Voice Prompt No. 9

CALL FOR PHOTOS
Just a reminder.  I need y’all to send in your Pony photos, so that they can be featured in an upcoming post.  Don’t be bashful.

My own Pony is out under tarps in Gene’s Garage right now awaiting warmer weather…hmmm, I didn’t think about it, but the next few days are going to be in the 60’s.  I may need to get out there.  If nothing else, the old boy is a bit muddy from the riding we did around the holidays, so a little clean-up might be in order.  Don’t block him in, Gene.
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INSERT
As often happens, several days go by between when I start one of these posts and when it’s finished.  So, I can report that it wasn’t in the 60’s on Monday, it was in the 70’s and the Pony did get washed.  Here’s the proof.  Also note the new side panel is now in place.

Photo Credit to Gene.

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This week I started reading a book titled The Art of Memoir, so if you notice any change in my writing in the months ahead, you can blame it on a different author, Mary Karr.  Already I think I’m going to have a problem; she says in memoir writing that one really shouldn’t lie.  Well poop, what fun is that.  If I can’t remake history to suit me I’m not so sure I’m interested.  Anyway, watch out for anything strange (I mean more strange than usual) working its way into the blog.

I don’t write as much about donuts as I used to, reason being, I don’t get any.  You’ll recall, there just are no good donuts available nearby anymore.  Don’t feel sorry for me though, I’m still eating loads of bakery goods.  I like to drive over to the Guglehupf Bakery in Durham, and buy their stuff now.  But they make fancier things like stollen, Danish, cream puffs and schnecken.  What’s a schnecke you ask?  The German word schnecke means snail, which is what an almond croissant looks like if instead of letting it bake on a sheet it’s baked while stuffed in the cup of a muffin pan.  Mmmm, those babies are goo-oo-ood.

But the reason I bring up donuts is really only to get to the subject of the “donut hole,” not the edible kind, but the Medicare prescription drug insurance plan kind.  The donut hole is the $1540 coverage gap one reaches after $3310 in drug costs have been paid.  After the coverage gap, you’re “home free,” as your costs drop to “zilch.”  Now you’re thinking, certainly bike-riding, health-conscious, schnecke-eating (oops) Bruce would not be needing any drug so expensive as to land him in the dh (does not mean designated hitter).  To that thought I would say, ha, what you don’t know!

For a number of reasons, too boring to mention here, I am about to start taking a drug for osteoporosis that costs $2350 per month!  Once again you’re thinking, but he doesn’t have to pay that amount does he?  Just a co-pay, right?  And this time you’d be right.  I only have to pay a 33% co-pay, which translates as $780.  You know how when you buy a new car, right away you start noticing other cars of your type on the road?  Well, right away when I saw $780 I started thinking of other things that cost much.  Like the new gas range we bought last year, $799.  Or last night on QVC, they were selling Dell Laptop computers.  A nice, big, 17-inch Dell laptop, with the Microsoft 10 operating system, you guessed it $779!  Or how about my estimated annual cost for this drug coming in at around $4100.  Jeez, that’s almost exactly what the entire Pony restoration has cost.

I tell you what!  My insurer and I are going to swallow that donut hole so fast we won’t even get to taste it.  I’ll be spit-out the other side into the “cat coverage” as fast as John Cusack was through that worm hole in Being John Malkovich.  I could tell as I was talking to the lady at CVS Caremark, the drug supplier of my insurer, that she didn’t really want to tell me what my cost of the drug would be, but sheepishly she finally did.  I could just envision her removing her head-set and waiting for me to blow my stack, but as I’d been forewarned about the cost, I didn’t lose my cool.  I just read-off the numbers from my new credit card (yes, second new card in 12 mos., this time a supposed data breach).  I didn’t actually laugh on the phone, but when the lady asked me if I’d like some alcohol wipes, “free,” to go with the prescription, by golly I thought, woo-hooo there’s the silver lining.  FREE ALCOHOL WIPES, YIPPEE!

