Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Three-Man Lift

I’ve seen a lot of statistics; these days the internet has statistics like New York hotels have bed bugs.  But I’ve seen the numbers in enough different places to be able to say with some assurance that pigs are taking over my state.  Already four years ago there were more hogs in this state than people, about 10 million.  New census data out for 2010, that’s human census data, indicates that thank God, more people are moving into NC from I don’t know where, so we’ve now caught up to the pigs.  Well, actually, my pig data is old, so maybe we haven’t.  Suffice to say there’s a lot of damn hogs down here and so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that on any given day if you’re trying to get to work on the freeway, there’s probably a lot of pigs out there doing the same thing, road hogs if you will.

Well, sure enough, with that many people and that many hogs out there mixing it up each day it was bound to happen.  On Wednesday the News and Observer reports, an emergency dispatcher for the city of Durham got a call, “There are pigs everywhere.  Oh, my God!”  Turns out pigs were just dropping out of a truck at the height of rush hour as it cruised down I540.  Miraculously, outside of a few scrapes and bruises on the 5 piglets, there were no serious injuries to either species.  The piglets, cold and shivering were rounded up and taken to an animal shelter and according to the City’s animal control officer they’re nestled in hay and getting lots of r&r. 

If the piglets aren’t claimed within 30 days they’ll be offered for sale and if not bought will be put up for adoption.  Awwww, isn’t that cute?  You know how The Princess “flipped out” when I bought the Pony?  Can you imagine the scene around here if I brought one of those porkers home?  I think maybe I’m going about all this bassakwards, first the tractor, then the pig, then the farm?  I bet I’ll be livin on that farm by myself too.
Moving on to non-porcine matters, I had to nudge the Cost-O-Meter just a bit.  Newest increase covers the cost of various small items like fasteners, gasket sealer, LockTite, and paint.  The paint was a mistake, as when I got home I found I already had some.  See how honest I am, I probably shouldn’t have to add that to the C-O-M, but I did anyway.

I’ve been cleaning more parts, priming and painting em too.  I’ve got a dip stick now…looks like brand new!  Other exciting stuff too like the motor mounts, the generator bracket, the generator and starter.  Gene’s coming over tomorrow, so I’ll let you know in the next post what kind of damage we do.

I’m going to have to stay sharp tomorrow it being April Fool’s day and all.  I can’t trust The Princess not to try to pull something on me.  I’m kind of an easy mark being as gullible as I am.  Once, Freshman year in college the guys on the floor told me that one of the guys, Harold, could lift three guys at once.  It was late, and there were a bunch of us sitting around eating pizza.  I said yeah, right, but they all said, no, they’d seen Harold do it.  So they go get Harold and talk him into doing the lift for me.

Three of us lay down on the floor on our backs tight together; I was in the middle.  Harold said that we needed to loosen our belts and then intertwine our legs and arms, so that we made a good tight group for the lift.  I should have been suspicious when the belt loosening thing was thrown in, but as I said I’m a sucker.  Harold asked if we were ready, and when we all said yeah, he bent down, pulled out a can of shaving cream, yanked open the top of my pants and blasted me.  Of course, everyone else had been in on this deal but me, and there was non-stop hootin and hollerin for the next hour.  Dang it! 

Of course, I was all up for showing “the three-man lift” to the new guy who showed up the next week.  See picture below.

Y’all watch out tomorrow, and thanks for reading.

Said the Female Hamster, “It’s Good to be Me!”

I cannot believe the number of comments both on and off blog that I’ve received over my “two-bit” repair job reported in the last post.  Most folks were trying to keep me honest by reminding me to add 50 cents to the Cost-O-Meter.  One guy said I’d better be on the look-out, as the Feds would be coming to arrest me for defacing US currency.  Then there was the guy who said good work, but that I’d cheated by using quarters.  He was from South Wales in the UK, so I’m guessing it was just sour grapes over my not using some coin with the Queen Mum on it.  With The Princess watching me close, that would never have flown here.  Well, I had a lot of fun with that and again thank Jim for the suggestion.  To put this matter to rest, y’all will note that the Cost-O-Meter has been bumped up $1 (I rounded up).

