If you want to live forever, you could always write a book like James Joyce’s Ulysses, as literature students and professors will be debating what that colossal novel really means for centuries. You could paint happy little trees like Bob Ross, forever inspiring millions with your art and heart-warming phrases like, “There are no mistakes — only happy accidents.”
Or you could purchase two soda cans and a wire hanger, using those items to live on forever in hearts and minds of the next generation.
Let me explain.
I often spent my summers as a kid in Arkansas with my grandparents. I remember camping along the Arkansas River and fishing for catfish. I remember daddy longlegs scurrying across the picnic table (and sometimes my legs under the table) as we played Skip-Bo.
It was always hot. It was always humid. And I spent most nights running around the yard trying to catch lighting bugs (aka fireflies) in a glass jar with holes punched in the lid.
My grandfather had a shed he called his workshop tucked away in the corner of the yard away from the house. It was his own little man cave complete with vintage license plates nailed to the wall and large box fans hanging from the ceiling that would run at full speed the entire day.
Hanging in front of those fans were these whirligigs he built, pinwheels made from two soda cans that would spin wildly around a wire hanger which ran through the center of the cans.
I remember these whirligigs so vividly because my grandfather took me out to his workshop one summer afternoon and showed me how to make them. For one hot and humid summer afternoon, I was the center of my grandfather’s universe.
I now have a whirligig hanging in my living room, a small token of my grandfather’s kindness and a reminder of those wonderful days as a kid when everything in the world was fascinating and innocent.
It was only a few years later that he died. Yet I smile every time I see that whirligig he taught me to build hanging from my ceiling.
So, if you’d like to live on in the hearts of the next generation, you’ll need the following: Two soda cans, one wire hanger, tin snips, a hammer, an awl, and a pair of lineman’s pliers.
Start by poking a hole in the bottom of each soda can using the hammer and awl, making sure the holes are centered in the bottom of each can (or the whirligig won’t whirl correctly).
Next, cut the top off of the first soda can with tin snips, then cut vertical, uniform slats into the side of the first can. Push out each individual slat so that they are perpendicular to the can, then bend each slat slightly so that each slat is at about a 45-degree angle.
Now bend the wire hanger into an L shape using the pliers. Then cut the top off of the second can and push the open end into the open end of the second can (the can with the slats), running the wire hanger through the holes in the bottom of each can.
Bend the end of the wire hanger to create a lip so the whirligig doesn’t spin off of the hanger. Blow into the slats to verify the whirligig spins freely.
Finally, take an afternoon to show this to your kid, nephew, niece, and/or loved one.