Monthly Archives: December 2011

Krispie Kreme and Christmas 1954

You may recall a post I did last year about how the donut famine in Chapel Hill was finally and thankfully brought to an end when a Krispie Kreme donut shop opened on Franklin Street downtown.  Since then I’ve become a regular customer, and I must say that their freshly glazed, hot donuts are so good I can’t resist em.  And The Princess, heavens, if I bring some of those home after my volunteer gig in the morning, I am THE MAN….for a couple of hours anyway.  But what I’ve been finding is that the trip to KK has side benefits.  While I’m waiting for my donuts, I sit on one of the couches or lounge chairs. 

Of course, with my fidgety hands and my eternal quest for new riches, I generally slip a hand down in between the cushions to check for loose change.  I always find money (today 89 cents).  Are donut eaters rich, or just incredibly careless?  But it’s not just the money.  Perfectly good pens, cell phones, and this week something really cool.  Check this out.

Yikes!  This thing is incredibly sharp, and look at that serrated edge.  I looked it up on the internet.  The company that sells this thing bills itself as supplying the military and police, but also just plain folks like you and me.  Here’s a testimonial for this knife from a guy that wrote-in to the website:
“…I got one of these for each of my daughters to keep in their purses when they went off to college, just so that I would feel safer…they found everyday uses for them.”
I’m telling you, if these girls are here attending UNC, The Princess has no worries; I’m staying away from them.  Everyday uses?  For these?  What, are they regularly in knife fights?  Of course, a pretty girl WITH A BOX OF KRISPIE KREMES… I guess she would have to fight guys off with  knife.

It’s just two days until Christmas.  Christmas brings me to thoughts of my Dad.  He died on Christmas Day, 2002.  That was kind of appropriate, as he really liked Christmas, I mean even beyond the religious aspect, he enjoyed the other stuff, especially the decorating.  My goodness, our Christmas packages under the tree may have had underwear in them, but they were wrapped like they were the crown jewels.  Dad worked for 3M since the year I was born, 1947, until he retired, and he had access to a company store that had fancy ribbons, bow makers, bows, tape and other holiday wrapping doodads.    All of us kids learned how to make bows out of ribbon at an early age. 

Dad loved games and contests.  He lived up to his namesake, Merlin the Magician, at gin, and he and Mom were a great bridge team.  Mom still wins at bridge regularly.  If there was something to win, he went for it.  One year at the company picnic he won a live pig!

The only reason we kids rode that crazy “push cart” in the July 4th parades, was so that he could, through us, win the prize for best kids float.  But at Christmas, of course, the contests were all about decorating the house, winning the city decorating contest, and getting featured in the local newspaper.  I think his big year was probably around 1954. 

For weeks, dad spent many hours after work and on weekends laboring feverishly.  First he got a lot of scrap lumber from the company, plywood from old billboards.  After locating a set of plans, probably Popular Mechanics or some such, he commenced working like a demon on what was to be his biggest display ever.  He cut the lumber into long strips, and then assembled the pieces into huge modernistic figures.  The company store was useful again as the source for “ScotchLite” spray paint which was applied to the whole project.  The 8 ft figures were erected in the front yard, and spot lights were placed strategically, extension cords meandering everywhere, so that they would illuminate the figures in the dark.  When the lights were finally switched on, what you saw were the three kings (of biblical fame) on camels following the star of Bethlehem (up on the roof).  Very impressive, at least to us kids.  I don’t recall exactly how well Dad fared in the contest, but I do remember seeing a photo in the paper of our front yard, with the kings on camels (glowing in the dark like road construction signs).  By the fact that that news article was saved for decades among other family mementos, tells me he was incredibly proud of that accomplishment.  We were proud of him!

Dad would have enjoyed the scene in our local butcher shop today, Cliff’s.  There aren’t many shops left like this.  Walk-in coolers, glass cases with all different cuts of meat.  The close, damp feel of the air, and the pungent aroma it carried.  While I stood in line for our Christmas roast, I couldn’t believe the variety of stuff folks were picking up for their holiday dinners.  Overheard just while I was in there:  ham, butterflied leg of lamb, rabbits, standing rib (a 13-pounder), a deboned, fresh turkey, and a goose.