Speaking of round-ups and critters you might round-up, I read a piece in the Wall Street Journal this week about hamsters.  Yeah, that’s what I said it was in the WSJ, you know that human interest story they always place at the bottom of page one.  Here’s a picture they included.

He is really cute isn’t he?  The article was about wild hamsters in France and how the once prolific little beggars are now endanged.  A rather horrific detail they included pertained to the sexual habits of these seemingly harmless animals.  The female of the species, doing the black widow spider one better, when confronted with a mate that does not appeal to her, simply kills it.  Gads!  I’m sure glad I’m not a hamster.  Think of the scene at pick-up joints if the female of our species acted that way.  I’m thinking guys would be a bit more careful with their pick-up lines, and maybe only use them when they’re close to a door?  The Princess can be a little like this when she gets jealous; she actually coined the phrase, “I’ll scratch her eyes out.”  Yikes!

Anyway, this  article reminded me of two things.  First, the picture reminded me of Bill Murray’s nemesis (the gopher) in the movie “Caddy Shack.”  You could not find a much stupider film, nor one with more laugh-out-loud moments.  Just great!  Second, I was reminded of the numerous hamsters that lived (and died) under the care, or lack there of, provided by my brothers and me while we were growing up.  I remember specifically the first pair we had.  We lived in an older home with a big old converted coal furnace in the basement.  The ducts from the furnace led up to big wooden grates in the hardwood floors.

One day we noticed both hamsters were out of their cage, probably bored with spinning that damn wheel.  Jim and I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find em, so we enlisted the help of our parents.  Dad decided to test the hypothesis that the hamsters had pulled a Louis and Clark and disappeared down through the furnace floor grate seeking, I don’t know, what were Louis and Clark seeking?

Systematically we went from one grate to another lowering a string with a weight and a piece of lettuce attached.  After trying this a number of times, sure enough, a stumbling, groggy, exhausted explorer followed that lettuce right up the duct.  Now that other hamster, I don’t know, but the next day there was a smell, something like grilled chicken coming from the duct in the dining room.

Enough nonsense, I’ve got tractor stuff to report.  I spent several days down in the garage bringing various Pony parts back to life.    Below are before and after pictures of the cap of the Pony’s air intake stack.

That’s just the brown primer, but it sure looks a lot better.  This was my first attempt at spray painting.  I decided not to try to hammer out the crease in the top, thinking this will give the Pony a little more character.  Almost looks like an old felt hat with a crease in it.  I also sprayed primer on the now famous, repaired oil pan (before and after’s below).

As much progress as I’ve made, it seems there is always another nasty looking part that needs refurbishing.  It was a nice break from that work to have Gene come over on Saturday to do some engine work. 

Our main accomplishment was tightening up the rod and main bearing bolts and fixing them in place.  We first put blue lock tight on the threads of each bolt, and finger-tightened it.  Then each bolt was tightened to spec with the torque wrench, 20 foot pounds for the rod bearing bolts, and 55 foot pounds for the main bearings.  The “mains” actually called for more, but 55 was what I could get.  Here’s a shot of me showing that torque wrench who’s boss.

Not bad, eh, for two guys, one recovering from hernia surgery and the other, shoulder surgery?  Following the torque down, we had to put the mechanic’s wire on the main bearing bolts.  This is an extra precaution which serves to hold the bolts in place should they begin to loosen during engine operation.  We followed a diagram supplied by Dr. Fullofit that he guarantees will hold those bolts secure.  This next shot shows our wire job on one of the main bearings.

With this job done, as soon as I finish painting the oil pan, we’ll be able to close-up the crankcase.

Until next time,  approach those females carefully, know your exit route and thanks for reading.