Another upside, the regimen calls for only taking this drug for one year.  By then I guess you’re supposed to have gained all the benefit from it that you can.  I’m sanguine about this whole business.  When I called the non-profit that helps cover co-pays, the voice prompts went approximately like this.  Press 1 if you have “this kind of cancer,” press 2 if you have “that kind of cancer,” press 3 if you have HIV/AIDS, and it went on like this until I’m pretty sure the ninth choice was osteoporosis.  So, you bet, I’m incredibly thankful that I could push voice prompt 9.  Then too, when I spoke with a very helpful lady and found out that I make too much money (but believe me, not way too much) to get any help, I was not overly “bummed,” but then, the next time someone offers me a donut hole, watch out.

Happy Ground Hog Day everyone, and thanks for reading.

 

 

 

He Died With His Belt On

Yesterday I went to the Lion King to pick-up a few grocery items.  We’ve got a dumb waiter on the first floor (garage level), so we just chuck bags of groceries in there and push a button and they go directly up to the kitchen, one level up.  So yesterday when I got back from the store I put the bags in the dumb waiter as always, pushed the button and went up stairs.  Usually, if The Princess is around, she’ll hear the dumb waiter coming up and start putting things away even before I get upstairs.  Pretty neat system.

Accept…at 6:00 this morning as I was heading out to my volunteer gig, I opened the dumb waiter, so that I could put the garbage bags in there and send them down to the garage. Imagine my surprise to open the door and find yesterday’s groceries still in there.  AHHHHHHHHH!  Had to toss out a pint of half and half, but at least there wasn’t any ice cream in there.  I’m going to take the blame on this one, because to try passing it off on The Princess would be a “lose-lose situation.”

Do you ever get the feeling that everything is falling apart.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s true, the old maxim that The Princess and I came up with many years ago, Eventually almost everything turns to ____ (fill in bad word of your choice).    And when stuff (or people) fall apart, it’s always a pain in the ass to make things right again.  The “Rabbit” wine cork- puller that had a 10-year warranty just broke after about a year.  The Delta kitchen faucet with a lifetime warranty had been leaking sporadically for most of its third year of life when I called Delta and convinced them to replace it.  Remember the “tractor clock” in Gene’s garage?  It stopped running and began oozing some nasty, sticky stuff from its electrical connection, and that was only about two months passed it’s one-year warranty.  The guy who built it said he’d fix it under warranty, but when I called about a month ago he hung up on me, and now two months out I’ve got nothing.  I don’t take kindly to being shafted, or being treated rudely, so for all those out there who feel they ought to have a clock with a tractor logo emblazoned across it, I’d suggest someone other than Don Nugent at ABC Enterprises aka TractorClocks.com.

And along these same lines, The Princess (no, no, she’s not out of warranty yet), but this does relate to her.  Often in the morning while taking a nice long soak in her tub, she’ll loll around, drink coffee and read a book.  Yesterday, I heard a big crash in her bathroom and hustled in to see what was up.  Turns out that yesterday she had showered instead of bathed, and thank God!  She was just toweling-off when the glass cover over the recessed lighting fixture above her tub just decided to let loose, drop nine feet and smash to pieces in the tub!  When I got to the bathroom, she was standing there in her “altogether,” speechless (a miracle?) and eyes as big as half-dollars.  “They’re trying to kill me,” she finally managed, and I had to admit, it did look that way.  So, in addition to having a murderer to look for, I’ve got yet another thing that needs fixing.

Moving on.  We caught some really nice days while Andy was visiting over the holidays, so he got a chance to take the Pony out on the roads by Gene’s.  I forgot to put the cap back on the exhaust stack, so he did inhale a bit more exhaust and soot than usual.  Sorry, Andy, I didn’t think of that until a couple of weeks after we took the Pony out!  And he got to meet Gene’s daughter, Jennifer and grand-daughter, Sarah.  They recently had the nerve to send me this photo of Sarah with a tractor in an unapproved color.

