Monthly Archives: November 2010

Ah em, Doctor, The Test Results Are In

All that Thanksgiving reminiscing was fun, but holidays end and life continues as before, straight down the…whoa, whoa whoa…it ain’t that bad.  Well, will get to the those test results shortly.  First, a parting shot at Thanksgiving.  On Monday I was talking to a guy I know, lying to each other about how great our respective Thanksgivings had been.  He’s kind of a dry wit.  Last week I said wait a minute, I’ve got something in my shoe.  In a perfectly flat voice, he said, “That’s your foot.”  So anyway, I asked him if he’d had enough turkey to eat, and his reply, “I don’t eat my own kind” took just two seconds to register and I had a good laugh.

Moving on.  Over the long weekend I did have a discussion with the idiotic brother on various topics, but he wouldn’t let go of that damn plastigage business.  So, we covered a few details of the testing process.  First, I made the mistake of mentioning that I had assembled the crank, bearings, pistons and rod and bearing caps in the engine, but they did not seem to want to move.  It was like sticking him with a cattle prod.  WHAT?  All that stuff with those huge clearances should be floppin’ around in there like fish in a tank!  Well, “It just seems a little stuck,” and I surmised that perhaps it was because all the parts were dry.  “DID YOU GET EVERYTHING BACK IN THE RIGHT ORDER?”  “Well, yeah, sure.”  But the more I thought about this I wondered if had indeed screwed something up.  It took me a while to calm him down, but he made me promise to do the stupid test by Tuesday.  I said that maybe I’d get to it, but I was pretty busy.  Of course he countered with, “IT TAKES FIVE MINUTES.”  Alright, alright, alright, Tuesday.

So Tuesday I found a million things to do, but unfortunately around 3:00 pm I had to admit I had no excuse not to go tackle the engine issue and do the test.  Very interesting.  I pulled all parts mentioned above back out of the engine and started putting oil on all the contact surfaces.  As I was doing this I noticed some numbers.  I’m going to insert a photo here that shows the numbers.

The 010 and the 020 are something any real engine guy would have looked for right away, but of course that’s not me, so it was Tuesday that my belated detective work yielded this information.  What this means, of course I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong, is that this crankshaft has been ground twice before and the last time to .020 above standard.  The pistons had a similar die stamp on top indicating that they were above standard as well.

The other numbers in the photo indicate that you are looking at the No. 2 rod and its associated bearing cap.  I’m not admitting to anything here, but as I reassembled all the parts for the test, I made sure to have a 1 with a 1 and a 2 with a 2 and so on.  So, when I bolted the works back in engine, it looked like this.

With the guts back in the engine (correctly), and everything nice and lubed-up, the whole business did just pump away nice and loosely, just like the idiotic brother expected.  And I must say it was kind of fun to see the pieces working together as they should.  Alright, so now for the test.  I systematically removed one bearing cap at a time and dried the oil off of the exposed area.  I then laid a piece of the plastigage on the journal (the crank surface) and retightend the bearing cap.  On removing the cap, you see the very pliable piece of plastic flattened on the journal.  To then measure the clearance I held the “measuring stick” provided with the plastigage up to the squish mark and compared it to the marks on the stick.  The next photo shows the plastigage squish mark on the journal.

This is the No. 2 journal surface.  You’ll remember the lovely pitting from a previous post.  On this journal I put down two pieces of the plastigage, one of them directly over the pits, but the results were essentially the same.  You know how I hate it when the Princess makes some prediction and it miraculously comes true?  Well I hate it even more when its the idiotic brother.  He suspected that my squish marks would fall outside the range of the plastigage measuring stick, which only goes up to .030, and naturally he was right.  But by doing some eyeballing, I’d estimate that my main bearing clearances were .0032 and .0035 front and back.  The rod clearances were worse, from No. 1 at about .004 getting progressively worse back to No. 4, which was maybe .0046. 

Folks, there’s no sugar-coatin’ this; these are gaps a hamster could probably slip through.  Oh, that reminds me.  Did you read about the study recently completed that says that hamsters can get jet lag.  Not only that, after a long flight they can’t make a sensible power point presentation.  This is all true; they say the jet lag messes the little fellers brains up too.  Isn’t science great!  So back to the gaps, these are some real Cost-O-Meter thumpers.  I suppose we could slam this engine back together like this (there will be in-depth monetary and mechanical council meetings on this), but it bothers my sensibilities to do something half-assed like that. 