Idiotic Author’s Two-Bit Repair

This one goes under the heading, “Only in North Carolina.”  I’m speaking of what Raleigh’s News and Observer calls “The Doggie Breakout Case.”  In Pittsboro, the town just south of us, one of the Town Commissioners was arrested for breaking his dog, Gidget (a Yorkshire terrier), out of rabies confinement.  While Gidget was “on the lam” she was moved first to another animal hospital, then sprung from that one, and finally caught when the defendant’s wife returned her to the animal hospital.  He pled “no contest,” and paid court costs of $133.  But before it was all over, the animal hospital to which Gidget had been moved started a Facebook phenomenon with it’s “Free Gidget ” campaign.  Be proud Tarheels!

I know you are all wondering what’s going on with the Pony.  Believe it or not, I’ve been working pretty hard down in the shop and have been making progress.  First, I’ve been wire brushing, sanding, priming and painting those parts I got back from the machine shop.  After the prep work each part gets a coat of primer and three coats of tractor paint.  I don’t know what’s up with that paint, but it does really take the three coats to get good coverage.  Here’s a couple of pictures of recently completed parts.

The top photo is the timing gear cover and the second is the valve train cover.  Another thing I had to do is scrape some of my beautiful paint job off the engine block.  I had mistakenly painted right up to the edge of the valve train compartment, and in order for the gasket to get a good grip the paint had to go.  Here’s a shot of the area I scraped.

Now I know you probably saw the headline and thought, well, that’s redundant, because it’s obvious that this whole project is a “two-bit” repair.  I need to explain.  You’ll recall that after going through the bath at the machine shop two small holes had been revealed in the bottom of the oil pan (see picture).

I consulted with Dr. Fullofit on this, and he felt that using a product called J-B Weld rather than actually having someone weld or braise those spots would be sufficient.  By the way, the JB does not stand for Jim Boehmke as Dr. Fullofit claims.  The procedure he recommended called for using the J-B Weld compound to affix a coin to the inside of the oil pan, one over each hole.  He further said that probably using a quarter would be best as it provides a bit more surface area and, therefore, a better bond.  Thus my reference to the two-bit repair, I know, actually with two quarters its four bits.  Don’t be such sticklers!

I thoroughly wire brushed the area around the holes where the coins would be placed.  I placed masking tape over the holes on the exterior of the pan; this to keep the excess compound from oozing out from under the coins and draining out through the holes.  I then mixed up the compound and applied it to one side of each coin.  After pressing the coins in place, I placed a brick on top to hold em in place.  The whole business was left to cure overnight, and in the morning I had a completed repair.  Check it out!

Isn’t that great?  It’s going to drive some guy nuts about 20 years from now when he tears down the engine, sees these quarters and wonders what year they are.  Oh, I forgot to say that since both holes lay on curved areas of the pan, I put a slight bend on each so that they would conform better to the pan’s shape.

I was pretty proud of this repair, so I explained to The Princess what I’d done.  You’re probably way ahead of me on this, but she caught me off guard when she rolled her eyes and said, “Great, it isn’t enough that you’re spending our retirement money on that Pony, but now you’re literally throwing money at it!”  I think she imagine’s the entire Pony eventually studded with coins.  Hmmm….

One final note.  I just heard that my uncle Carly is going through a tough phase in his struggle with a particularly nasty disease.  Carly we have you in our hearts and will be thinking of you every day until you are back on your feet.  That comes from Cindy, me and the Pony, who knows about being really sick.  Get better Man!
Thanks for reading.

The Cousins Go Graping (that’s Grape-ing)

First, I gotta say that in light of ongoing world events, thank goodness the outside world ceases to exist inside the borders of That Idiotic Tractorland.  But, having said that there really is no easy way of keeping the IB out.  I got the following email from Jim, today:

“Don’t feel obligated to make this part of your blog memories, but, remember the worm pills we all had to take in Waukesha.  How the poop did we all get worms back then?”

Only Jim could put a sentence together where the words “poop” and “worms” would be included.  Listen Jim, on this one I’m going to have to invoke the blog’s Rule No. 4, which states:  Anything I don’t remember, didn’t actually happen.  What do you mean, “we.”  Sorry to leave you hanging out there Jimbo, but I’m not admitting to knowledge of this.  As to how you might have contracted the aforementioned unmentionables, I’d say you’d probably been eating dirt.  In those days, dirt was about on par with tuna casseroles and pot roast, no offense Mom.