IMG_2668

Other than that visit out to noodle around on the Pony, there has been no Pony work of late.  Still some work to do though, on those side-panels.  I’ll let you know when there is more progress.

Also, I’ve been corresponding with some of the blog’s readers, and I’m asking all those with Ponies (in whatever state of reconstruction) to send photos of their “pets” for a future post.  Should be fun.

I have a belt I’ve been wearing for maybe 25 years.  It’s just right in almost every way.  The leather strap is not so thick that it’s bulky and not so thin that it won’t do the job.  It’s not too wide and not too narrow.  It’s brown color isn’t a chocolate brown, but more of a reddish brown that is enhanced by a patina that only age could give it.  The leather is now so supple that when I take the belt off I can role it up in a tight little circle and it will stay that way.  These days your average, department store belt will come with a shiny, plated buckle.  The buckle on my belt is understated in it’s simplicity, and it’s all brass; on the back it’s stamped “solid brass.”  The brass too has aged well, to a smooth, satin gold finish.  When I lived back in Indiana, on one of my bike rides through Amish country I found a piece of brass-work from a horse’s reins; I still have it.  That piece of brass and my belt buckle have the same look.

Every couple of months I rub the belt’s leather with a conditioner that years ago I could only find in tack shops.  Now, of course, I buy it on the internet.  And last year I took my belt into a shoe repair shop to fix a split that had developed in the leather.  That brought to mind the old Boehmke Maxim that I referred to earlier, and I thought, man, I hope this belt doesn’t fall apart before I do.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to expire before my time just so that the belt and I can go out together.  But wouldn’t it be great if many years from now they could say after I’m gone, “That dude was really lucky.  He lived a long life and died with his favorite belt on.”

And back to The Princess for a moment.  Did you ever wonder how she stays so good lookin’.  Year after year she hardly seems to age.  But yesterday I think I figured it out.  I hadn’t seen her for most of the morning when she wandered into the kitchen at about 11:00 and said, “You know today when I woke-up, I decided to take a nap.”  Beauty sleep!

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas, 2015

When our son Andrew was a little boy, he wrote a story for school titled, “The year Winter Never Came.”  With temperatures in the 70’s here in December, I’m beginning to think it was this year he was writing about.  Not complaining though, as it’s allowed me to hit my annual bike mileage goal of 5000 miles with time to spare and plenty of garage time working on the Pony.  Here are a couple of shots of the side panel progress.

Like everything else with the Pony, the side panels have proved an enormous challenge.  After the debacle of the faulty paint batch, then try installing those panels with holes in one place onto a 60-year-old tractor with holes in other places that have shifted all over the place.  Then too, I haven’t even dealt with this yet, but two of the holes have the old cap screws broken off in the Pony’s torque tube.  But anyway, you get the idea from the photos how things are shaping-up.

In related news, Gene’s grand-daughter, Sarah, has for some unknown reason taking a real shine to the Pony.  She’s just shy of two-years-old, but I’m told that when I’m not around she constantly talks about Bruce’s tractor, even calling me on her pretend phone to ask how the Pony is doing.  It was a several years ago now that Gene gave me a small toy replica of the Pony, perhaps it was a Christmas gift; I don’t recall exactly, but I thought this would be the perfect time to “regift” that little Pony to Sarah.  So last week I passed the “little Pony” along.

With Sarah is her dad, Ben.  I’m telling you, she grabbed that little tractor with an iron grip, and she looks pretty happy, doesn’t she?

And a final Pony matter, it was a couple of weeks ago now, but it was a pleasant surprise when I flipped the page on my tractor calendar to find this.

IMG_1505

December Pony

A perfect shot to end the year, wouldn’t you say?