The Princess and I await the arrival of my Mom (by plane) and son Andy (by train) on Christmas Day…and hope everything comes off without a hitch.  We wish all of you a wonderful holiday, full with peace, love and joy.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and as always, thanks for reading.

The Pony’s 2011 Christmas Letter

Hello again Pony lovers.  Can you believe it?  Another year shot to hell, but more on that later.  I am so thankful to your Idiotic Author for at least this once-a-year opportunity to write to you personally, to let you know how I feel and to debunk some of the stuff he has written over the last 12 months.  All that leaking…not my fault!  The finger injury…not my fault either.  Just cus I’m in the neighborhood when stuff happens, that doesn’t make it my fault.  Ok, enough, sorry, this is going down hill fast, and I’ve got more control than that.

Let’s start over.  Merry Christmas!  What a wonderful time of year.  Of course, that’s a human thing.  We tractors don’t celebrate Christmas.  I mean, it’s a fine holiday and all, and there are the presents.  Thanks for the underpants, I mean muffler, Bruce.  And Jesus, he was a fine person (and son), but not much of a tractor guy.  No, we tractors celebrate a different holiday, Deeremas.  That’s right, John Deere was born on February 7, 1804.  All of us tractors, whether Deere’s or not, look up to him as the person who invented the steel plow, thus vastly expanding farming in the midwest and eventually opening the way for zillions of tractors to pull them.  Personally, the green color of a Deere tractor makes me nauseous, but I don’t hold that against him.  Here’s a joke we tractors tell.  What does a tractor shout while making love?  Oh Deere, oh Deere!  But seriously, nothing may “run like a Deere,” but when the going really gets tough, a Pony doesn’t run (Idiotic Authors note:  hmmm), he stands his ground.  I’ve been doing that “in spades,” also in the woods, for over 20 years.  Anyway, mark February 7 on your calendars, and do something nice for a tractor that day.

Back to ME and MY year.  It was a true Pony red-letter day when fathers and sons and friends turned out in October to move my motor from Bruce’s garage back out to my chassis at Gene’s.  Here’s a shot of the action.  What the heck are they all looking for?  Hope it wasn’t anything I need!  After a lot of grunting and groaning and near catastrophes, my engine was finally back in place.  And no one’s toes got flattened.  It was just a few weeks after this momentous day that Gene got the brilliant idea of moving me into his garage.  Gene hooked up his little garden tractor to my front end, and with Bruce standing at my wheel, we cruised up into the garage.  Here’s a shot taken on that move day.

Once in the garage, progress moved right along.  Everything seemed to be going great until the day Gene and Bruce poured coolant in my radiator and gas in the tank.  No need to dwell on this, but Bruce missed a few things during the rebuild, so now he’s playing “little Dutch boy” and trying to stop the leaks.  That day, my goodness, I thought he was going to blow-up Gene’s garage.  The gasoline fumes were horrific!  I’m telling you, to rely on him, man that’s frightening.  But like so much in life, you take the hand your dealt, play it for all it’s worth and hope for the best.

I don’t really need to recap all the painstaking details of the restoration progress during the last year.  Your Idiotic Author has done a whole bunch of “posts” keeping you up-to-date as things progressed.  Anytime you can’t sleep and need something for it, just go to his web page and click on the days of each month that are highlighted.  You’ll feel sleepy in no time.

