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!

(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.


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.

(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.

(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.

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.

Too Fast for Me

I’m telling you, if my brain was just a tad better than it is, I could be rich.  I don’t mean, a few-million-dollars-rich, I mean filthy, stinking rich, or FSR.(1)  Actually, all of you dear TIT readers could have been FSR as well, if you and I had just thought a little bit about an incident I reported to you in January.  I’m just going to do a “copy-paste” from that blog post right here.

Sometimes I get the feeling I just can’t catch a break, and you know, I was really optimistic about the new year. But so far, here’s how it’s going. The Princess and I were out driving somewhere, and a stinking (literally) VW Rabbit diesel was in front of us. It just absolutely galls me to have to drive in the trail of someone else’s stink. As we drove, it seemed that every turn we wanted to take, this guy turned the same way. I started belly-aching, and that naturally led to The Princess getting on me about the belly-aching, and then of course I got out of joint telling her that, well, I can say whatever I want, so you know, “shut up.” Things were getting pretty testy. So in the icy silence that followed we came up to an intersection, and I said that whichever way this guy went, I was going the other way. Fine, he went straight, and I turned. A few blocks further on, I was sitting at a T-intersection and now, to get where I want to go I have to turn right. I’m waiting for the traffic to clear through and what’s the last car by? Yup, that damn stinkin’ Rabbit.”

Once again, your idiotic author was on to something, but his synapses didn’t close properly, or maybe they closed too soon, whatever, had I reported this incident to the federal government (as a whistle-blower) INSTEAD OF TO YOU PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T THINK IT THROUGH EITHER, right now I could be the most FSR blogger on the planet.  Oh well….

Next topic.  Want proof that the world is moving too fast, well, at least too fast for your idiotic author?  I went to the ATM at the bank branch.  We seldom need cash, with almost everything going on the credit cards, but every now and then, we need a little cash.  Even then, I save up reimbursement checks from the dental insurer, and cash those (gives you an idea about our dental issues), but still, sometimes I run out of barista tip money.  Anyway, I did my “thing” at the ATM, and the receipt and cash popped out.  I pulled the receipt from the slot, folded it up and stuck it in my wallet.  I then looked down at the slot where the cash was sitting just in time to see it being sucked back into the machine.


I couldn’t believe it, what to do?  I went into the branch, and I’ll admit I was not pleasant, but my demeanor had nothing to do with the standard bank branch line, namely that they couldn’t do anything about it.  I was told to call the bank’s toll-free 800 phone number and initiate a “fraud claim.”  I just wanted to scream!  I called the number and went through the motions, but what a pain in the ass.  And it was three days before an off-setting credit popped into our account.  Funny isn’t it, how that machine took the cash back so fast, but the bank gave it back REAL slow.

The side panels arrived, and The Princess was good enough to take a few photos for me.  Here’s one of them that shows where the panels will fit on the Pony.


It was shortly after this photo was taken that I called the official Pony hauler to the blog, Gary Talbert, and made arrangements to have him transport the old boy back out to Gene’s.  There’s some fairly heavy-duty work I want to do out there that can only be done where I have access to Gene’s jacks and tools.  The move went without a hitch on a beautiful early October day.

After the Pony was tucked into his spot in the garage it was time for a “honey shot.”

red tractor 007

Lynne took that photo of their beautiful grand-daughter, Sarah.  They get them into tractor seat early down here folks!

On the subject of photos, here’s one I took just this week.

Version 3

I’d made a bowl of cereal with fruit on it, and I guess I was so hungry that I didn’t notice this renegade blueberry had hopped out of the bowl.  When I came back into the kitchen with my empty bowl, I saw it and thought, wow, that’s a little piece of art.  So there it is friends, another piece for the Bruce Museum.

Thanks for reading.

1.  I redefined “filthy stinking rich” this morning after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal.  New definition:  A person is filthy stinking rich if he or she can afford to pay $750 for a one-hour, combination psychic reading and massage at a hotel spa.  I guess that could also be the new definition for PDS (pretty damn stupid).