Then too there’s that nasty little business of the drive shaft “that just doesn’t seem to get it.”  The way I see it right now is, I got to get my head out of the sand and find out if we got a transmission that turns that stupid drive shaft.  Gene and I will be working on that soon, weather permitting.  But when we get to the bottom of that deal, we have to seriously assess whether this Pony can  realistically (read without the Princess going berserker) be brought back to life.  Ooooo, doesn’t that sound ominous?

A final note, you know by now I’m anal retentive in the extreme (5520 mi on the bike so far this year, average speed, 15.8 mph, WHO CARES!) and a real bad trait to go along with that is being too sensitive.  So anyway, I watch the “stats” on this little blog like a hawk, with my mood swinging radically in lock sync with the “view count.”  So, last night I stayed-up late, because earlier in the day I’d seen that the cumulative view count was at 2998.  And sure enough at about 10:30 just before bed I checked and we’d hit 3000 on the nose.  I just love numbers, and especially those.  Thanks so much for reading.  You really do make my day!

Thanksgiving, 1958

We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the last year.  Afterwards, everything would be different.  In 1958 my brother Jim and I shared a paper route in the Chicago suburb where we lived.  We were both still in grade school ( a Lutheran school actually), 5th grade for me and 8th for him.  The next year he’d be off to high school and I’d still be a kid.  There were signs though.  The girls were paying a lot of attention to Jim at school.  It was crazy.  On the playground, if my brother wasn’t paying attention to them, the older girls would chase me, and if they caught me, they’d hold me down and kiss me.  I did not appreciate this, but this would be the last year for that too.

That school was nuts!  Kids were just as poorly behaved, maybe worse, than those in a public school.  Fights on the playground, initials carved in the wooden bathroom stalls (mine, but I DIDN’T DO IT), whacks with rulers, dunces caps and sitting in the corner.  This was contrasted with memorizing bible verses, creeds and hymns, forced choir practices and mandatory church attendance.  Lent was a time of misery.

I had a couple of ancient teachers named Mr. and Mrs. Keester (no jokes please) and one really cool guy in 1958, Mr. Hatfield who was also the choir director.  He got us little “crazies” so whipped up on religious music, that I can remember thinking at the time, why would anyone want to sing anything else?  But while we toured the state, beating the musical crap out of every other kid’s choir we faced, my poor brother was stuck with Mr. Siverson.

Mr. Siverson (not his real name) was not only Jim’s teacher, I believe for two straight years, but also the principal of the school.  I’m not exactly sure how Mr. Siverson qualified for school principal, but it might have had something to do with his ability to delegate.  While he was reading newspapers in class, if he wanted some fried chicken, he’d just pull Jim from class and send him downtown for some.  If he needed more bats and balls for a noon time soft ball game, Jim was on the way.  Some of those softball games got pretty intense, with teachers as well as kids playing and no one paying any attention  when class bells rang.

We’d bring these stories back home, but our parents either didn’t believe them, or felt somehow that there were compensating factors that merited our continued attendance.  That was until the more troubling news about Mr. Siverson came to light.  Forging checks and car theft do get some attention and were probably the deciding factors in 1958 being our last year in that school.

But on Thanksgiving morning of that year, as we woke at 6:00 am, our only concern was weather-related.  You can find anything on the internet these days, so I dug it up.  That morning it was 12 degrees at 6:00 am.  Our lucky younger brother, Phil, looked so snug and warm in his bed; man why me!  To top it off, since it was Thanksgiving, the papers ( The Chicago Tribune and Sun Times) were huge, so that would slow us down and keep us out in the weather longer.  In those days my parents had essentially one winter uniform for us.  The uniform was made up of a parka (either gray or olive-green) with a fake fur hood (that smelled like dog fur) and zipped on and off, and a pair of black rubber boots ( the ones with metal buckles) that slipped over our shoes.  This basic uniform was augmented with whatever crappy hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, etc. one could find around the house.  This outfit was worn by us for years, and was a great source of embarrassment.

