Monthly Archives: August 2011

Life Imitates That Idiotic Tractor

One of my faithful readers, George S, left an interesting comment to my last post that I thought worthy of a separate post.  I had mentioned that the Ford Model 8N tractor came stock with a 4 cylinder engine.  George pointed out that during the war the airforce actually ordered a number of these tractors with V8 engines for towing airplanes around.  This is so great, because first it proves once again that there’s an exception to every rule.  But second, and more importantly, it is life imitating fiction.  Remember my post where I did the little story about the military enlisting farm tractors?  This story had its genesis in the letters I found (R A T) stamped on a part inside the distributor,  which I said stood for “rapid attack tractor.”  If you don’t remember the post, or if you haven’t read it before, just click on the words underlined directly above.

By the way, for those who asked for an update on Irene, this morning the wind is kicking up and there is some light rain, but as hurricanes go, at least here in the Piedmont, I think even the Pony could whup er!
Here’s a little bonus for you.
I’m tellin’ ya, chicks can sell anything!
Of course, thanks for reading, but thanks for your comments too!

Best When Used By…

Cripes!  I ached so bad when I got up yesterday.  Sounds like the start of a Johnny Carson joke, so ok, how bad did you ache blog boy?  I ached so bad I backed up to the bathroom mirror to see if there was a “Best When Used By” date on my ass.  The older I get, the more bothersome little things there are to contend with.  It goes back to that old Boehmke expression, well not that old, but I believe I’ve mentioned it before in this blog, “Eventually almost everything turns to s$%t,” and that everything includes me!  So far though, there’s nothing that a little surgery and massive quantities of ibuprofen won’t take care of.  So, after popping three, I jumped on the bike for the morning 40.

Naturally, I get to daydreaming while out there alone in the countryside.  After a little thought I decided to make public a new Boehmke maxim.  Here it is:
“Rarely when things are going great do the underlying facts support that.”  Unfortunately, this does not work both ways, so the flip side actually is, “When things look horrible, they’re likely even worse.”  This all has to do with the human psyche and the tendency to want things to be great, even when they’re just “fair to midlin,” and to want things to be better, even though they’re bad.  I’ve decided to call these “The Pollyanna Principles.”  I have become almost an expert at applying these principles and yet am continually surprised when the facts bear them out.  This only means I’m a slow learner, but just as proof, I submit this whole dang Pony narrative, and I’m sure you can see how both generally and on numerous specific occasions they have been proven to be true.  

Now that you know this valuable information, I’ll expect that you will all be better decision makers and face the world intrepidly recognizing the crap behind the good news and the horrendous crap behind the bad.  I’m going to imbed a note here to a psychologist I know (fellow blogger and reader) and ask that she comment on The Pollyanna Principles.

On Car Talk  each week they have a “puzzler.”  Here’s TIT’s first puzzler, and this one fits into the non-tractor, numerical category.   My son, Andrew, and I were born in years that end in the same two digits, 4 and 7 (1947 and 1974).  Those last two digits add up to 11.  Once every 11 years our birthdays again share the same last two digits, so when Andy turned 36 last year, I was 63.  This will happen again (God willing) in 2021 when he will be 47 and I will be 74.  Hmmm, I hadn’t even thought of this, but not only will our digits match again, but this time they will once again add up to 11.  If anyone can tell us the math theory that supports this oddity, write the answer on a $20 bill, slip it inside a brand new, aluminized Stanley muffler that fits a Continental, N62, 4 cylinder engine and send it to the Pony.  All those supplying an answer that sounds even vaguely like it might be correct (cus how would I know), will get credit in next week’s post.

I had plans to go out to Gene’s twice this week and cancelled both times.  I do have excuses, but this business with the earthquake, and now the hurricane, it just makes me wonder what that third thing might be.  Don’t worry Gene, I’ll make it eventually.  In the meantime, and under the theory that when we go to start the engine, it’s going to need gas, I’ve been working on the gas tank and the big bracket that supports the gas tank.  I spent a few hours sanding and wire brushing the bracket this week, and this morning while the winds were still calm I applied the first coat of primer.  If you’ll recall, I had the tank run through the caustic soda bath last fall, and since then, I’ve sanded and primed it too.  Here’s how they look right now.