If you’ve got the “Christmas Blues,” I’ve got a suggestion that will pull you out of that funk real fast.  Go to Barnes and Noble and buy Dave Barry’s little Christmas book, “The Shepherd, The Angel, and Walter, The Christmas Miracle Dog.”  It’s an absolute hoot!  You’ll probably find it for $5 or less and you can read the whole thing in a couple of hours.  I just read it for the second time a few days ago and laughed just as much, maybe more than the first time I read it.

You know, some things are really hard to accept.  A few weeks ago as I was pulling out of the Wellness Center where I volunteer, I noticed some speckley  crap on the Camry’s windshield.  It kind of pissed me off, because I had just had the car washed.  I’d parked under some trees, so thought perhaps it was tree sap, but running the windshield washers didn’t remove it.  I let it go until the next weekend when I returned to the car wash and asked the guys there to give the windshield an extra blast with their high-pressure sprayer.  Man the car looked great, but I could tell right away that the specks were still there.

A few days later I grabbed a rag and some lacquer thinner to see if that would remove the specks, no luck.  After that I started thinking maybe I should be reporting my issue to the Wellness Center in the event other vehicles had been similarly affected. But yesterday, I thought I’d try one more thing.  I’d bought a nifty little glass scraper a few months ago for removing old gasket material from the Pony’s rear axle housings, so I slipped a new blade in there and went to work.  This time I could feel right away that the specks were coming off, and then it was just a matter of seconds before I noticed that the accumulating specks were, wait for it….red!  Oh no, once again, the culprit isn’t someone else, it’s me!

Apparently on one of my days in the woods spraying the side panels, there must have been some “wind drift,” and the paint carried down the street to the Camry.  It was parked a good distance away, but the specks are pretty irrefutable proof that the panels aren’t the only thing that I’ve spray-painted recently.  Thank god the Camry is red, because it just got a little redder.  The poor Camry has had some real injuries inflicted on it during the Pony’s restoration.  Ironic isn’t it that the better the Pony looks, the worse the Camry is for it.  I better finish the restoration quickly, or all I’ll have left of the Camry is a car that looks like the wreck John Candy and Steve Martin drove in the movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

My goodness, just a week and it’ll be Christmas.  The house has been decorated for over two weeks, and just like Santa, Andy will arrive on Christmas Eve for a nice visit.  Wonder what he’s bringing me.  The Princess and I wish you all a festive and joy-filled holiday.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Radiator Nights

Seems as if every time I go onto the WordPress website where I concoct these little ditties they’ve changed the format for composition.  I’m telling you, it’s a constant learning process.  I don’t know, is that a sort of “barometer” of life?  When the learning stops, it’s all downhill from there?  God help me!

Pony news first.  Gene and I got that other wheel off without injury to body or ego.  So both back axle pans are tightened-up and no longer leaking.  I also got the replacement paint and have applied one coat of “the good stuff” to both sides of the panels.  As I feared, it is getting harder to find warm days in the “paint booth,” but we’ll hope for a few more yet this year.

Speaking of weather, holy cow it’s been raining a lot.  How much?  I was out on the morning 40 one day recently and crossing a bridge over the Haw river where bird watchers like to congregate.  At that point on the river, it can at times be just rocks and a trickle of water, but that day the river was high and running strong.  There was a bird watcher on the bridge with a camera on a tripod and a lens (no exaggeration) over a foot long.  I stopped and asked the guy if he’d seen anything good that morning.  He said there hadn’t been much in the way of birds, but he had seen a “six point buck” that had been swept into the river floating along in the current until he finally got a purchase on the bank and clambered out.  And in spite of the 70+ degree temperature that day, winter does loom.

Radiator Nights

Frosty mornings
With blades of white grass.
No tarps on favorites anymore.
Now shorter days bring early lights
In windows as I walk.

We’ll find that old bottle
Of twelve-year old scotch
Then touch glasses and toast
To these radiator nights.(1)

Winter snows
Slide across up north,
And we breathe easier, but fret
Over just the wrong little dip
in the jet stream.