The real problem though with 12 degrees, was that although that’s mighty cold, our parents had a “zero degree rule.”  If it was anything above zero, we were not to even think of waking them-up and asking to be driven on the route.

Because this day was so much colder than those that preceded it (no Weather Channel back then), perhaps we missed some vital parts of the uniform.  I don’t remember.  But I do remember that before we were very far into the route we were both really suffering.  This was a residential neighborhood, so there were no stores or gas stations to go warm-up in, nothing.  I was never much of a trooper back then, hell, eventually I’d move to North Carolina!  But, I was what we’d call now multitasking, plodding along, delivering papers and whimpering.  But with toes and fingers freezing, we both got more and more desperate, and finally agreed that we’d have to knock on someone’s door, wake him up, and ask if we could come in to warm up.

We knew most of the people on the route and finally decided to knock on the door of a guy who at least had on occasion seemed kind of friendly.  We rang the bell and waited, rang it again and waited.  Maybe they’re not home.  No, there he comes.  Finally shuffling into view was the guy in his pajamas and slippers.

No telling what this poor guy thought at that early hour on Thanksgiving Day, but he took us in when we asked and let us sit for a while, thaw-out and warm-up.  I don’t even know what Jim and I thought at the time.  But on that day, Jim and I were brothers, bound by our common suffering and our profound release from it.  Over the years we’d drift apart and come back together, but our memory of that day is something we’ll always have, and still like to reminisce over.

So, alright, there was another Thanksgiving that stood out in my memory.  Thanks for reading.

The Pony’s 58th Thanksgiving

That Idiotic Pony had better be thankful.  Tonight she’s tucked snuggly under her tarps and for the first Thanksgiving in many years she’s out of the woods.  I was out working on the Pony this afternoon for several hours, but more about that later.  While I worked, Gene and his wife Lynn did chores around the house in anticipation of a big family gathering over the Thanksgiving holiday.  That got me thinking on the way home about the 60-some odd Thanksgivings I should remember from my years on this planet.  Most just run together in my mind as one long turkey-eating, relative meeting, kids and dogs a bleating mess.  Oh, and some football.  Only one of these holidays really stands out.

Thanksgiving, circa 1982.  The Princess, son Andrew (age 8) and I lived in Elkhart, IN; the Princess’s parents lived in Dolton, IL.  That year the plan was to have Thanksgiving in Dolton, which would require a trip of 100 miles.  Weather clear, everyone healthy, no problems.  Well, there was the fact that we were driving a 1980, diesel-powered Olds 88.  The idiotic author, actually we need some stronger word here…lame-brained, whatever, had several years earlier bought a brand new, gigantic, bergundy-colored diesel-powered Olds, something offered for the first time in 1980. 

That car was so big that when I drove down our street, my own wife and son laughed at me because, according to them, all they saw was my little head sticking up above the level of the widows, kind of like a little round fish in an aquarium.  I would have protested at this family derision except that the way I looked in this car (probably like a pimp), wasn’t half as bad as the decision I had made in buying it.  Ha, this reminds of another thing.  One day, when we lived in Philly I was walking through Reading Terminal Market on my way home doing some shopping.  It was all suits and ties back then, and, as the Princess liked to say, I was something of a clothes horse.  Well, as I was picking out some produce, an elderly African-American lady walked up to me and said,  “You really look sharp!”  I was kind of embarrassed, but I have to admit flattered too.  I later related this experience to someone in the office (a reader of this blog), who was very quick to say, “Oh yeah, she probably thought you looked like a pimp.”  So, there you go…maybe I missed my calling.

Holy cow, that was a sidetrack off a sidetrack.  Back to our Thanksgiving story,  the nagging little time bomb that was about to knock our Thanksgiving all to hell was the damn diesel engine under the hood.  I should have known the day I bought it that this car was trouble.  The day I picked-up the car, Andy was with me.  We pulled out of the dealer’s lot into a driving rainstorm, and by the time we got home, there was water all over the back seat.  It was downhill from there.  I could have written a way better blog about that car!  Shoot, sorry, side tracked again.