In the first picture I’m actually whirling the tank around, and that’s why the picture is a little blurry.  There’s a four-foot piece of chain inside, and for several months, every time I go down to work in the garage I whirl the chain around inside to help knock off most of the corrosion inside.  This is prep work before I pour in the gas tank sealant, which is an epoxy-like stuff.  The sealant will seal the junk left in there, under the coating and keep it from contaminating the gas.

This is kind of cool, well, I guess only if you like tractors.  I’ve got a soft spot for the Ford Model 8N.  It was made between 1947 (my birth year) and 1952 (the Pony’s birth year).  I saw one on my page-a-day calendar last week that had a V8 engine in it, but Gene, you’re right, from the factory they came stock with a 4 cylinder engine.  Anyway, as I was noodling around on the internet this week I found an article about a guy who passed away a few years ago.  He collected these 8N’s and eventually amassed a collection of 64!  They all ran, and once a year he’d drive em all out on the lawn and display them.  Here’s a couple of shots of his collection.

So, in light of the earthquake earlier this week, and tomorrow’s hurricane, and the fact that &^%# like this is said to happen in three’s, here are the Pony’s top five predictions for the third catastrophe:
5.  Gold will be discovered (again) in North Carolina in such massive quantities that the price of gold will plummet to under $100/ounce.  The gold the Pony had saved-up will no longer cover the cost of his paint job.
4.  Global warming, which was down-graded to climate change (by S&P), will be found to have simply resulted from giant farts (from somewhere in Livermore, CA).  Regrettably, there is no cure.
3.  The numbers 4 and 7 will be found to have been a hoax all along.
2.  The Yankees win the World Series.  What?  Well, I guess that would be a catastrophe.
1.  And the number one candidate for the third catastrophe…oooo, with the words candidate and catastrophe, this is so tempting, but no, not going to go there….  It’s the Ford 8N Model Tractor.  Oh Pony, don’t worry, I’m not changing horses…yet.

Thanks for reading.

You Can’t Judge a Motorcycle Gang by Its Leathers

Since returning from New York, I’ve been making great progress on the Pony.  I’ve got another video embedded below, but you should have a little preamble.  Following are a couple of “before” shots of the air intake pipe and the fan blade.

In the video you’ll see these two parts (among others) now attached to the engine.  Here you go:    

Speaking of the clutch assembly, following the last video and discussion with my “advisors” including the helpful gents on the tractor discussion board, the consensus was that I shouldn’t mess around with that old clutch throw-out bearing.  So, I called my “parts detective,” Maggie Simpson, and ordered a new one.  You’ll see that cost ($38.00) and the machine shop charge to attach it to  the sleeve ($10.00) reflected in a revised C-O-M reading.  By the way, I used a quarter and a dime in repairing the holes in the air intake tube, and you “knit pickers” will be pleased to know that those are in the new number too.

I should add that I need to finish painting and lining the gas tank.  In addition, the hardware that secures the tank to the tractor needs major work, so there is real work yet before we can install the engine back in the tractor.  Finally, even once the engine is installed, Gene and I need to make sure that the transmission is in a position (neutral) and condition (at least full of fluid) to allow the engine to be started.

I was thinking as I took yesterday’s video that even though I’ve been taking still pictures with my camera for a couple of years (Christmas present from son Andrew), being able to take videos now is like having a brand new toy.  That camera was a great gift and one that as they say, “just keeps on giving.”  Toys, boy what a great subject.  My favorite toys growing up were those that could be used in the sandbox.  I loved the sandbox, my brother Phil loved the sandbox.  I know I played in the sandbox until I was about 16.  If my first girl friend hadn’t asked about the sand in my pants, I’d probably still be in the sand box.  Man, I hadn’t thought about her in a while, but that’s for another day.  Road graders, dump trucks, end loaders, played a constant role in construction projects that never seemed to end.