Ok, time for a little Pony philosophy, a few thoughts to wrap up the year and carry with you into the next.
1.  There are no bad Ponies, only bad owners of Ponies.
2.  Life ain’t always easy, but you really don’t want easy.  Without struggle, without challenge, without knowing pain, without suffering loss, without having discovered that you survive these things and move on the richer for them, what would you have learned?  Who would you be?
3.  It’s not that the Pony is stubborn, the Pony owner just lacks patience.
4.  The Princess assumes the worst while Bruce figures that generally things will work out.  If he’s not so sure of that, he’ll stick his head in the sand.  Most mornings when he wakes up, there’s sand in the bed.
5.  You can walk around depressed all the time, but if your still walking isn’t that pretty great?
6.  There’s been a lot of press recently about how scientists may be on the verge of finding the elusive Higgs boson, or “God Particle,” over there in Switzerland.  Their method is to keep smashing stuff into other stuff and see what falls out.  Hell, Gene (he’s a physicist) and Bruce could do that if they just had that one tool Gene doesn’t have yet, a Large Hadron Collider (LHD). 
The way I understand it, way back in time, even before I came out of the factory in 1952, after “the big bang,” creation began as particles passed through the Higgs field and interacted with bosons.  Theoretically these bosons added mass and, in essence, turned nuthin into sumthin.  Just think of The Higgs field as a gigantic Sara Lee factory, a boson as a brownie and the particle passing through the Higgs field as you.  Mass? oh you betcha!  Bit of a family joke here, Jim, what if instead of the boson, they find the elusive “woyon” instead?  No mass, but plenty annoying.  Note:  Thanks to Bruce’s blog you can now find a scientific explanation of woyon by doing a Google search on the word.  It’s amazing, but the word woyon has now become a part of the American lexicon!
7.  Finally, in spite of my reputation as kind of a “snot,” I want you all to know that I appreciate your thoughts.  I know you’re pulling for me, and I thank you so much for your support.  I’ve got good feelings about 2012.  I’ll leave you with this shot of me sitting in Gene’s garage.  Let’s remember to compare this to the shot of me that we take next summer when the restoration is done.  Author’s note:  I know, I know, letting the Pony have carte blanche once in a while is dangerous.  He’s kind of all over the place, and his honesty can cut deep, but what you read above is unedited by me.

The Pony has allowed me to do the sign-off, and since I’ve got the keyboard now I thought that no list should have just 7 items, so here are a few straight from me.
8.  If you eat one 74% chocolate truffle each day it won’t do a thing for your health, but it will allow you to face anything that comes along with a smile.  Go to MieleBonBons.com.  This is a Pony-approved site.
9.  Do something next year you’ve never done before.  This summer for biking I shaved my legs for the first time.  Holy cow, the placebo effect alone allowed me to go 10% faster.  The Princess kind a liked it too!
10.  Stop philosophising.  Just keep working and you may be rewarded for it…maybe not….  You know the meaning of life?…neither do I.

Happy holidays everyone.  Thanks so much for reading.

Technical Difficulties

I have been avised that some subscribers may no have received Saturday’s post, or received it, but could not view it.  If that was the case for you, so srry.  I’m hoping you’ll simply be able to view it by clicking the link below, but pleae do’nt hesitate to email me if you still have a problem.  Also, your Idiotice auther had hand sjury this aftermnon , so typing may nit be oerfect.

Here is the link:
Pony’s Endorsment

That’s my new wave for a few weeks, and oooh boy, these pain meds aresweet.  Tahnsk for reading?

The Pony Endorses Vernon Supreme for President

The Pony is an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal, so you can probably guess his political orientation.  This, of course, only in the outside world, as there are no political parties in That Idiotic Tractorland.  Thus, he was startled this week when he came across an article in the WSJ which informed of a Democrat running in the New Hampshire primary whose platform includes the promise of a pony for every American.  Nevermind that this gentleman, Vernon Supreme, also includes “zombie preparedness and mandatory tooth brushing” in his platform.  My Pony doesn’t care, Democrat or whatever, this candidate (as long he lasts) has his endorsement.  For those of you thinking that the Pony made up this Vernon guy, below is the portion of the WSJ article that he read.

 
The Pony’s been a bit out of sorts lately following “the day of big leaks,” so I thought it might buck him up to give him his Christmas present early.  This week I gave him a brand new muffler, ostensibly so his engine will run quietly on start-up (I hope, I hope), but really more so I can shut him up when he’s bothering me.  He was none the wiser though and loved the gift, as you can see below.

This gift kind of reminds me of those Christmases during my youth when my brothers and I unwrapped beautifully wrapped packages of new underpants.  Thanks Mom, Thanks Dad!  I guess the Pony too could have used some underpants, or better a diaper, on his day of big leaks.

