By Ralph Hood
The Wizard of Erwin!
Erwin has a Wizard of all things mechanical and many things electronical and chemical.
He was a pioneer in enabling gas pumps to accept credit cards. He made fuel out of old tires and invented the product still known and used by BBQ aficionados, Liquid Smoke.
His name is Sonny Ledford, and he is amazing.
Sonny has amazed me on several occasions. I fancy myself knowledgeable on aircraft engines, for example, and have attended several media seminars at Pratt & Whitney headquarters in Connecticut. One day—over a cup of coffee with Sonny and the late engineer Julian King—Sonny told me of a jet engine problem and solution. I was absolutely, positively certain that Sonny was wrong, wrong, wrong. A short time later I went back to Pratt & Whitney for another of those media events. I learned that I—not Sonny—was the one in error. Sonny was right!
Sonny’s no young man anymore, but his acquisition of knowledge keeps on growing. Just for one example, most of us buy a new toner cartridge when ours runs out. Sonny—with a little gizmo that he designed and built himself—reloads his own cartridges!
Sonny’s shop/lab is huge, with tools, rigs, jigs, and whatever else you might wish you had. His current and/or future projects include an Edsel (you young folks look it up on Google) that he plans to rebuild—someday.
My last visit to Sonny’s started when wife Gail acquired a long, Iron pole that sticks in the ground, stands higher than my head and has hooks from which bird feeders or plants hang—or did hang.
Gail moved that iron pole from backyard to front yard one day. I didn’t know that. I came home and ran over the iron pole with my beat-up old truck, bending pole in several different directions. I played with fixing it myself, which made it worse and made Gail madder. Each of my attempts at repair bent the iron pole in yet a new direction.
Finally, I took the iron pole to Sonny. He clamped one end of the pole into a vise and tried to straighten it. Oops! Sonny couldn’t straighten it just as well as I couldn’t straighten it. No problem; he pulled out a little cart complete with two bottles of gas and a blow torch. He heated the iron pole, I pulled it in the directions he advised and bingo, that long, iron pole was straight as an architect’s drafting board.
I was amazed, Gail was delighted, and Sonny took it all in stride. He’s used to performing miracles!