Anyway, we were somewhere, I think around Hammond.  It always smelled awful around there.  I was whipping along in the fast lane, and all of a sudden, nuthin.  The engine just stopped, and somehow in Thanksgiving day traffic, me in a panic, I guided the car to the shoulder.  That car was as dead last-week’s road kill.  What now. 

I guess for something as bad as this, things went as well as could be expected.  A state trooper showed-up after a while, he called a tow truck, the tow truck took us to a truck stop, and the truck stop could do nothing.  Sometime during this period we realized that since the Princess’s parents had recently moved (and their number was unlisted), we couldn’t get ahold of them.  They wondered all day what had become of us.

I entered into negotiations with the tow truck driver and after some hard bargaining for, I believe it was $200, not a small sum then, he agreed to tow the car (with all four of us in the cab), poor Andy jammed up against the driver, all the way back to Elkhart.  He dropped the car at the dealership, took us home and that was our day.  We had spaghetti for dinner that night.

But talk about thankful.  We were so happy to be back home that to this day I consider that spaghetti dinner as one of our best Thanksgiving meals. 

Now you’re probably thinking all this storytelling and side-tracking was just my way of getting out of telling you about The Pony, BUT YOUR WRONG.  I have been working diligently, and I have pictures to prove it.  For most of the last week, with temps in the upper 60’s and low 70’s I have been out at the tractor at least a couple of hours each day.

In the event that by some miracle, I get the engine ready to put back in the tractor before spring, I wanted to get the engine compartment, degreased, wire brushed, cleaned and painted.  I accomplished all of that, at least up through a coat of brown primer.  Gene and Lynn were kind enough to take a few shots of me as I worked, so below you will see me at work and the finished product.

Well listen, I’m incredibly grateful for your readership.  This little blog has brought me closer to so many people, and made my life richer in the process.  I am truly thankful.  I wish all of you a wonderful holiday and as always, thanks for reading.

In The Pony’s Case…a Little Bit Pregnant

Well George, I can’t say you didn’t warn me.  Readers may recall my earlier post wherein I described my adventure in the chestnut tree grove; I even included a link to the Christmas song, you know “…chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” blah, blah, blah.   I spent a couple of hours one day picking chestnuts out of horribly prickly hulls, which left me, by the way, with thorns in my fingers and hands, the last one of which I pulled out with a tweezers last night.  No kidding.  Well, after getting the nuts home I separated good ones from bad ones, went on-line and looked up proper storage techniques and then popped them in the bottom drawer of the fridge.

The nuts were in a plastic bag with holes poked into it, and every time I was down in that drawer I’d grab the bag, turn it over and put it back.  Well, what a surprise, on my last trip down into the drawer there were little yellow worms crawling all over inside the bag, and a few escapees (through those handy breathing holes) crawling to freedom in the drawer.  Eew, disgusting! man like lightning I yanked those out of there and pitched ’em straight into the garbage, then went into sniper mode hunting down each and every escapee.  I think I got all the little buggers, but I’m keeping my eyes open.  Funny how an experience like that can change one’s perspective, but that once enticing grove of trees, holds nothin’ for me now. 

I’ve got a couple of pictures here of The Pony’s crankshaft.

I’m telling you, that second picture got the Idiotic Brother on the phone quick.  He’s not happy at all about that pitting you see there.  Most of the journals (surfaces where the bearings run on the crankshaft) show some wear, but these are the only two surfaces that are pitted.  After I calmed him down and he remembered that he wasn’t back in the combustion engineering lab at Sandia anymore, he admitted that “…the pits are THE PITS…” but seeing as how it’s just The Pony you’ll probably be “ok.”  What he meant was that I’m not looking for peak performance, just a decent running engine.

He did, however, begin on a whole new tirade about getting me to test the amount of wear on the journals and bearings.  If there is too much wear he says, this can result in a number of things including low oil pressure, rod and bearing knocks, and lack of power.  So he is all over me to do a plastigage check.  This involves placing a strips of plastigage across the journals and then tightening down all of the bearings onto the crankshaft just as you would if putting the engine back together.  You then unbolt the bearings and measure the width of the plastigage material that squishes out on the crankshaft.  The width of the material will tell you how big the gap is between the journal and the bearing. 