What Kind of Infection?

Hey, long time no see, but I, Dr. Reinhold, am back!  Bruce gave me a call, because he’s had kind of a tough week.  But then what does a person expect when after waiting three weeks for a miracle, it does not occur.  Dr. Reinhold’s rule of thumb is, and in fact it is another “invention” of his (The Three-Week Rule) that if you’ve got something physical going wrong with you, 9 times out of 10 it will go away in three weeks, so don’t waste your time and money running around to doctors/dentists in the meantime; just wait it out.  Now regrettably, that leaves 10% of the cases that by the time you get to dealing with them, they’re going to be pretty nasty.(1)  So it was, that when Bruce finally went to the dentist after hoping against hope that the sore area in his mouth would magically get better, he got some pretty bad news.

The news was so bad that the dentist had to refer Bruce to a “fancy”(2) periodontist.  This was the point at which Bruce called me in for a second opinion.  He was concerned about the written diagnosis on the referral form.  Now Dr. Reinhold has seen just about everything in his long and storied career, but I was not prepared for this.  Take a look at the section I have highlighted.

Acute Bum Infection Ooooeeeee, this guy is really sick!  His mouth is so bad that the infection has reached his arsch.(3)  Then, I thought, no, perhaps this dentist was just indicating that Bruce is a cute bum with an infection.   Or, was she saying his bum is cute and infected?

Aw, doc, go crawl under a rock or something.  Just so you know, in your case, the MD stands damn meddler, and I don’t need you.  I did have some fun with this form at the periodontists office.  After we’d been talking for a while and he decided on a game plan, his assistant set out a set of instruments.  It was then I pointed out to both of them that they were probably going to need some more tools in light of the diagnosis provided by my dentist.  When the two of them read what was actually there, it cracked them up.  When the laughter quieted, the perio guy did his exam and said that at the next appointment (end of the month) he’s going to do gum surgery, but that there was an 85% chance that the surgery would lead to extraction of the tooth.  Needless to say, there was no more laughing, especially from me.  I just hope he doesn’t pull the thing out through my bum!

This next part isn’t funny, but Dr. Reinhold insisted that I pass along this PSA, because of the lesson to be learned.  About a month ago a real doctor suggested that due to my osteoporosis I start taking Fosamax (actually a generic form, but same thing).  You might not believe it, but due to bone loss, the idiotic author is actually shrinking, now standing 1.5 inches shorter than just a year ago.

This drug has been around for years and used by millions of people before me.  I’m guessing some of you take it.  I love a drug like that.  I don’t have to worry that I’m a guinea pig, and the generic form of anything is “cheap.”  I actually gave the the pharmacist some guff about the price, because at just 84 cents for a month’s supply, I didn’t feel justified in using my credit card.

My doctor cautioned that the big thing to watch for with the Fosamax is it’s propensity to give one trouble in the esophagus, kind of an acid reflux sort of thing.  The pharmacist warned me of the same thing.  So after all the warnings, I was careful to follow directions and drink a big glass of water, remain upright, and not eat for an hour.  Everything went fine.  Week one, no problem; week two, no problem; week three…hmmm.  I woke up on Thursday morning with pain in one of my hips.  I didn’t think anything of it, threw down 3 ibuprofen, and did the “morning 40” on the bike.  Usually after I’m on the bike, and especially after the ibuprofen, everything resolves itself and I’m fine.  This day though, the pain in the hip kept bugging me through the entire ride.

I’m not going to drag this out, but just say the pain gradually spread from one hip across my pelvis to the the other hip and got worse and worse as I went into the weekend.  I had two pretty miserable days where I could just barely walk, just shuffled along.  You know, they don’t call me the idiotic author for no reason, hmmm, double negative there, but you know what I’m saying.  On Friday night though, I finally put two and two together and looked at the Fosamax medication guide that came with the drug from the pharmacy.  It was in there that I read that the drug could cause severe bone, joint and muscle pain and in particular to the hip, groin and thigh.  Of course, this didn’t mean that what was going on was related to the drug, but I sure suspected it.

