Great State: Memories Ingrained

Great State
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EL RENO, OKLAHOMA -- Our brains perform a nice little trick.

Like a sharp bandsaw, they cut away the mundane, the everyday, and they tend to keep what matters most, the events that define us and our times.

"I build strictly from what's in my mind," says Ron Kennedy.

"You just know from having worked with them?" asks a visitor. "I've got it in my mind from having to be with them daily almost."

The first car Kennedy ever drove was a Model A Ford.

He owned a Colt .45 pistol and shot a Winchester rifle.

Rubbing along the grains of wood with sandpaper tends to reveal those things in all their detail.

"I never really draw anything out," he says of his wooden replicas.

He spent 30 years as a commercial carpenter.

Ron retired and built a shop in his back yard.

"It keeps me busy and out from under the wife's feet," he chuckles.

He was a Naval aviator in Vietnam, lucky to make it out alive after being wounded, and after one other harrowing flying mission.

His close escort airplane returned riddled with bullet holes.

"When it returned the ship the maintenance crew counted 13 bullet holes in the undercarriage."

From wood and memory, Ron's F-4 Phantom model looks just like Duke Cunningham's, the first Vietnam ace.

Another model on his work table looks a lot like John McCain's.

Kennedy and the now U.S. Senator both flew from the same aircraft carrier for a short time.

"The bigger guys like the airplanes," says Ron of his aircraft models.

Kennedy's biggest project took him three months to construct.

It's an 1862 era cannon and limber, a wooden replica of a real artillery piece that fired on both sides of the Civil War.

Then it ended up guarding Fort Reno just a few miles from the Kennedy farm.

"We traced the serial number to find out what this cannon actually did," he says.

You'd think Kennedy would make a nice retirement income from his woodworking, but he doesn't even make enough to feed the cats who prowl his wood shop for mice.

"No," he says. "I'm not in business to sell them."

He gives everything away.

The cannon is at Fort Reno as are many of his toys.

The aircraft go to reunions or charity auctions.

"Everybody needs a hobby," says Ron. "This is what I like to do."

The best memories in life are never the ones you keep to yourself and forget.

The the ones you give away last a lot longer.

Some of Ron's creations are on sale at the Fort Reno museum.

He has a few others at the Route 66 Museum in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

The proceeds from the sale of those items go toward keeping the museums open.

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