Monthly Archives: September 2011

Rarely is Something, Nothing

There’s a special piece of the road about a mile from home.  The sides are lined with the tall, arrow-straight, Loblolly pines that are common here, and there’s a big, sweeping, uphill curve.  After I shoot down the previous hill and begin to climb this hill, for a space of maybe 300 feet I can see, or rather hear into the future.  I noticed this, because each time I climbed the hill I’d hear traffic behind me, look in the “third eye” (rear view mirror), and there’d be nothing there.  What I was hearing was the sound of the traffic coming toward me that I couldn’t even see yet, because of the curve.  The echo of this future traffic was bouncing off the trees behind me.  

I don’t know, but hearing (behind you) into the future, well that’s just kind of weird.   I’ve decided to look into buying the piece of land that lines the road right there, simply because of its value as a strange portal into the future.  Wonder what it would reveal about the Pony’s future.  Might I hear its engine start, before it really does?  That’s something I’d like to know. 

Moving on.  Here’s another basic truism from the Boehmke book of such things.  “Rarely is something, nothing.”  You can stick your head in the sand, you can look the other way, you can rationalize, but if there is a little, nagging something, and it is something you’ve not seen, heard or felt before, it’s probably not nothing, which being a double negative, means IT’S SOMETHING!  My most recent example.  I was doing the morning 40, riding out toward Saxapahaw (yes, that’s a real town), and I heard my right shifter kind of chattering.  I thought, hmmm, that’s different.  Half a mile later I had no shifting on that side, argh!  I did the next 30 miles with only two gears.

That reminds me, this time of year, a lot of snakes have recently hatched and they’re all over the place.  The morning 40 is a good opportunity to spot snakes that have slithered onto the road and then met their demise.  Here’s a couple of recent photos.

Of course, he’s been squashed a bit, but you still get a pretty good view of a Copperhead here.  These are venomous and extremely dangerous, so naturally our area is literally crawling with them.  And here’s something I didn’t know until just tonight.  I was doing a little reading about snakes and came across it on MedlinePlus an internet site sponsored by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health:  “…a snake can actually bite for up to an hour after its dead (from a reflex).”  Guess I’m going to have to show even the dead ones a little more respect.

I hadn’t seen one of these before, so I grabbed my phone and took this guy’s picture.  With a little noodling around on the web tonight, and with an assist from son Andrew, I identified this one as a juvenile rat snake.  They bite, of course, but they’re non-poisonous.  All right, that’s enough road-kill for one post.  What’s going on with the Pony?

Well, part of the answer to that question is the fact that it has rained here for four straight days, and “oops,” I just looked out the window and the pavement down below is wet, make that 5 days.  So, work has been limited to the garage.  I’ve been refurbishing the clutch, mostly wire brushing old rust.  I’ve bought a new clutch disk and throw-out bearing.  I also finished painting the transmission cover, and am now working on the reinstalling the shifting mechanism that’s attached to it.  There was a diagram of that shifting mechanism is the earlier post, “Sometimes Ya Just Get Lucky.”  The Princess and I scored two new 1/4 inch ball bearings at the Ace Hardware this afternoon, so I’ll be able to replace the worn ones.  Cost of the new balls, 49 cents, so under C.O.M. rules, being under 50 cents these will not go in the Cost-O-Meter.  As luck would have it the Ace Hardware is in the same strip mall with a new favorite place of ours, Yo PoP.  Strange name, but boy they’ve got great frozen yogurt and toppings, mmm, mmm.

Gene was able to remove most of the steering system from the Pony this week, so Friday I dragged that home from his place.  That’ll be another good bit of garage work, dismantling and refurbishing that nasty thing.

The Three-Legged Dog

From the Chapel Hill Police log:  Wednesday, September 14, 9:38 pm, “A domestic assault occurred when a mother and daughter were arguing and the daughter bit the mother’s hand.”  Yikes, hasn’t this kid ever heard that you “don’t bite the hand that feeds you?”  Well, at 9:38 pm, at least it was after dinner….