Move in close to the fire
And even closer to me.
Eyes glaze and we doze,
Ahhh…radiator nights.

North winds
Take breaths and sting cheeks
Then pass easily through leafless trees
And the places I missed
With the weather stripping.

Let’s turn up the heat,
Dig out heavy blankets,
and snuggle-up
For these radiator nights.

Radiator Nights

Radiator Nights

And can you feel it?  With Thanksgiving less than a week away, the days have taken on a kind of sluggish feel.  Things seem a little less urgent, just exhale and go…ahhhhh.  First I told the Princess I’d go out to Gene’s and put another coat of paint on those side panels…didn’t do it.  Then I said maybe I’d stain that plant stand out on the deck…course I didn’t do that either.  Instead I fell asleep in my chair.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and thanks for reading!

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(1)  Credit goes to Andy for the title and photo of his cats.

The Curse

The Princess and I were at the mall a few days ago.  By the way if you haven’t eaten in the Nordstrom Bistro, try it.  My personal favorite, the steak frites, mmm!  While we at Nordstrom, The Princess helped me figure out why people there always looks so happy.  Well, the obvious reason is that they all have way too much money.  But the more subtle reason?  After she’d been to the “Ladies Lounge,” she commented that when she looked in the mirror in there she looked skinnier, and she said her teeth even looked whiter!  So that’s the secret, carnival mirrors in the “Ladies.”  As we left the store she also commented ominously how she thought the clothes really looked nice.  Crap, I’m not going to be able to keep her out of that place now.  By the way, they’re apparently not trying to flatter the men, because I noticed no such phenomenon in the “Mens.”

Some other Princess trouble.  In the category “Big Brother,” or maybe I should say, Big Sister, The Princess was trying to do something on my iPad yesterday and accidentally brought Siri up.  She muttered an expletive, and before she could move on Siri pops out with “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” just as sweet and “holier than thou” as she could be.  We were both kind of stunned and then broke out laughing.  So be careful around Siri, she hears all!

Hey, check this out.

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That’s the left, rear axle, oil pan after dropping it, putting in a new gasket, refilling with gear oil and replacing the dust cover and sealing it with Ultra Black gasket sealer.  I stopped in at The Tractor Supply Store and bought all new bolts and lock washers too.(1)  Pretty snazzy.  After completing that side, I fired-up the Pony, took it for a spin around the neighborhood and backed it into Gene’s garage, so that I could work on the other axle.  I’ve got an issue though; after removing the lug nuts, the wheel won’t come off.  I think it’s because I used so much paint that the wheel is stuck to the hub with the paint.  Last time Gene and I were in this position, someone ended up on his back on the garage floor.  Stay tuned.

In other Pony news, remember back a few posts ago how I said I was having trouble getting the paint on the side panels to apply properly?  Well, after the third coat still came out “pimply,” I finally called the paint company, explained the problem, and they agreed to test the paint.  That test was supposed to take just a day or two, so after about two weeks of not hearing anything, I called Troy back at the paint company.  He said he was glad I called, because he had lost my phone number.  But, as it turns out he said, “There is an issue with the paint.”  So, they’re  going to see that I get 3 new cans of paint from a different lot, and I’ll be able to get back into the spray booth (Gene’s woods).  Problem is, after all this delay it’s going to be harder to find nice warm, calm days in the woods, and dodge the falling leaves.  I am mighty relieved, however, to find out that it was the paint, and that I’m not losing my finely honed painting skills!