But mentioning things we ate back then does remind me of something we used to do as much for fun as for the food.  I don’t know how Dad figured this out in terms of timing, location, etc., but when the pea crop came in it used to be great fun to hop in the car, head out into the country and follow the trucks carrying peas from the fields to the processing plant.  They’d fill the trucks so high that not infrequently big bunches of peas would fall off the back.  When that happened, Dad would pull over and we kids would jump out, race onto the highway, grab the peas and jump back into the car.  We did this over and over until we either had enough peas, or considering he still had three live kids, Dad felt he no longer wanted to tempt fate.  I believe the fact that I’ve always loved peas goes back to those days and the fresh, sweet taste of raw peas popping in my mouth.

My cousin Ed and I used to enjoy getting fresh produce as well.  When we were in junior high and high school, we lived in adjoining towns, close enough to walk or ride our bikes to each others houses.  We’d have sleep-overs, and those sleep-overs were the launch pad for a lot of mischief.  During the summer, after dark, we’d go out “graping.”  This was our word for sneaking into as many backyard gardens as we could and eating whatever was handy.  Yes, grapes was one of the crops available, but just about anything else that we could eat raw fell before us. 

One incident in particular I’ll never forget.  One evening after graping, Ed and I decided to go out to the golf course and look for balls.  You might ask, how do you look for golf balls in the dark, and I’d say well, we didn’t really look for them, we felt for them.  The eighteenth hole of this course was all “carry” over a small lake from tee to green.  The lake was only about four feet deep, so we’d wade into the lake in our bare feet and systematically feel our way across the span of water, feeling the balls with our feet, popping them into our bags and moving on.  Two things set this evening apart from the other times we’d done this.  First, after we’d been in the water for about half an hour, we both got violently ill, undoubtedly due to the ill-gotten produce (mostly grapes) we’d wolfed down earlier.  We lost some time back in the bushes dealing with that, but eventually were able to return to the water and continue our search.

We’d managed to each fill our bags pretty well when we heard voices and then saw someone coming toward us with flashlights.  There was really nothing we could do, we’d been caught.  Two club staff members who acted as if they’d caught two major criminals told us to get out of the water.  When we did, they took our bags, herded us out in front of the club house and called the cops.  We spent what seemed like ages standing there wet, shivering and worried waiting for the cops to arrive.  Thankfully, the cops weren’t very interested in our heinous crime.  We were allowed to go collect our dry clothes and sent packing, but without our nights efforts.

I had so much fun hanging out with Ed.  We set a field on fire once.  We repeatedly climbed down in a wishing well behind a restaurant to retrieve the coins people had tossed in.    We built a furnace on the side of his house, fired with coal and stoked with a tank vacuum on “blow.”  We melted anything and everything in that furnace.  We played three-handed bridge with my Mom after school.  We stayed up all night in his basement with his brother Billy playing games and farting.  My God I don’t know what their mom fed them, but I about asphyxiated down there.

Ed was always looking for something.  I accompanied him on a wild trip up to Minnesota to collect a Model T flatbed truck.  Ed had stashed it at Grandpa and Gramma’s.  We brought along a trailer to haul the thing home on, but the truck just barely fit and even then the trailer was riding only about 6 inches off the road.  On the way back we went through terrible storms with the trailer and its cargo swaying back and forth precariously.  Even as we pulled into Ed’s town there were downed tree limbs everywhere from a tornado that had just passed  through.  We’d later drive that crazy truck all over town.  It constantly broke down.  It once stalled on the Burlington Northern railroad tracks, with a train in sight down the tracks.  Somehow we managed to hop out and push that heavy piece of junk off the tracks before the train got there.

In our adult years I was lucky enough to have joined Ed, Billy and other family members on trips to seek other things.  There was gold dredging in the Sierra’s of California and cactus seed hunting in Baja, Mexico.  Constant themes were scheming, seeking, inventing and always dreaming of that next thing.  