Old business.  “Tommy, do you remember the puzzler I printed a few posts back?”  “Ahhh, no.”  “Ok, I’ll repeat it for you.”
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.   What mathematical theory causes this phenomenon?
Well, for the answer I queried the math department at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and got the following answer from the very knowledgable and helpful Brian Whitling:

“In accounting it is widely known that when 2 consecutive digits are transposed the difference between the 2 figures is divisible by 9.  Hence writing 71 instead of 17, the difference is 71-17 = 54.  One way to think of your ? is to have this concept in mind.  Think of 47 & 74 as a transposition.  The difference of 27 (which would be your age when your son was born) carries forward forever, every year, obviously.  It takes 10 years for the ones digit to return to the same value as the last time the transposition happened because there are 10 digit options, i.e., 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. thus, the 11th year yields the next transposition event, since each of the respective ones digits has now increased by 1.  So the 11 is independent of (I believe he’s saying, ‘has nothing to do with’) the sum of your digits.”

What the $%#@!  For me at least, with my lifetime C- math average, this is just another puzzler.  Did y’all get this?  I will call Brian this week to see if he can walk me through it.  By the way, it was the Idiotic Brother that was responsible for my horrible showing in math, because  in essence he  “poisoned the well.”  I got all the same teachers he had in high school, and when they saw me come along they just automatically gave-up and gave me the same set of less than sparkling grades they gave the IB.

Hey, tractor work, you betcha.  One of the things I have to do before I can mount the engine.  That sounds wrong doesn’t it, a bit suggestive even?  Yuck!  Get that thought out of your mind.  Before the engine is “installed,” I figured out that I need to “install” the gas tank and starter.  So this week I went out to Gene’s and attacked the Pony’s torque tube with a wire brush-equipped, electric drill, a power sander and some degreaser.  What a mess, there were paint chips and paint dust and red colored degreaser all over me.  I had to go home and shower before I coud finish the job a few hours later by applying a coat of primer.  Here’s a shot of me finishing up the paint job, photo courtesy of Gene.

Gene’s  had a running battle with the Pony’s steering wheel.  No matter what he tries, it just won’t come off.  You can just see a piece of the steering wheel on the left side of the photo above.  I finally tried the last resort and put a question on the tractor discussion board.  Always a crap shoot doing that, but I did get a couple of responses.
*There’s something about welding something to it and then whackin it with a BFH.
*Heat collar of the steering wheel with a torch and tap up with a hammer while it is still hot; it works for me all the time.
If you don’t know what a BFH is, I’m not gonna explain it to you.  Some lingo is reserved only professional tractor guys and ex-Navy men.  But going with the second suggestion, here’s a photo of Gene at work.  Hey, be careful with my new paint job!

Knowing the Pony, as you all do by now, does anyone want to hazard a guess as to whether this worked? 
Good guess…that wheel is still stuck.
Our next effort will be dismantling from the bottom, starting I guess at what you’d call the steering box, to see if we can get it off that way.

I was just thinking, is there any animal that occurs naturally, three-legged?  What got me thinking along these lines was a brief occurrence last Thursday.  I was out on the morning 40, humping on down Russell’s Chapel Road, when I saw a good-size, all-black, long-haired dog up ahead limping, kind of hobbling in the road.  I was worried because he was out in the traffic and occasionally a car would go by and swerve around him.  When I got up on him I saw that he wasn’t injured, but that he only had three legs, one of the front ones just totally not there, poor guy.

I was concerned about him, so when I got to the cafe and saw Jim there who I knew lived up on Russell’s Chapel, I mentioned it to him.   He said, “Oh yeah, that’s just old Harry, belongs to the Jeffrey, and he must be out wanderin.”  The guy across from him said that, “…yeah, that’s how he lost the leg in the first place.  Jeffrey and his wife took him in as a charity case a few years back, but it’s hard to confine him.”