Finally, here’s some partially Pony-related news.  Remember some time ago I commented how there were certain places where time seemed to stand still, and that one of those places was Gene’s garage?  He had a clock in there, no matter what you did, it would not keep time.  I decided to get us out of that “time warp” and ordered a “fancy schmancy,” neon clock that had the Massey Harris logo on its face.  It cost me 80 bucks, but I thought what the heck, it’ll be fun.  Here’s a picture I took of it.

new garage clock

Well, for about a year the new clock kept great time and the pretty neon was a neat night light for the garage.  But then, mysteriously, a few months back Gene and I noticed the clock had fallen prey to the “curse of the garage.”  I didn’t think of this before, but perhaps the curse has something to do with the clock being surrounded by pictures of Jaguars.  It would run, but then it would slow, then it would run again, but then it would stop.  I finally pulled the thing off the wall and examined it and found that its minute and hour hands were hitting as they went around.  On top of that, there was some nasty stuff oozing from the wall plug (Just like a Jaguar!).  Well poop!  I called the guy at (I’m not making this up) Tractor Clocks.com and complained.  He said that the clock was several months past its one-year warranty, but he wasn’t going to quibble and that if I sent it back, he’d fix it and send it back t0 me.  When it comes back we’ll see; can we once again break the curse?

I’ll let you know.  Thanks for reading.

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(1)  Just a hint, if you need a bunch of nuts and bolts like I have many times during the Pony restoration, go to Tractor Supply.  They sell all their hardware by the pound, and it comes out way cheaper than at Home Depot or your local hardware.

Lost and Found, Raining Squirrels and Sexy Tractor Parts

It’s apple pie season, and I’ve baked 3 (possibly 4) pies so far.  I keep searching for the perfect apple or apples.  After the baking, I slice the entire pie up into single-serving pieces, keep two out for The Princess and me and then freeze the rest in individual containers.  Last night I wanted pie, so I dug into the freezer and pulled out a piece.  What a wonderful surprise to discover on opening the container that it contained a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie from several months back.  Just 30 seconds in the microwave and the sweet smell of summer was right in front of me.  That’s probably my favorite pie, and to find that prodigal piece at this late date…mmmm….welcome home baby!

We’re in that thin slice of the calendar here in North Carolina when one can walk outside and not worry about either heat stroke or frostbite.  So The Princess and I were out walking yesterday afternoon, huffing and puffing up the big hill on our way up to take our pictures with the latest holiday “blow-up” at the apartment complex.  It was on our way back down the hill that we became aware of something going on in the trees just to our left.  The branches of the loblolly thrashed around and then amazingly, two squirrels locked together fell from the tree and hit the ground with a “thump.”  The impact with the ground separated them, and they ran off in opposite directions.  We were stunned, first that it had happened at all, then that they had survived the fall from a pretty significant height, and finally that we had gotten to witness it.  I’m sitting here right now just kind of thrilled that I lived long enough to see raining squirrels.  My life is complete.

Pony News
A number of things are being worked on.  First, I’m trying to get a decent finish on those new side panels, but I’m having trouble with the application.  I started with the inside of the panels, so at least I’m experimenting on the side that is less important.  Here’s a photo of one of the panels.

Version 2

Now, maybe it’s just me, but when I look at that I see a curvaceous female form. But I don’t know, it’s possible I just need to cut back on the testosterone a bit.

While I wait for coats of paint to dry, I’m dropping the two oil pans that lubricate the back axle.  I never did that during the initial restoration, I just siphoned out as much of the old gear oil/water as I could (which was not near everything) and added new gear oil.  By the way, siphoning ancient gear oil is not easy, but that was the only way to get the stuff out at the time, since the drain/filler plug is up the side of the pan, not on the bottom.  Never could understand that one.  Jeez, you should of smelled that year’s old mixture in there…enough to make you want to hurl.  Here’s a photo of of one of the pans after removal.

Version 2

Note that lovely black gear oil in the drip bowl.  Yuck!  You’ll note too, that the gasket is torn up, but that was another reason for dropping the pans, so I could replace those.  This last shot is of the inside bottom of the pan after dumping out most of that oil.

Version 2

Man, I haven’t seen gold flakes like that in a pan since the trip I made years ago to look for gold up in the Sierra Mountains of California.(1)  Honestly, I didn’t see that many of them then either.  What you’re actually looking at, through the remaining oil in the pan, are flakes of of the steel gears that have ground off over the last 60 years.  I’m pretty sure though, that there’s enough steel left on those gears for another 60 years.