After consulting my many advisors including those on the tractor forum, and Robert in the machine shop, it was decided that a big part of my problem was that coolant was leaking out of the “water jacket” in the engine and coming up around the head bolts.  Sure, I missed a step or two along the way that might have prevented the problem, but regardless, now we’re in leak reduction mode.  Robert recommended drying-out all the head bolt holes and then applying aviation gasket sealer to the threads in the holes and on the bolts.  This is being done one bolt at a time (very tedious) in hopes of maintaining whatever seal I do have remaining between the head and the block.  Here I am reinserting one of the head bolts.

I’ve got 14 of the 20 bolts done now.  Access to some of the remaining bolts is blocked by the hydraulic fluid tank, so, dang it, I’m going to have to do some dismantling in order to get at them, “one step forward, two steps back!”

Thank goodness there is non-Pony-related stuff in my life.  The Princess and I went to a matinée performance of the Nutcracker last weekend.  We like going to the matinée, so that we can watch the little kids ooh and aah.  It was really fun, but while there I witnessed one of my pet peeves.  At the beginning of the performance, over the PA system there was an announcement stating that all electronic devices must be shut off, both for the safety of the performers and the enjoyment of the show.  Still, just two rows in front of us there were two sets of parents, not their kids, with iPhones/cameras cranked-up, constantly fiddling with them, rude, rude, rude…

After the show we had about 45 minutes to kill before the restaurant opened for dinner, so we browsed Chapel Hill’s downtown shops, the used-book store, even wandered into a beauty salon, Moshi Moshi.  Later, after we sat down to eat, The Princess commented about the “productive” she’d had.  I said, “What are you talking about, all we did was go to the Nutcracker.”  She said, “Are you kidding, I found a new beauty shop.”  Oh boy, stay tuned for the next chapter of that story.

Under the category “You’ve got to be kidding,” The Princess found me something today.  I woke-up with a sinus headache, but with some minor surgery scheduled for Monday I couldn’t take aspirin, my favorite remedy.  I wondered aloud whether there was a homeopathic remedy that might work.  Well, in “two shakes” she had the People’s Pharmacy book out and was reading aloud to me.  I’m telling you, before she even finished reading the whole thing we were laughing out loud.  Here it is:

*  “Take a piece of brown paper (cut from a shopping bag).  Cut the strip long
long enough to cover your forehead.
*  Saturate the brown paper in cider vinegar, squeezing out the excess.
*  Place the brown paper on your forehead and cover with a nylon stocking (
This is approximately where we both started laughing).  Pull it snug and tie in the back of your head.”
*  Drive to your local bank, and at the drive through window hand them a bag and ask that it be filled with cash.
*  The enormous amount of activity that ensues will make you forget you have a headache.
I’m actually pretty sure that remedy will work, but if it doesn’t they have another one, which involves Siberian Ginseng.  Gee, wonder if you actually have to go to Siberia.  After seeing a recent article about the state of Russian aviation, I understand this one…your headache will end when the plane goes down.

Being the Christmas Season and all, the Pony is hard at work on his second annual Christmas letter.  I’ve got no editorial control over that, so I’m sure it will be “interesting.”  Until then, if you would like to enjoy a couple of holiday- related posts, I’ve put links to them below.  You’ll probably want to read these aloud to your kids, pets and anyone with a headache as you listen to Christmas music around the tree.
Thanksgiving 1958

The Pony’s 2010 Christmas Letter

Maggie Simpson, Parts Detective
(After viewing, just push your browser’s “back button” to return to the current post.)

Please, get out there and shop for those Christmas presents (you know, boost the economy and “ho, ho, ho”), and the Pony reminds you not to leave him off your list.  Me?  Your continued interest in the Pony and his shenanigans, that’s my present.  Thanks for reading.

Pony Launch Scrubbed!