After I left the cafe and on the return leg home, sure enough, I spotted him again a good two miles north of where I’d seen him last, galumping along, but at a pretty good pace in the grass (thankfully) along side the road.  I shook my head, and for the rest of the way home thought about the lessons of the three-legged dog:
1.  There’s nothing like a second chance, if someone’ll just give it to ya.
2.  Even with less than God gave most, one can get pretty far.
3.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not perfect.  Perfection’s boring.  Have you ever seen the sun rise when there are no clouds.  Throw a few clouds in though, and it’s stunning.
4.  Learn from your mistakes, dammit; stay out of the road!

One parting photo.  Here’s a shot of the neighborhood guys applauding the  new picnic table that’s been keeping me from tractor work.

Now get back to work on that tractor, Blog Boy.  Thanks for reading.

From Turtles to Turdlegate!

I remember a trip I made to California to visit the IB probably 15 years ago if it was a day.  During the visit, Jim’s wife, Minnie, called Jim “Turtle 1” and me “Turtle 2” the whole time.  I don’t remember why, but I’m sure it wasn’t complimentary.  Well, this week I finished up the housings for the headlights, and they reminded me of that trip.  You’ll see what I mean below.

Outside of finishing these up, I’ve got to admit that there was no other tractor work in the last week.  I got side-tracked building a new picnic table for our neighborhood.  That kind of thing is never as quick and easy as I think its going to be, and many hours have already been invested.  Its coming along though, and by sometime this week it’ll be finished, and I’ll be able to get back to the tractor.

But during the tractor hiatus we can cover some other things,  they’re probably more interesting anyway.  How about dog poop!  This is a problem that has reached near epic proportions.  In our lovely, little townhome community we’ve got woods, a nature trail, quiet roads, good lights at night for security, in short, all the things one needs for an appealing dog defecation area.  People walk here with their furry, four-legged mutts from all around, and it doesn’t take but one in ten to ignore the rules and we’ve got a disgusting mess around here. 

I wonder, how many people do you think would still buy a dog if the person selling the dog said something like, “Oh, and just think, for the next 15 to 20 years, your life will never be your own.  Your life will be ordered by your dog’s every need.  No vacations unless you can find a kennel.  No leaving the kennel without committing to the extra ten bucks a day for “VIP” treatment.  Constant walks in all kinds of weather, day and night, following the dog around, picking up his stinking business, and then happily swinging it back and forth in a blue plastic bag until you find a receptical to dump it in.  Years go by, your kids go off to school, graduate, move away and you’re still not free, because you’ve still got the dog.  Only now the dog is old, occasionally incontinent in the house.  There are numerous trips to the vet, each one more discouraging and expensive than the last, and then finally comes the gut-wrenching decision to put the hound out of its misery.  Then, after the tears are shed (because unaccountably you gotten to love the old fleabag), and the last dog hairs are vacuumed from the carpet and dry-cleaned from your clothes, then, and only then, are you finally free.

That’s pretty much how it went for us.  We got our dog, Snoopy (our son was nuts about the Charles Shultz version), because a very nice lady I worked with said that she had a puppy that needed a home.  Son Andrew had wanted a dog for years, so we went over to Jean’s house, looked at the black and white spawn of “Fluffy,” a cockapoo, and the rest, followed pretty much as described above.

Of course there were memorable moments, and as I think about it that dog had the nine lives usually just reserved for cats.
*  Every dog that came into the neighborhood bit Snoopy.  I’m not sure why, but probably because Snoopy didn’t have a clue.  She’d just stand there as a dog charged her, and before we knew it, Snoopy was a “chew stick.”  Track the dog down; track the dog’s owners down; had it had a rabies shot?  Then trips to the vet for stitches.
*  Because the dumb dog stayed with its mother too long, it had separation anxiety.  Our neighbors all looked at us funny, because of the blood-curdling howls that emanated from our house when we left her alone.  I think they thought we tortured her.  We were empty nesters for years, but couldn’t move into an apartment because of the howling.  Within three months of Snoopy’s demise, we moved into an apartment.  We were soooo happy.
*  Once we took Snoopy to run around on the golf course.  It was the dead of winter and a huge, fresh snow had fallen the night before.  We walked and walked and Snoopy, off the leash quickly took off out of sight.  It got to be time to go home, but we couldn’t find Snoopy.  She wasn’t coming when we called her.  We looked and looked, and finally found her in the creek.  She was clinging, panic-stricken to the icy bank and couldn’t get out.
*  We lived in the woods, and Snoopy was obsessed with chasing squirrels and chipmunks, but chipmunks were her favorites.  She’d chase em all over the yard, but they were almost always able to run up one of the gutter downspouts before she got to them.  One day, we were driving somewhere with Snoopy in the car.  As we drove by a church she spied a chipmunk in the bushes and launched herself out the car window, landing on all fours, in mid-stride and gave that chipmunk the surprise of its life.  How she didn’t get killed in that little effort I’ll never know.
*  She was also a cancer survivor, having had a tumor removed from her neck.

