Every month, I sit down to pen this column, and I have something bizarre going on to share with you readers. Maybe its my personality that gets me into these situations, but if I didn't have this interesting lifestyle, then Editor Mike Finnegan probably wouldn't have me working at this great magazine. So, maybe destiny has brought these troubles to help me get the opportunity to work with this great team of photojournalists.

Recently, I felt like my world was rapidly falling apart in front of me. Just about everything was going wrong, and I was in some financial trouble. My cool little job at the So Cool Speed Shop was a nightmare that I couldn't wake myself up from. On top of that, I was handed a steep "fix-it" ticket for driving my square-body wreck of a Chevy.

Last month, I shared with you my little parts run after an almost disaster at the shop. When I made it back, my boss, Queso, was furious with me and told me I needed to learn some real skills. I felt bad that he saw I was new to fabricating, and I thought that he would fire me based on the fact that I am working at a place that requires knowledge I did not have. But, then he said that he was going to give me some lessons.

I was excited, thinking that I was going to learn some valuable knowledge from someone who was old and wise. Well, that night, my boss gave me a ride home in his old jalopy because my truck was immobile, and the following morning he picked me up from my apartment to make our way to the shop. Once we got there, I expected him to take me out back and help me fix my ride. Instead, he just sent me out back to Tig, shouting, "Give Mark the old training lesson."

When I went out back, Tig was waiting for me with a whole stack of little cut-out pieces of 1/4-inch steel. I had no idea what they were for, but he took a couple and asked me to weld two of the pieces together. I picked up the handle of the MIG welder and went away at the two. When I finished, the two pieces were one, and I thought all was well. Then, he asked me what I called this piece because it looked like a bunch of bird droppings. He took the welder out of my hands and showed me the proper way to work the weld. He continued to tell me how a good weld will hold stronger and look nicer. Then, we spent a little time practicing techniques, as we talked about how things were going with me working there.

He told me that I was not doing such a great job and that Queso has been furious with my lack of skill and performance. Also, he was going to fire me the other day but saw that I had the potential of being a good fabricator. Tig then told me that I reminded him of Queso when he was a youngster like me. The only difference was instead of having a cut-up truck, he had this old hot rod that he would race.

That got me thinking back to how the old man at the auto parts store called him "White Lightning." So, I asked Tig what the meaning of the nickname was. He reminisced about how in the old days Queso had a super-fast reaction time that would help him gun his hot rod down the quarter-mile. His '32 Ford was white, and Queso was so fast behind the wheel that the name White Lightning came about. From what I was told, he was untouchable until the day he pushed himself too far. He tried to break his own record down the track. The little hot rod was pushed to its limit and Queso lost control and ended up wounded in the hospital.

My boss was an old hot-rodder, and I had no idea that he was even the adventurous type. From what I picked up, he was so shaken up from his wreck that he never raced again. Of course, he was still hooked on racing and helping others go fast, so he started this business. I was shocked to hear the whole story, and I kept thinking of how tragic it was that my boss quit racing. I thought to myself, What if this legend had continued? I kept working on these little brackets, as my skills seemed to get better.

When I was done with them, Tig was shocked at my improvement. He told me there was one more project to work on, and it was going to be a whole lot more fun than the other. He handed me a single-in dual-out muffler and some tubes that were to be bent in specific ways. I took them and did exactly what he wanted. Then, I was to weld all those pipes to the muffler. Once I was done, I handed my creation to Tig, and he said, "Good, now let me add the last part." That last piece was a catalytic converter that went on top, and it had what appeared to be a happy face on it. Then, it snapped in my head that I just made myself a muffler man.

I was a little upset that I worked so hard for something stupid like a muffler man. At the same time, I did improve my skills, which might keep me employed, and I found out the true story behind my boss' legacy. On top of that, I had my own little token to remind me of what I really learned to weld on. Now that I have gotten better, I think it is time that I really do something constructive with my skills. Maybe next month we'll get to fix my Chevy. Then again, maybe I'll be working on some other lame household project.