I passed the sandbox gene on to my son.  He couldn’t get enough of it.  He was into major construction, so in addition to the toys, he had the garden tools, the hose, he had lakes.  He constantly had wet, sandy stains on his knees and butt.  One day, he’d left the rake laying in the grass with the tines up, and I pointed out to him that this wasn’t safe (I was a risk manager after all), as he could hurt himself if he stepped on the tines.  I was surprised when he said, “Oh, I know.”
“Really, you knew that?”
“Oh yeah, dad, just this morning I stepped on that rake, the handle came up and gave me this big bump on my head.”
I looked at his forehead and sure enough, there was a big goose egg there from the lesson he’d learned way before I intervened.  This absolutely cracked me up, but I sensed quickly that the laughter wasn’t appreciated, so backed off.  But The Princess and I have secretly laughed over that incident many times over the years.  I’m guessing this early incident had something to do with his  move at age 18 to New York City, where there are very few sandboxes and even fewer garden tools.

That incident took place when we lived in Elkhart, IN.  We lived there for about 10 years, and mining the rich seams of memory from that period are full of great stuff.  
*I planted lettuce over the septic tank and had so much lettuce that the whole neighborhood was eating it.
*You could stop at any one of dozens of Amish farms, and for next to nothing the woman of the house would go out into the garden and pick as many green beans as you needed.
*We got our first and only dog, Snoopy (even though a female).  She had separation anxiety and for the next fifteen years embarrassed us with her howling whenever we left the house.  She was around long after Andy had moved out, and we didn’t really get our lives back until she died.
*We took the dumb dog to walk in the snow out on the golf course, lost her, then finally found her in the creek, clinging to it’s icy edge with the look of fear in her eyes.
*Andy used to go fishing in the community lake, hooked a duck, and from then on was called “Duck Killer” by some of the kids in the neighborhood.
*We got our first home computer.  Only Andy knew how to use it.  He proceeded to write his first novel, something in the vein of Dungeons and Dragons.  His grade school teacher told us that she looked forward to reading his second book some day.
*We went to country auctions almost every nice weekend.  Once we bought Andy a used, pedal fire engine, which he loved.  A little neighbor girl borrowed it, left it in the street, and the UPS man backed over it.  Trauma ensued, and this is a secondary reason he moved to NYC and never came back.  He has never owned another vehicle of any sort.
*The Princess made her second major career move.  She began spinning and dying yarn, then weaving it and finally making wall hangings which she sold commercially through a gallery in Chicago.  It was fun to just be in the shadow of the artist as she oversaw the hanging of her huge piece in a Chicago bank.
*I worked for Miles Laboratories where they had vitamin and Alka-Selzter dispensers at all the water fountains.  That was a fabulous place to work.  Because it was a union location, those of us in the office got the same benefits as those on the line.  We’d all troop down to the cafeteria for morning and afternoon breaks and took long walks on the noon hour.  We were sometimes asked to test out new products.  I remember some vitamins that made me pee bright green.  Yikes!
*We bought our house there for $39,000 and sold it for $89,000.  Will that EVER happen again?
*Brother Jim found me a 1956 Chevy, we drove it back from California and I kept it until we moved away.

Andy just about wet his pants the first time I stood on the gas petal of that V8-powered monster.  It was a lot of fun.  Once, driving it back from Michigan, the heater core blew.  Scalding hot radiator coolant sprayed onto my feet, and with my head sticking out the side window (windshield cracked and clouded) I guided the car to the side of the road.  What happened next was one of those life affirming stories.  As Cindy and I stood by the car, we were just a bit concerned to see a motorcycle gang drive up and surround the car.  As I stood by with my now burning, blistering foot in a mud puddle, these great guys admired the car and figured out how to bypass the heater core.  In half an hour they had us running and on our way.