But I digress, several years ago the dog poop was up to our ankles here in the ol subdivision, so I volunteered to build a dog bag box (for “turds to go” bags), so that dog owners would have no excuse for not picking-up those savory little brown things.  Ooh, ooh, that reminds me.  It was so cold in Elkhart, IN where we lived when the Snoopster came into our lives that there were frozen turds along the street.  On several occasions I caught Snoopy playing with the stupid things, biting them and throwing them up in the air.  God, that dog loved poop.  One of her favorite tricks, and one that always earned her an instant shampooing, was sniffing around in the grass for fresh bird poop and then rolling in it.  Yech!

Here’s a picture of the box.  Note that on the lid there is a painting (courtesy of The Princess) of Snoopy, God rest her soul.

Also note how the box clearly states “TAKE A BAG.”  Do you think there is anyway of confusing this with, say “LEAVE A BAG?”  I don’t think so!  But in spite of this, we noted that people would occasionally stick bags of poop in the box.  So, I added a sign just below the box that said, “NOT FOR DISPOSAL.”  Things went on for a couple of years, some poop in the box, but mostly people were better.  Now this year everything went to, well, poop.  A neighbor pulled fifteen bags of poop from the box, and that was the end.  As another neighbor said, “This is moronic!”  This week the box came down, but we saved the lid with The Princess’s little portrait of Snoopy.

I’ve decided to call this whole stinkin mess, “Turdlegate.”  What should we try next?  I know you can’t just tell people to pick up after their dogs.  I tried that and was told that I was rude!  I heard that at an apartment complex up in New England, the manager is taking DNA samples from all of the dogs, so that she can link the turds back to the offending dogs.  I’m not kidding!

It’s September 11, and that means different things to different people.  But before 2001, to me it was just my younger brother Phil’s birthday.  Happy Birthday, Phil.
Thanks for reading.

Sometimes ya Just get Lucky

Talk about “life imitating fiction,” this week a new movie came out, “Our Idiot Brother.”  After I’ve written about him for over a year, they think they can come in and just steal my brother?  I hate to even say it, but come on, “I got dibs on him!”  Speaking of the old IB, we were talking last week, and he started asking questions about the what was next on the tractor project.  I told him I was pretty close to reinstalling the engine.  “You are going to at least make sure all the gears are turning in the transmission and differential before you go stickin that thing back in there, aren’tcha?”  Admittedly, Gene’s been harassing me about this too, so under all this pressure, I told Gene I’d be out this week to look into that.  Coincidentally, the hot summer weather had finally broken, so working outside was at least be feasible.

You may recall that last fall Gene and I removed the cover on the side of the transmission, I guess just out of curiosity, because after we’d taken a look around inside we just closed er back up and forgot about it.  Here’s what it looks like both open and closed.

Well, here we are not a year out from when those pictures were taken, but pretty dang close, and it was time to go back in there and find out what we really had.  We needed to make sure that we could actually shift the gears and that all the gears in the transmission and differential were moving.

We first tried turning the drive shaft, but no dice.  We then tried shifting gears, but could not seem to find neutral.  Neither could we push the tractor.  Finally we removed the cover off the transmission, which includes the shifting mechanism, and tried pushing the tractor.  Gene stuck his hands into the slimy interior of the transmission and moved the gears around until they engaged.  We then pushed the tractor again and “Voila!” the tractor moved and we could see all of the gears turning in both the transmission and the differential.  From this exercise we knew that everything worked except the shifting mechanism, so we tackled that next.  Here’s a diagram.