The plastigage strip brings to mind the strips used for pregnancy tests, and I’m telling you, I’m going to be watching what happens to that strip as closely as a teenage girl and dreading the results just the same.  The big difference, of course, is that with my test, it’s “ok” for The Pony to be a little bit pregnant, but preferably only about one trimester.  Here’s a picture of what the wrapped plastigage strip looks like.    Ok, maybe you don’t pee on the strip; but by comparing the widths of the green marks on this wrapper to the widths of the “squishes” on the crankshaft, you find out the amount of pregnancy, I mean clearance you’ve got.  I must digress here for just one moment.  When I went over this with spell check I found that even the spell check program knows there is no such thing as “a little bit pregnant,” because it is programmed to suggest simply the word “pregnant” when one uses this phrase.  What do they know anyway?  I’ve been busily cleaning the crank and its related bearings, bearing caps and bolts, and I should be ready to test this weekend sometime.

As I thought about The Pony, and this test, and how far from perfect that old tractor is it reminded of a thought I had earlier this week on this subject of perfection.  What got me thinking was a sunrise I saw earlier this week.  The sky was “perfectly” clear, the sun rose, but the sky didn’t really look all that special.  What it needed were a few clouds (just a little imperfection) to catch the colors of the sun as it rose and make it more interesting.  There is probably some lesson in this which totally escapes your “head in the sand” idiotic author, but suffice to say that The Pony is Very Interesting!

Moseying along….

The Idiotic Author’s Mom just asked for some shots of fall foliage.  Boy, down there in Sarasota is she ever disconnected from reality.  Mom, you missed it; leaves peaked here I’d say about a week ago.  Nevertheless, there are still a few leaves hanging on, so on the “morning 40” yesterday I brought the camera along and took a few shots on the way to and from Pittsboro.  Like I say, they are past their prime and yesterday was cloudy, so all I can say is you shoulda seem ’em last week.

 

The shot above is of University Lake which in the winter you can just get a glimpse of through the trees from our back deck.  But more importantly, I pulled The Pony out of these very woods about a hundred yards from shore.  Sometimes I wish the damn thing had just rolled in!

I think this is Meachum Rd on the way out of Orange County.  It’s uphill, so not one of my favorite spots.

Further up Meachum is the entrance to Gene’s place, where I took this shot.  This is the new woods where The Pony resides.

There’s those stupid cows that always watch me go by.  Here they were a bit back off the road and kind of moseying along.  Mosey, what a great verb.  By the way, can’t you just imagine The Pony out in this field doing something tractors do…I don’t know…maybe moseying?

Blah, blah, blah….

I think this shot is of Jones Ferry Rd. just after it peaks at the top of the hill near the big antenna that serves our local public TV station.

And finally, there’s no place like home, the view off the back deck this morning.  I appreciate your patience, and if this little picture show was a little boring, well blame it on my Mom.

Things continue on, on the tractor front.  I’m just going to insert here an answer I received to my cry for help on the YT Tractor Forum.
In Reply to: Pony Drive Shaft posted by Pony1952 on November 13, 2010 at 19:48:14:
I asked the friend with the parts Pony today about the shaft (as they have 1 restored, and 2 “working” tractors).. He commented that the restored one was done by someone else, so he really don’t know how the shaft goes either, but he too thinks the alignment could be the issue.
We’re going to try to get to his parts tractor one night this week and see if we can’t figure something out.. He and I were both pretty busy trying to get equipment put away and other jobs around our farms this afternoon.
I’ll let you know if we figure anything out.

This was the second message from Brad, who is really going the extra mile to try to help-out.  Isn’t this amazing, these two guys, Brad and his friend, are actually farmers.  I’m so embarrassed that I have it so easy.  The closest thing to farming I do is to send an email to the HOA telling them to get on the lawn guy’s ass about the crab grass.

Brad also sent a link to a Pony Parts Book, so we can (for the first time) see what the drive shaft looks like at the other end of that deep dark tunnel we’ve been looking into.  Then this morning another guy sent some more helpful information on how the drive shaft hooks-up with the transmission.  So, once again the Idiotic author wins, and for that he has to say THANK YOU!