A year ago this week Ed finally lost his 17-year fight with cancer.  I was lucky enough to have spent a week with Ed in the month before he died.  Even then he was full of ideas on how to redesign the medical equipment he saw around him and ways to improve hospital procedures.  We took a drive down to Galveston (what a hole!), watched Antiques Road Show, told jokes as we always had, reminisced and had dinner together on what would be his last birthday.

Now I just can’t believe he’s gone.  He had this habit of calling me, out of the blue, after a long absence, disguising his voice (poorly) and asking if Mr. Boehmke was there.  I don’t know what Ed is up to these days, but I’m pretty sure he’s still looking for that next big thing.  It was so wonderful growing up with you, Ed.
Call me some time.

The Push-Cart Years

Just a little news on the tractor front.  We are at a point on the engine where we can start closing it up, but the “closing up parts” are a mess.  So, now that I have been released to drive I gathered together some of these parts (the oil pan, the camshaft gear cover, the valve train cover, plus some misc.) and  tossed the box in the trunk.  The Princess and I drove over to Durham, and I dropped the stuff off at the machine shop.  Buster was busy, but I talked to Robert.  I asked that the items be put through the bath and said, “So what do you think, around $20?  “Oh…maybe more like $25, maybe a little more…”  Man, trying to nail these guys down is like trying to make jello hold still.  Anyway, whatever it costs, the feeling was that the work would be done in a few days.  When I got back home, I found I’d forgotten to take along the manifold, which has the same junk in it that the ports in the engine block had.  Oh well, I’ll take that along when we pick up Monday’s batch.  After getting lost when trying to find this place for the first time last summer, the car can now find its way there on its own.  That’s scary. 

Ongoing in the garage is some paint work, so Sunday I picked up some primer and glossy black paint.  Months ago Gene refurbished the starter and generator, but they still need painting.  It appears that on original equipment these items were black, so that’s what I’ll be painting on some day this week.  By the way, the paint cost nine bucks, so I bumped the Cost-O-Meter accordingly.

The Princess and I were talking the other night and I related a story about the push cart our family had when I was a kid.  No, we didn’t sell burgers from a cart outside the old Fox Head 400 Brewery, although the words do conjure up that image.  This story started like many did back in the 1950’s and 1960’s when my dad came back from a few hours of garage “saling” with the day’s finds.  This day in 1951 he came back with a set of official Soap Box Derby Wheels, including axles.  The soap box derby was a much bigger deal back then than it is now.  Maybe today’s times require entertainment that’s a little bit easier come by than building and entire unpowered racing vehicle from scratch.  Forget about pedal cars like our son Andrew had back in the 70’s, now parents buy their kids battery-powered vehicles. 

The 1950’s were the heyday of the Soap Box Derby Races when up to 70,000 people would assemble in Akron Ohio for the races.  TV and Movie stars would make the scene at the races.  In 1947 actor Jimmy Stewart while acting in the Broadway play, Harvey, actually cancelled a weekend of performances to attend.  Wikipedia says that at its peak the races were one of the top five sporting events in the country in terms of attendance.  The derby events even had their share of scandal, with a number of disqualifications over the years, most notably in 1973 when a kid was caught with an electromagnetic assist in his racer. 

I don’t know what dad thought he’d do with the wheels when he bought them, but he had three little boys and likely figured some fun could be had by making these into something.  Those wheels served as the crucial building blocks for the first version of the vehicle that would become known as the push cart, so named in the family, because it derived its forward motion with the application of a long push stick to the back-end of the cart.  While one person pushed (my dad or older brother at first) the others would scramble aboard for the ride.  Although this was considered great fun in and of itself, my dad felt that the ultimate use for the cart in those first years was to show off his kids in the town’s 4th of July parades.  So, in that first year, here’s how I looked, all set for the parade.

You see those two kids behind the cart?  Note the envy in their eyes?  Here’s a shot of a subsequent year, I’m guessing maybe 1953 or 1954 with all three brothers, Phil and I riding and poor Jim pushing.