After a lot of pondering, we figured out how to take the mechanism apart.  What we found, was that part (12) in the diagram above was cracked in half.  Thank you once again Pony.  Gene’s first words were, “Uh oh, Cost-O-Meter” time.  My thought was, man, I hope Maggie Simpson, Parts detective, can find one of those. 

Turns out Maggie couldn’t find the part, and I really started worrying.  I tried something though, that I had tried with partial success another time, and called the corporate offices of Agco, a company with affiliated tractor shops all over the country.  Through them I found a shop in Goldsboro, NC that incredibly, still had this part in stock (after 50-60 years!).  Woo hooo!  I told the nice woman who helped me how incredible this was, and how old the part was, and she said, “Well hon, we’ve been in business just long enough, 63 years!”  So, just to conclude, here’s a photo of the new part, its factory original wrapping, and my old, broken one. 

I had to halt the tractor work for a few days, because I’m building a picnic table for our neighborhood.  Of course, the first step was a trip out to Lowe’s where once again I observed some of my fellow North Carolinians at their best.

Now I’ll be the first to say that looks ain’t everything, and thank goodness, or I’d a never talked the Princess into marrying me.  You just can’t, as they say, “judge a book (much less a person) by its cover.”  With that as preamble, and with apologies to all of womankind, I’ll describe the little 20 second Lowe’s vignette. 

Two nasty lookin’ guys were walking toward me, dirty, tattered clothes, four days beard, and not a hair on their heads straight.  One of the two caught sight of a woman standing in line at the check-out.  She was facing away from him, but she had a nice figure.  As he was checking her out, she happened to turn his way (ok, she did not have a pretty face), and as he walked on by, he turned to his buddy and said out the side of his mouth, “Whoa, that face could knock down a mule!”  I guess it was just that I’d never heard that particular, earthy  expression before, and I’m embarrassed to say it, but it did make me smile and even giggle a little.  As I think about it, I should probably apologize to any mules that might have been offended by this as well.

One last topic.  Ya know, I don’t even know why I get into arguments with The Princess.  Maybe not everyone will be able to relate to this, but any of you that are married can.  I guess maybe this is another truism, yes, I’m going to state it “for the record.”  If you lose an argument with The Princess, well you lose.  But if you win an argument with her, you lose worse.  There are just so many ways she can make you regret the victory that it just ain’t worth it.  So, even though I knew better, tonight as we were eating dinner we got into a kind of memory contest.  First she said, “I don’t really think most people can remember anything before they were five.”  
“Nonsense, I can remember lots of stuff starting when I was about 3  1/2.”
“Like what.”
“Well, I can remember walking through the tall weeds across from our house looking for golf balls.  My brother, Jim, was with me.  I remember it, because Jim kept taking the good golf balls, and I ended up crying.”
“Bah, I don’t believe it.”
“Well, what about this one.  We moved from that house to another, still before I was in kindergarten.  I remember we had a teenager that came to baby sit for us, actually we had a parade of them.  Maybe that was because of this memory.  Jim would drop something on the ground and try to look up the her skirt.  I mean, give me a break, he was at most 7 years old and already a sex-crazed nuisance.”
I heard later he was still pulling this in Hawaii when he was on leave from the Navy.  But I digress.  Not wanting to be outdone, The Princess counters with, “Well I had dreams about when I was in the womb.” 
“What!”
“Yeah, when I was a kid, only about 5 or 6, I had dreams where I dreamt I was floating in a dark place in lots of liquid.”
“Bah, first of all this is not a memory, it’s a dream of a memory.  Second, your parents just fed you to late at night, and those were nightmares, not actual memories.”

And this is where the whole thing kind of degraded, and now she’ll get her vengeance in any number of different ways, and that’s what I mean, it’s a lose-lose situation.  And talk about nightmares, why is it that all the early memories I have, involve stupid stuff the Idiotic Brother did?  I don’t know, maybe he’s actually got dibs on me!  Idiot Brother indeed!
Thanks for reading.