This just scratches the surface of The Elkhart years, so we’ll have dip back in there again sometime.
But in the meantime, thanks for reading.

Song of the Finger Lakes

Old friends on the back porch, 
another one remembered.
Familiar faces, warm smiles, and swagger.
Another year’s past, 
But we are back
facing down advancing years
To ride the road,
and prove we’re not old.

Sun and clouds, then rain,
Hail, wet shorts, some pain.
Climbing, straining,
Legs churning,
Then plunging down to do it
All over again.
The little picture in the bigger one
Worth it, just for the fun.

Around the table
late in the day
Stories recount the
Rides, and scraped hides,
The lives and wives
Of old guys looking back.
Next year, a rendezvous?
What would Henry do?

Come off it, Blogman; it was just a bike ride.  That I admit, but it was a terrific week, and it was and will always be a memorial ride to our departed riding friend, Henry. 

I’ll tell you, if I saw one tractor up in NY, I saw a thousand, and that’s not an exaggeration.  Check these out.

Now in that second picture I’ve got the two seats numbered 1 and 2.  Which one would you rather ride 70-plus miles on?  Unfortunately, I was on No. 2 for everything except this picture.  We rode 350 miles in 5 days, two of them in the rain.  The last day was over 80 miles, in my case 87, and the last two miles were up hill at a steady grade of between 10 and 12%.  Aye, carumba!  One last photo, here are the old farts on the first day in fancy, new jerseys before the smiles faded to grimaces.

Before I left for the trip, there was some time for a little tractor work.  I’m getting close to installing Dr. Fullofit’s carb, so I thought I’d better bring it up to Massey-Ferguson standards by applying a top coat of M-F red paint over Dr. F’s Rustoleum.  The Princess got a shot of me painting, and then I took one of the finished product next to the engine.

While I was out galavantin last week, Dr. F sent me some gasket material, so this week I’ll be making gaskets and oil seals…ahhh…more baby steps. 

There’s been some other positive movement too.  Remember in the last post how I talked about instituting a new campaign to soften The Princess up on the Cost-O-Meter ceiling?  Well, actually there were two plans going.  One involved buying Power Ball tickets for that $229 million jackpot last week.  Unfortunately, some sod-buster from Minnesota stole it from me, so I was forced to rely on the plan outlined earlier that essentially involves good ol fashioned “payola.”  Here’s a shot of me during the Finger Lakes trip instituting the new plan.

She opened one present last night and one today…all smiles.  I asked, “So how’s the new plan working?”  And she said, “Pretty good…so far.”  Boy, she’s tough!
Hope y’all had some vacation this summer too.  Thanks for waiting through mine and as always, thanks for reading.

That Idiotic Tractor Celebrates 1st Anniversary!

I’m pretty proud of myself.  After finishing the refurb of the sol…excuse me…ignition coil, I checked the service manual to see where on the engine to hang it.  Here’s a photo from the service manual that shows the coil hanging from a bracket that’s bolted to the hydraulic fluid tank (circled in yellow).

The problem was, in pawing through my parts boxes I couldn’t find anything that looked like it would work as a bracket to attach the coil to the tank.  Just coincidentally, a few days later I was going through old photos of the Pony when it was still out in the woods, and I came across this photo.

Aha!  There’s that dang thing, and it’s not on the hydraulic pump, but rigged up below the distributor.  I went back to the parts boxes and sure enough, I found an “L-shaped” bracket all nice and painted-up already and in a zip-lock bag labeled “engine mount, distributor side (of engine).”  Sure enough, when I attached that bracket to the motor mount stud I had the perfect platform to attach the coil in the same position as it looked back in the woods.  Here’s the proof.

The things in life (including the life of the Pony) that are the scariest, I tend to put off as long as possible.  I’ve had the distributor torn apart and the outer case cleaned up for months, but the guts of that thing so confused me that I kept putting off the attempt to put it back together.  Here’s a diagram showing all of the distributor’s parts.