And thanks for looking at Mom’s pictures.

Idiotic Author has Incurable Ostrich Syndrome

It may be terminal, but then, I don’t want to know.

There are those who right away want to know everything about something, including the worst.  The author is not one of those people.  What if a voice coming from, I don’t know, a bush in the back yard, told you something is going to happen to you next Friday, and you can choose to know what that something is now, or you can just wait for Friday to roll around.  I’m pretty sure most people would say, “Tell me now, and make it snappy.”  Your author would a) head for the front yard pronto where the shrubs don’t talk, and b) wait for Friday, but probably with a hedge clipper handy.  I JUST DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

So, when even before The Pony was out of the woods the idiotic brother was all in a lather, “Find out if the engine turns over,” with all kinds of reasons why this was important, I’d have none of it.  I wanted that Pony, it didn’t matter if the engine was frozen; it’s mine, I want it, I’m taking it, and I’ll deal with the little details later.  Ok, Ok, so that’s how the Cost-O-Meter got to $600 plus, but the trip from $0 to $600 was fun.  By the way, don’t let The Princess know how flip I’m acting over 600 bucks.  Her reaction to that would be another thing I don’t want to know.

So next, the idiotic brother started badgering me, keep in mind this is all via email and phone; yeah right, he doesn’t have to get his hands dirty, about the stupid  transmission.  I just get the engine ready to start rebuilding it, and he starts changing the subject to a whole nother thing.  A thing about which I know the same amount as I do engines, zero.  He argued, “You can get that little engine just humming along fine, but without the transmission your just going to be sitting there in that tractor seat going nowhere.”

You’re not only distracting me, man, but you’re trying to pull my dang ostrich head out of the sand.  No, no, no, no, NO!  So, Saturday dawns a beautiful day.  I got nothing bothering me like say, knowledge that my transmission is a piece of junk, and I head out to Gene’s.  Once again, the goal will be to clean-up the chassis in the area where the engine will go when we’re done putting it back together.

No sooner do I pull the tarp off The Pony, but Gene comes around the corner of the garage with the first words out of his mouth being, “You know, that situation with the drive shaft is bothering me.”  Argh!  I said, “Yeah, you and the idiotic brother are just alike.  Why don’t you guys get a little business going where you counsel people to learn how to face reality?”  Sheesh.  But Gene was right there, and a little harder to put off than the IB who’s way out there in California, so I buckled and said, “Ok, let’s take a look inside.”

Well, we spent the next hour removing covers from the transmission and the differential and peering in and feeling around in that lovely slime of jellied 20-year-old transmission fluid and water.  Below are a couple of photos of the interior of the transmission.

I think that second shot is kind of artistic, and don’t be concerned, it isn’t really very rusty in there.  I stuck my hand in and felt all around touching as much of the gearing as I could and feeling for any metal parts at the bottom.  At least from this cursory exam (no rubber gloves by the way), my far from expert opinion is, nsb (not so bad.)  The thing we could not figure out and still can’t is why the drive shaft is not somehow meshing into the transmission.  It’s just too dark in there and the quarters are too tight to see, or even feel what’s going on. 

So then, since we couldn’t find the answer where we expected it to be, we decided to take a look in another nice, dark, slimy place, the differential.  By the way, I found it interesting that in the case of the Pony, unlike a lot of other vehicles, the transmission and the differential are “bang” on to each other.  There really is no separation other than a partial interior wall.  They, in fact, share the same transmission fluid; it simply flows between the two cases.  Anyway, here’s a shot of the inside of the differential.

Again, this looks nastier than it really is.  Everything actually looks ok and feels ok.  But, of course, the “eyes wide open twins” are still not happy.  They want the answer as to why that drive shaft is not engaging with the transmission.  Boys, I think actually I could be pretty happy for at least a while anyway, with the engine running and me sitting on The Pony’s seat next to Gene’s garage going nowhere.

Well, I haven’t totally left the subject.  Since we are basically “stumped,” I’ve put a question out there on the ever helpful, and most interesting “YT Tractor Forum.”  For those of you who are long time readers, you may remember this is the site where I got the great advice to set the tractor on fire in order to get a piston unfrozen.   Actually, there are some great guys, who are really interested in helping, that respond to queries there, so who knows, they may have some great advice.  I JUST DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT IS!  At least until, say Friday.