To wrap up, here are a couple of photos from that trip up the hill I mentioned earlier.

Version 2 Version 2

Happy Halloween everyone and thanks for reading.

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(1) Those old posts (2011) on the hunt for gold in the Sierras can be found at the links that follow:  http://thatidiotictractor.com/2011/10/15/gold-part-one/ http://thatidiotictractor.com/2011/10/22/gold-part-2/

A Message From the NPA (National Pony Association)

Here’s something so weird that I have to lead with it.  I was driving home from my volunteer gig this week and saw a TV (turkey vulture) eating something in the middle of the road.  Although I try not to breathe as I pass road kill, I do like to see what those varmints are eating.  Usually it’ll be squirrel, rabbit, possum, deer or some such critter.  This time though as I drove by (and I’m telling you, that TV did not budge as he ate) I noticed he was eating some indistinguishable contents inside a plastic container.  I thought, man this is how species evolve.  Next thing you know he’ll be popping that thing in the microwave.

It’s funny, a lot the years when I was a teenager have just turned into a muddle.  I guess it takes stand-out events to help tell one year from another from this distance.  But there were things about being 16 that fix that year in my mind quite distinctly.  For one thing, my folks gave me a rifle for my birthday.  That gun was an “over-under,” a gun with two barrels, a 22 caliber above and a 410 below.  I had absolutely no skill at shooting the thing, and all the memories I have are of hunting, shooting and missing.  I tried to shoot squirrels, and I’m sure they were laughing as they ran out into the street and got hit by cars.  Serves them right.  I went rabbit hunting with college friends and remember shooting a creek and actually seeing the water fly up as the rabbit scampered away.  Skeet shooting? Clay pigeons only broke because they hit the ground.  The gun hasn’t been fired since, even though I’ve been dragging it from one home to another for the last 50 years.

I also remember taking the test for my driver’s license and failing.  I know exactly why too.  I made a left hand turn onto a four lane road and turned into the far lane instead of the inside lane.  I suppose the benefit of flunking me for that is that it cemented that rule in my mind forever. 

I did pass the test a few weeks later, and it’s funny but I can remember like it was yesterday the first evening when my folks let me take the car out solo.  Windows of the car rolled down, a cool dark evening, the absolutely marvelous sense of freedom.  Each year, if The Princess and I are lucky, we watch young blue birds make their first flight from the bird house attached to our deck.  They’ve spent weeks in a hot, smelly house in tight quarters with siblings, fighting for their share of a limited food supply.  I think they must feel, on that first flight, something like I felt that evening when I was 16.

Later in my 16th year that car, a black, 1960 Buick convertible (about a block long) would figure in a number of typical teenage rights of passage, including eventually wrecking it.

And that rifle I got back on my 16th birthday appears in the commercial message below, for which I beg your tolerance.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
The NPA (National Pony Association) wants you to know that your right to a Pony is God-given and absolute.  No government, state or other agency can deny you that right.  Even if you want to use your Pony for illegal or immoral purposes, no one can stop you from obtaining one.  No background checks.  As a matter of fact, even if you’re dumb as a stone, previously convicted of a crime, or loony tunes, no problem, you can be a Pony owner.  And get this, you don’t even need a driver’s license to drive one on the road.  Pretty cool, huh?

And what organization do you have to thank for protecting this right, you got it, the NPA.  Don’t let anyone fool you.  Your right to buy, own and drive a Pony is always under threat.  Protect your right and send all of the extra money you have to the NPA, in care of ThatIdioticTractor.com.  We’ll make sure your hard-earned dollars are spent and are reflected in the blog’s Guinea Pig-O-Meter.

Remember, Ponies don’t kill people, but restoring one can bleed a person to death!

Now, here’s a brief message brought to you buy the NPA and Dean Martin.

Dean and I thank you for reading, watching and listening.