Although the parades were for show, the push cart did daily duty on the street in front of our house in Waukesha, WI.  It’s a wonder that thing didn’t end up under the wheels of some car, but somehow we all survived.  The incident I related to the Princess occurred in our neighborhood.  Kids learn from their parents, so I think we can blame this on them.  We’d seen my dad apart from his regular job attempt numerous entrepreneurial ventures.  Often it was as simple as buying things at garage sales, sprucing them up and then reselling them.  A more adventurous undertaking was his home franchise for the sale of “Bubble-O” detergent door to door.  Remember, these were the days of “The Fuller Brush Man.” 

Well, taking a page from dad’s book, one day we kids decided to take everything from the fridge that was saleable load it on the push cart and try hawking it to the construction workers building homes in our neighborhood.  I mean to say, we did a “booming business.”  We were just pleased as punch as we headed home with our days proceeds.  When we got home, however, we were greeted by stern looks from our parents.  Of course, not only had we emptied the refrigerator, but a neighbor had reported that we had been selling beer to the constructions workers!  Oops!

When the family moved from Wisconsin to Illinois, the push cart went with us.  By then the family was buying used lawn mowers at garage sales, refurbishing them and selling them.  It wasn’t long before the latent engineering skills of my brother showed themselves and the push cart became motorized with one of those lawn mower engines.  I can still see in my mind’s eye a video of Jim running that thing up and down the street with our dog, Duke, chasing behind.

Well, this post has been long enough in the making that The Princess and I were able to make a return trip to the machine shop and pick up those parts.  When I went into the shop Robert spotted me and said, “Ah, little problem there, and I said, “Oh, yeah?”  Then I picked-up the oil pan and saw a couple of spots of corrosion, one of which left a whole clean through the pan.  Yup, the Pony strikes again.  Right about now I’m thinkin’ pretty fondly of that old unpowered push cart.  By the way, the $28 for sending the parts through the bath has been added to the Cost-O-Meter.

A final note, I heard from Gene today that his hernia surgery went fine yesterday.  He’ll not be available for tractor work for at least three weeks.  That’s “ok,” Gene, I’ve got plenty of light work, particularly painting, that I can do while you’re recuperating.

Fathers and sons,
So many chances,
A thousand little things
Any one of which
Who knows,
Might change everything.   

Thanks for reading everyone.

This Just in……

This is not going to be a long post, but for a couple of reasons I just wanted to get something out.  First, I had some technical difficulties with the last post; it came out on the Home Page without a title and in the wrong font.  This will serve as a test to see if we have that straightened out.

Second, it’s time to say thanks again.  Stats provided by my so-called publisher indicate that this week That Idiotic Tractor crossed the 5000 view threshold and including subscriber views, we’re now over 6000.  I truly do appreciate your readership.  As I’ve said before, I am a shallow and needy person, and as much as I’d like to deny it, I really get a lift from knowing you are out there sharing my successes and failures and my little stories.  The Pony appreciates it too.  Thanks!

Third, your idiotic author went in to see the orthopedist today.  If you’ll recall, I had a scare 10 days ago and thought for sure I’d done something bad to the surgeon’s work.  Well, I guess it pays to be a pessimist, because then when something good happens you’re pleasantly surprised.  This was all good.  I described the incident where I felt the pop in my shoulder, he tested my range of motion, moved my arm all around, asked about pain and declared that I am just as I should be at the five-week mark.  The icing on the cake, he didn’t even think I’d done anything wrong.  So, sorry Jim, no diagnosis of stupidity.  I can now drive and have only one week left of the sling (a less bulky version) and only need that when I go out in public.  After the fact, The Princess tried to define my shop in the garage as “out in public,” but I said “no way” to that.

Now if  y’alls thoughts and prayers played a role in today’s outcome, then I must also thank you for that.  But don’t push it; just hoping and praying usually doesn’t get one a jar of my homemade strawberry jam come April. 
Oh, and thanks for reading.  Woo hoooooo, I’m going out to play!