Thanks for reading.

The Pony Takes a Leak

We have a blue bird house attached to the post that supports our second floor deck.  Every year we have lots of fun watching all of the stuff that goes on in and around that house.  This time of year when they aren’t nesting, for some reason the blue birds have to fight off other birds like house finches and sparrows, that want to take up residence in the house.  There’s all kinds of dive bombing and posturing going on, pretty exciting.  During the spring and summer we watch them rear two broods of babies, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to see the little ones fly the coop.  I’ll insert 4 photos here, the last one showing how the little ones look, when they’re about ready to take off (note claws on edge of hole).

                                                                                That chick with its mouth open in the 3rd picture reminds me exactly of how the idiotic brother used to look at the dinner table when we were kids, hell, he still eats like that.  To this day, even when it’s just The Princess and me at the table I’m always watching my plate, first to make sure I got my fair share, and second to make sure it stays there until I eat it.  

This whole business was just preamble leading up to the cute thing I saw in the bird house today, and here it is.  Yeah, that’s the Gecko alright, and I think he’s set-up an insurance sales office in there during the off-season.  Don’t forget, you can click on any of these images to make them bigger.

With this little diversion I guess I’ve been trying to put off talking about some more really disgusting tractor news.  I’ve spent a few hours out at Gene’s the last few days trying to take advantage of some really nice weather.  The area where the engine will be bolted back on needs to be wire brushed, cleaned, primed and painted, while it’s still easy to get at. 

So with that as a little mini goal, I got all Gene’s tools out and ready.  But when I looked at the cavity that houses the clutch I noticed some kind of nasty oily substance oozing out.  The large cavity connects to a much smaller tunnel like cavity that extends all the way to the back of the tractor where the transmission is.

I figured I’d never get the engine area clean with this oily junk constantly flowing out, so started fishing up into the tunnel to see what the heck was up in there.  With a small stiff wire I began pulling out gobs of oil laden organic material which I eventually recognized as the ancient stash of some idiotic squirrel or chipmunk.  This stuff looks bad, feels worse and smells awful.  I’m going to give out some free advice here.  DO NOT EVER BUY (EVEN FOR $50) A TRACTOR THAT HAS BEEN SITTING IN THE WOODS FOR 20 YEARS!

After mucking around in that drive shaft tunnel on Tuesday, I showed up again Wednesday, saw the gunk still oozing out and figured somehow I’ve got to stop that.  I made an assumption that since the tunnel led back to the transmission, the stuff mixing in with the acorns, etc. was probably transmission fluid.  So, I set about removing the plug from the transmission in order to drain it.  Like everything else on The Pony it was stuck good, but Gene arrived as I was struggling and came up with a combination of huge crescent wrench and fat breaker bar that did the trick.

I had placed a large oil drip pan below the plug to catch the fluid, but neither of us was prepared for the deluge that followed removal of the plug.  Over a gallon of ice cold, clear water rushed out, followed by a rather meager portion of tranny fluid.  Please refer back to the advice given two paragraphs above.  How in the hell did all that water get in there? 

Ok, here’s my theory.  I don’t know how the water got in there (fairies?), but I think what might of happened over the years is that the water went through a lot of freeze/thaw cycles.  When it did this, it forced most of the tranny fluid out through some busted seal into that drive shaft tunnel.  I was about to leave Gene’s when I remembered I had the camera in the car, so I went back, pulled the drip pan out from under the tractor and took this shot.

Always looking for the silver lining, even when The Pony takes a leak, I’m happy that what came out was clear water.  The stuff in the photo that is orange and brown is the fluid that came out, not rust.  Next trip out to Gene’s I’ll see if the oozing has stopped and will try to get the rest of the nasty muck out of there.  All of this mess to deal with before I can even start to clean that engine area, which was the initial goal.  Man, what next!  Aren’t you glad you just have to read this, and you don’t actually have to deal with the muck.  Maybe if I remember, I’ll try to get a nice shot of the muck when I go back out.  Thanks for reading (and not throwing-up).