reverse flow switched on, violently forcing ping pong balls through the toilet paper tube in the top. With me?

This, my friends, is Appalachian ingenuity.

Apparently all those years of watching Sharon Bicknell on the Ohio Lotto had gotten to this man. That and the fact that he had a lot of time on his hands. The bottom had just dropped out of the Akron Rubber Industry. He lost his job at Goodyear Tire and Rubber, just like so many others in our area at the time. He had worked there since graduating from high school and to the best of my recollection, it was the only job he had ever had. That’s the kind of crap that drives people to insanity – and to do insane things. Like building homemade lotto machines.

The lotto bucket was functionally unpredictable. Clearly this was a 2 man operation, as one person needed to control the power switch and the other (preferably the one with cat-like reflexes and a decent attention span) would man the tp tube. Because truth be told, you never knew if you would have to sit and wait what seemed like an eternity for one ball to emerge, or if you would get pummeled with 20 projectiles at a time. I’m certain you can see how this could potentially provide endless hours of entertainment for children, but to my stepfather, it was all business and not something to be fooled with. In his mind, this was our ticket.

Failure was not a possibility. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? It basically operated upon the same mechanical principles (albeit far more rudimentary) as the REAL lotto machine. And the true beauty of his engineering was in the completely random nature with which this machine spit out numbers. I can think of few things more random than a Hillbilly Lotto Bucket, except…..

I receive this catalog from a company called Boston Proper. I haven’t a clue why. I have never purchased a thing from this company, and yet it continues to arrive in the mailbox several times per year. If you’re unfamiliar with the catalog, it features exotic Amazonians with legs as long as my total height, lots of spiky stiletto heels, short hemlines and dangerously plunging necklines. And of course, boobs. It’s kind of like a cross between Victoria’s Secret and Frederick’s of Hollywood (but a little classier, y’all). In other words, positively perfect porn for pre-pubescent boys.

And it’s way too overpriced, especially for this thrifty Appalachian.

I flip through the pages of the latest catalog and you know, because it’s March and still snowing, they are offering up bathing suits. One suit catches my fancy, it’s black and has a cool 1950’s retro vibe to it. It also has a not so cool price tag of 150 bucks. There are a few things wrong with this scenario. One is the fact that I’m actually looking through a catalog of stuff I will never buy, another is the price and most importantly is fact that I will never, ever look like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model who’s wearing that suit. I’m okay with that, we are all given gifts and talents. She is a beautiful gal and a lovely physical specimen of socially dictated beauty. She models. I write. I’ve accepted my lot in life.

I start thinking that for $150, this suit really should do something FOR me, and that Boston Proper really needs to sweeten the deal and throw in some extras. A sari-style cover up would be a good first step, but I’m looking for something a little more. Something like a DIY home liposuction kit that is compatible with a Shop Vac.

We could pull out that old Shop Vac, switch the flow back to “suck,” grab a barrel of wine and make an evening of it. Maybe then it wouldn’t look like someone hit the back of my thighs with bags of nickels (thank you, btw, Rodney Carrington).

Maybe. But probably not.

I think I have about a good a chance of this happening as winning the lottery. Which, and I know this will come as a terrible shock to you all, never happened. Oh well, back to the Lotto Bucket.

Sadly, I have no picture of said machine, and I haven’t a clue whatever became of it. Maybe my stepfather got it in the divorce, I don’t know. Here is my best depiction of the machine. I’ve made sure to oversimplify it and label every obvious part, because I needed to make my horrible drawing as ridiculous as possible:

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To this very day, every time I hear one running, I have to smile just a bit, remembering the whirl of the ping pong balls. Then I start laughing my can off, thinking of the ridiculousness of it all, and how sometimes desperation coupled with insanity and too much time on your hands leads to ingenuity.

I know that my stepfather won’t go down in history as one of the great inventors of our time (although clearly eligible for an Appalachian American award) and I know that I’m never going to look like a super model. So be it.

Oh, and there’s one other thing I know….I know that right now you really want to flip the switch to see how that thing works, don’t you?

Peace, love and blessings to all…..

April

PS – this illustration may or may not be technically accurate. My apologies to the fine people at Shop Vac.