Inching Forward

The squirrel woke at first light in his nest of sticks and leaves.  It might actually have been the pileated woodpecker’s jungle-like call that woke him.  Regardless, his stomach was empty and he started down the loblolly’s trunk.

The Idiotic Author had awakened earlier, but he knew why, his persistent back pain made staying asleep and staying in bed impossible.  His trip was down the hall to the kitchen where the morning ritual began.  Clean-up the late night dishes and get the coffee pot ready, so that all The Princess would have to do on her awakening would be to flip the switch.

The squirrel had his rituals too.  He had several different food sources and there were a number of them near by.  His favorite this time of year was the shaggy-barked hickory tree twenty-five trees away that was dropping its bounty now with every gentle rush of wind.

The author ate a banana while he dressed in bike gear and moved as quickly and silently as possible (must not wake The Princess) to get down to the garage, get on the bike and out the door.  Forty miles lay ahead, 20 before the breakfast stop, his favorite any time of year.

The squirrel ate the nuts while sitting on his favorite tree stump, the hulls and shells of many previous repasts all around him.  It was tough work gnawing through to get to the soft nut meats, but he didn’t think about that, we all know squirrels just don’t think.

The author travels only a few favorite routes.  Although he can think, he’d rather not think about the route, so he put the bike on a course he knew and let his mind wander to things like tractor problem solving.  Heck, it worked last week, it could work again.  Colorful names these southern county roads have:  Jones Ferry, Poythrus, Mann’s Chapel, Hamlett’s Chapel, then the  right turn onto Moore Mountain.

His belly now full the squirrel paused to role on his dining stump and ease the nagging itch left by a parasite.  His mouth was puckered and dry after his feed and he headed for the water that lay in the low spot near where the metal behemoths roared by.

The author was drinking too, from the Gatorade in his bottle.  After taking a swig he picked up speed on the down side of Moore Mountain.  He was going about 24 mph when the squirrel panicked, shot out onto the road, and not thinking, ran back and forth three times just in front of author’s bike.  That third time was it; two bike tires ran squarely over his back and the life rushed out of that squirrel in an instant.  He’s taking the big sleep now, sorry buddy.

That fatal accident happened on mile number 86,607 since I began logging miles back in 1991.  That makes the odds pretty small that I’ll have another any time soon.  And people ask me why I keep track of things!  Anyway, what in the hell did that have to do with The Pony?  Not a thing, but listen, you can’t have excitement like “Fire in the hole” in every post can you?  There is tractor news, however, and I’m here to give it.

I met Gene out at his place on Thursday and he had a pot of water close to a boil in the garage.  We went out to The Pony and cleaned the penetrating oil out of the cylinder and dumped in the water.  We suctioned that first batch out after a while and added more boiling water.  After that second batch had stood a while, we suctioned part of that off, and I focused Gene’s heat gun (the man has everything) on the cylinder walls.

Alright, time for action.  We suctioned all the water out, I slid under the tractor with a piece of oak and a sledge, and after placing the oak up against the rod I commenced hammering upward.  After just a couple of whacks I felt the rod and piston move up.  Beautiful!  But the progress stopped, so we pounded down on the piston from the top.  It moved again, but stopped.  After several cycles of hammering up and hammering down it was obvious we were getting no further. 

All we had succeeded in doing was getting the dang thing to move up and down perhaps an inch and a half, and we couldn’t get the piston totally free.  Everybody’s perplexed and can’t figure out what this latest set back means.  With Labor Day looming and Gene due to leave town, we poured a bunch of Kroil penetrating oil in the cylinder and called it a day.  There seems to be consensus among our mechanical advisers that if it comes down to a job requiring penetrating oil, Kroil is THE oil.  Well, Gene and I will be the judges of that when he gets back in town.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a new oak extension for smacking up on the rod.  The last one was destroyed after all the bashing.  So that’s where we are, and I know you are probably thinking these guys are dragging this process out just to mess with us.  But if you’re thinking that, you’ve misjudged us, well me anyway.  If I get this poor, abused and neglected little Pony running again its going to be a long slow slog, but I’ll bet the odds are better than 86,607 to 1.  And besides, ain’t half the fun just getting there?

Oh, and Gene, don’t worry, I watered the plants and brought the newspapers and mail in.

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