I did order and receive a kit that included  a new condenser, points and rotor, the typical things one replaces when overhauling a distributor.  So, since it was now time to install it right next to its buddy, the ignition coil, I got to work.  First, I built a little stand, so that the thing could stand upright while I worked on it.  I also printed-off a bunch of blow-ups I took of the inside of the distributor before I had dismantled it.  Those, combined with the diagram above were an immense help.  Here’s a little sequence of photos. 

In the third photo, the item circled is a .020 feeler gauge that I am using to adjust the points.  Finally, here she is tucked into the engine block.

Time sure gets away from a person.  Today marks one year since the first post on That Idiotic Tractor was published.  Since then, a total of 90 posts have been published all containing crucial factual details about the Pony’s rebirth, but also (I have to admit) innumerable lies and half-truths in the interest of having some fun.  Those posts have received over 9000 views, and  I hope along the way they’ve touched a few hearts and more importantly a few funny bones.  If yours is permanently affected, it’s not covered by insurance or medicare.  The only thing for it is to keep reading and get used to it.

Apart from the knowledge about, and appreciation for, all things mechanical that I’ve gained during the “Pony Project,” I’ve learned a few more important things along the way:
*  Nuthin, I mean nuthin, was easy, but the harder it was, the better it made me feel to have done it.
*  Women love wedding pictures!  “The Royal Wedding” post (5/3/11) got more comments (all women) than any other post.
*  A martini can improve a post, but with two the Idiotic Author’s head just hits the desk top.
*  Gene has more tools than Lowes.  Every time I break one, two new ones magically appear.  I think there’s some kind of worm hole to another dimension inside Gene’s garage.
*  When my lack of knowledge has left me floundering, greater minds of folks like Gene, the Idiotic Brother, Dr. Fullofit, Maggie and Bob up at Kuhn’s, the tractor forum guys (remember “Fire in the Hole,” 9/3/10), even some of you readers have stepped in to give me a boost.  Two minds, or even one-and-a-half, truly are better than one.  Thank you everyone!
*  You can teach an old guy new tricks.  Son Andrew pulls his hair out trying to drag me further into the computer age, but Holy Cow, I’m YouTubing now!  
*  Never walk around behind the Pony, you just don’t know what might come out of his…rear end compartment…and on top of that, that little bounder kicks like a mule!
*  Good stories begin with a seed of truth, but truly great ones need to be nurtured with some imagination.
*  The internet is not an impersonal medium.  I feel closer to a lot of people now than before.

So what will the next year be like in “ThatIdioticTractorLand?”  First, if at all possible, there will be no 2nd anniversary.  I could not stand to still be working on that bucket of bolts (sorry Pony) for a whole nuther year.  As much fun as this has been, I’ve just got to start seeing the “fruits of my labor” soon.  Then too, there’s that issue of the C-O-M ceiling.  The Princess, I don’t know…I’ve started reviewing our various budget accounts in Quicken, and there are a few that, given a few tweaks, might cause her to finally budge.  Of course, a good last-ditch effort will always be gifts, lots of expensive gifts.

Elsewhere in ThatIdioticTractorland there will be prosperity, low but improving interest rates, no inflation, gradually improving employment numbers and good weather for plowing.  If this all sounds pretty good to you, then you are a candidate for citizenship.  To immigrate though, you’re going to have to suspend belief in the real world, find an unguarded spot along the border to slip across, and above all else LOVE THE PONY!

Your Idiotic Author is leaving Sunday for a week of cycling in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  I’ll be just inside the Fingeronkill Triangle (see “Maggie Simpson, Parts Detective,” 12/17/10), so you never know what might happen.  I’m sure there’ll be stories to tell though, if only I can find my way back out; wish me luck.  Thank you so much for sticking with the Pony and me for the last year, and I really mean this, thanks for reading.