I’ve said this before, but whenever I try to predict or schedule anything that involves the Pony, it always backfires.  So I admit it, I should have known better than do something as stupid as schedule a date for engine start-up.  I’m afraid folks, that when that happens, it’s just going to happen.  It’s almost as if I have to sneak-up on the Pony from behind, you know, so he doesn’t see what I’m up to, and then spring it on him.  Anyway, since I had foolishly made such a bold prediction without Pony approval (which I won’t ever get), I wanted you to know that do to unforseen orneriness on the part of the Pony, there will be NO ENGINE START ON DECEMBER 10.

Now here’s the back story.  Tuesday I went out Gene’s with all of the fluids that we’d need to get the engine started.  Well, actually Gene had some gas.  One of the things that I was most worried about was whether the gas tank would leak.  So, it was my idea to first put gas in the tank and see if she held.  We only put about a quart of gas in the 7 gallon tank.  Grinning like an idiot I asked Gene to take a photo while I happily poured gas.  That done, with trepidation I looked under the tank where the sediment bowl attaches, to see what would happen.  That actually went pretty well.  The tank didn’t leak, and although there is some leakage from the sediment bowl shut-off valve, we did get that to a point where it wasn’t dripping.  So, I said, great, lets dump the coolant into the radiator.  So again, Gene with the camera, me smiling and more pouring.

It was as we were looking the engine over for coolant leaks that we first noticed gas leaking from the carburetor, first a little and then quite a bit.  As we went into emergency mode on the gas leak, we noticed the first coolant leaks, first a little seepage and then drops hitting the floor all over the place.  I concentrated first on the gas leakage, first tightening and replacing some screws on the carburetor, but eventually decided to remove it altogether.  As the garage filled with gas fumes I started to worry that we’d blow the place-up, so Gene got a big box fan, opened the garage door and vented the place.  In addition to the carburetor, I eventually removed the fuel line, air pipe (filled with gas), sediment bowl and all the gas from the tank.

What a mess.  With the air beginning to clear, we turned our focus to the coolant which continued to leak into miscellaneous containers we’d placed under the Pony.  Where was it coming from; hell, where wasn’t it coming from?  It was seeping out around the head gasket and head bolts and there was even a small amount around the spark plugs.  The Pony’s engine has a “water jacket,” that routes coolant around inside the block and head.  Somehow coolant was leaking from the water jacket into and out of places it wasn’t supposed to be.

I finally pulled one of the leaking head bolts, and HOLY MACKEREL, coolant came spouting out of there like you wouldn’t believe.  What a horrible, horrible day.  I was thinking cracked engine block, some real Pony Killer problem.  We mopped up a bit, and as it was getting late, I headed home. 

One thing this little episode taught me is that I need to be a bit more like Gene.  From his adventures with his Jaguar work, he is used to set-backs of all kinds, and particularly leaks of anything and everything.  He just shrugs his shoulders and moves on, knowing there’s some “fix” out there that will set things right.  I, on the other hand, went home that night in a gigantic funk, depressed, and ruing the day that damn Pony came into my life.  I scrubbed my hands raw, but still stank of gas, had a big martini, sent the Idiotic Brother an email saying there’d been a Pony Catastrophe, but couldn’t even get myself to call him.

Then over the next 24 hours, between Gene, a mechanic friend of his, and the Idiotic Brother, news began to filter-in that perhaps THIS PONY COULD BE SAVED.  No promises though, as I said, not wise to get out in front of the Pony.  I won’t go into details, but there are explanations for some of the things that we experienced and some suggested fixes too.  Some things will likely always just be part of the Pony’s “mystique.”  I’m learning to shrug my shoulders, be more patient and soldier on, but always with a martini handy just in case.  And, hey, on the plus side, at least we didn’t blow-up the garage.

Sorry there are no photos in this post.  The wart on top of that frog skin of a day was that I forgot to put the memory card in the camera.  Actually I’m kind of glad you don’t have shots of me and that mess.  Let’s forget all that and move on.

Stay tuned, and thanks for  reading.

ps:  Much thanks to avid reader and now official “Friend of the Pony,” George.  Thanks to George’s digging an old tractor battery out of his garage, I was able to get my $12 core charge back on the new battery.  So for the second time in history, the Cost-O-Meter went backwards just a bit.  That was just before it went upward again due to the muffler I ordered.