Saturday and Sunday were bad, but Monday things started to improve.  It was Monday too that I finally connected with my doctor on the phone, and he confirmed that my symptoms were classic of the 2% of the population that cannot take Fosamax.  While he goes “back to the drawing board” on what I can take, I continue to improve, and after missing a full week of biking, will get back on the road tomorrow, I think.  My hips still get a bit sore as each day goes along.

So the big lesson is, don’t be like the idiotic author; read the stuff that comes with any new drug you take, so that you know what to be on the look-out for.  Your doctor can’t warn you about everything.(4)

Finally, in Pony News, I’ve made the plunge and ordered the missing side panels that the Pony did not have as I found him in the woods.  If you wonder what a Pony looks like with side panels versus my Pony here are a couple of photos.

I found new, aftermarket panels for just a smidge over $100 through Kuhn’s (see my “Links” page).  Always ask Maggie for the “That Idiotic Tractor Discount,” and after she stops laughing she might knock a few bucks off.  The panels come primed, so I’ll still have to paint them red.

Hey, thanks for reading and for ALWAYS READING YOUR MEDICATION GUIDES.

(1)  “Nasty” in this case could include prognoses up to and including death…just sayin’.
(2)  “Fancy” is a dental term meaning ludicrously expensive.
(3)  Sometimes Dr. Reinhold slips into German, but “arsch” translated, means bum in The Queen’s English.  In The Princess’s English it would simply mean “ass.”
(4)  Dr. Reinhold is saying, of course, that he would have warned me, but I think truly that’s just hinder sight.

It Must Have Been the Loons

Saturday night Garrison Keillor was back on “live” from the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul.  There was a point in the show where he described annual trips to Brainerd in northern Minnesota, for summer vacations.  He cued-up the sound effects guy who did the sound of a loon a couple times during the sequence.  I don’t know, I’m telling you, I’m admitting something, maybe some weakness, but his reference to those trips combined with the very realistic sound of the loon, well, my eyes started to well up.  I was so surprised by the feeling that came over me, that I wondered, what’s the matter with me?

Like the family in his story, mine too had taken those annual summer trips, staying at various resorts on lakes scattered around northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.  And those places, as I think back, jeez for a youngster, they became the entire “world”  for a week or two.  Things that happened on those trips, even though I was just a kid at the time, stick with me to this day.  I know this; I’ve had a distrust of horses, maybe all large animals, ever since that year when I was about 9 when all of us climbed on horses for a little ride on the back roads.  Toward the end of the ride, when my horse sensed it was near the barn and the end of the ride, it took off like a “horse from hell,” me bouncing up and down, hanging on for dear life, nobody able to catch the damn thing and rein him in until he slowed on reaching the barn.  Crying, and sore where it matters most for a little kid, I was so mad and full of distrust after that, well like I said, a lifetime of horse-hate, and a good long time of distrust of my dad for getting me into that fix.  Of course, any dreams of being a cowboy, forget about them.

Naturally, fishing was a big part of these trips.  There was one year when it seemed all the fish in the lake had themselves gone on vacation, the infamous Year of no Fish.  Men sat around in the evening mumbling and disgusted, drank beer and tried to come up with better battle plans for the next day.  Would it be surface bait, or big heavy lures that would hopefully find the fish lounging down in the depths?  Or perhaps it should be those big “chub” minnows, heavy sinkers and a bobber as big as a tennis ball.  Would trolling be better than sitting still?  Sitting still, ha, it was fishing with my dad when I first became aware of one of his abiding personal traits.  That man had no patience.  If he didn’t catch a fish in five minutes, he’d be yanking on that motor’s starter and it was off to the next spot.  That trait is what made him an excellent Manager of Short-term Investments for 3M, but lousy at buying stocks for the long-term in his own portfolio.  But I digress.

