Patience and time

Aaron
Aaron Beswick
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Father and son build a metallic mountain

"Here, I'll take that to father." Bethany McGonigle hands over the broken tape converter to Brad Johannessen, who rips the wire out and drops the plastic cassette tape on the floor of his Jeep.

Down at "the pile," Ron Slade takes the wire from his son and shoves it in his pocket.

Ron Slade (right) and Brad Johannessen aren't big on smiling all the time, but the father and son couldn't help themselves while admiring their 40-tonne pile of scrap metal. Photo by Aaron Beswick/The Northern Pen

St. Anthony -

"Here, I'll take that to father." Bethany McGonigle hands over the broken tape converter to Brad Johannessen, who rips the wire out and drops the plastic cassette tape on the floor of his Jeep.

Down at "the pile," Ron Slade takes the wire from his son and shoves it in his pocket.

"Patience and time, that's all you need," Slade said, his eyes roaming proudly over the estimated 40-tonne mountain of scrap metal in his backyard. "And time doesn't mean a row of beans."

As if conducting an orchestra, Slade waves his hands from radiators to mufflers to cylinders and hubcaps. The aluminum, copper and stainless steel from 73 vehicles, 30 outboard motors, a 52-passenger tour bus and a full-size oil tanker form this mountain built like any other, with patience and time.

"I love it. I get home from work and I can't wait to get out here picking stuff apart. Just a hobby, we both have jobs."

Slade and his son toured the tip of the Northern Peninsula during the long evenings of last summer, dolley in tow, picking up wrecks from ditches and backyards. The wrecks come back to a landing on St. Anthony harbour that Slade built by rowing an icepan out to boulders, snagging them in a net and pulling them ashore with his pickup.

Patience and time.

Johannessen, bearded and gruff like his father, strips the wiring from the vehicles as Slade drains the fluids. "There's 73 vehicles back there and you wouldn't find enough oil here to wet your finger on," Slade said. "I've got a good relationship with the town and the waste management authority - saves them the trouble, gives me something to do and tidies up the communities."

Drained gas goes in Johannessen's Jeep and oil to a local business's furnace,. Low-valued steel and plastic goes to the landfill.

The mountain, after all, isn't just a pile of scrap - it's an artful labour.

It has to look good, so every piece of metal has a place.

"Got to be tidy and organized when you're at this," said Slade. "It's about cleaning up communities, not making a mess of one."

Their system is critical - last Saturday they picked apart 200 pistons in their tiny shed. With the radio playing Slade took cylinders one at a time, locked each slug in a vice, cut the top with a metal saw, cracked it with an axe and removed the connecting rod.

Sunday they were dissecting antilock breaking systems, methodically removing the copper wire from the three electric motors in each.

"You've got to take your time and get everything. Time doesn't mean a row of beans."

They've rigged an enclosed burner that heats wiring enough to melt the plastic coating but not damage the precious wire inside.

From Christmas Day to Jan. 20, they scrapped 48 automatic transmissions.

Running an oil-stained hand over the crazed and convoluted maze of fluid tunnels for an automatic transmission, Slade said with a smile. "It amazes me everyday I pick one apart; the brains it would take to put it together and that it actually works."

They say every man has his mountain - Ron and Brad plan to sell theirs to the scrap dealer come spring.

"Will I miss it? You wanna believe it," Slade said. "But we'll start another."

The Northern Pen

Geographic location: St. Anthony, Northern Peninsula

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