Well, the men should not have fretted and instead just have enjoyed their ice cold Hamm’s beer(1) and relaxed, because my little brother would soon show them the way.  The men, the real fisherman, had always headed out just as the sun was rising, and, yes, the last calls of those loons were fading away for the day.  I don’t know what they thought, perhaps the fish might do something stupid before they had thoroughly awakened?

Anyway, on one of those days when the men had come in for the day, my brother Phil and I took a boat out alone.  He couldn’t have been more than 6 0r 7 and that would have made me 10ish.  It was mid-day, sunny and hot, essentially a lousy time for fishing.  We took cane poles, and fished the only way we knew how, with a worm on a hook and a bobber on the surface.  I don’t recall anymore how long we’d been fishing, but at some point I noticed Phil’s bobber was no where in sight.  Phil pulled up on the pole, it bent practically in two and the line tightened as if a log was at the other end of the line.  Phil kept the line tight, lifted the pole as high as he could and a thrashing Northern Pike broke the surface.  Details fall away with the years, but somehow Phil and I got that fish into the boat.

We weren’t that far out in the lake that our frenzied activity went unnoticed, so when we got back to the dock a hero’s welcome awaited us.  Phil was the man that year, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen on anyone, as big a smile as he had on his face that day as he posed for photos and basked in the glory.

There were many years of me at the end of a tow-rope trying to water ski.  I discovered during that time that the human body has a built in self-protection urge to hang on to whatever it is hanging onto, in any situation where catastrophe appears immanent.  And thus, as I tumbled off the skis and plowed into the lake head-first, self-preservation told me to hang onto the stupid rope for dear life while gallons of disgusting lake water rushed into my mouth and nose.   And I despised the more athletic, idiotic brother because on his first attempt he popped right up like a pro, and before the end of the first summer was slalom-skiing.

Then, as if it wasn’t enough to suffer the shame of my failures, in between those summer vacations everyone delighted in watching my ill-fated attempts on my dad’s 8mm movies.  When I found out that during my folks move to Florida the many boxes of movie reels had somehow been lost, there was some relief in knowing that now finally certain things would be forgotten, almost as if the entire family had submitted to a vacation memory lobotomy.  One thing should not be forgotten, however, I believe it was in my third summer of attempts, I did finally get up on those damn skis…big deal.

And of course, with three boys, three years apart, wrapped up with everything else, someone would be “coming of age.”  So it was that one year the idiotic brother started acting even more idiotic (at least to my mind) than usual.  He wasn’t interested in fishing so much anymore, and he’d disappear for long periods, especially after supper, down at the cabin of a family that had a girl about Jim’s age.  Of course, what girl could resist the handsome, water-skiing star?  It was the summer when the Alfred Hitchcock movie, North by Northwest, was in the theaters, and someone drove Jim and his girl to see it on a date.(2)

Three years apart is a lot at that age, so Jim’s new fascination with girls (yuck!) was a mystery to me.  Why would he want to sit there in the dark with a girl, when he could be hanging out with the guys cracking stupid jokes, throwing Jujubes around the theater, and getting warned about it by pimply, teenage movie wardens.  I could tell that our parents were mildly amused by Jim’s new behavior, but they did not condemn him as a traitor like I did.  Behind their knowing smiles (I understand now), they saw themselves.

I was wrong (naturally); not all memories can be erased, nor of course would we want them to be.  And these stories, well not just the stories themselves, but the sudden realization of how far back, so far far back in the mire of time they are, that’s I think why the eyes welled up.  Then again, it could just have been those damn loon calls.

Happy Labor Day everyone, and thanks for reading.

(1)  Years later, when I was in college, my dad arranged for me to meet the advertising guy at a twin cities ad agency that came up with the idea for the Hamm’s beer bear that appeared in all the cute TV commercials of the day that were so popular.
(2)  Wikipedia tells me that the year North by Northwest came out was 1959.