Monthly Archives: October 2012

Pony, Not Good in a Clutch

Might as well get this out-of-the-way right at the top.  Last weekend Gene and I fired-up the Pony, I climbed up on the place where the seat should be, pushed the clutch pedal down, and shifted into first.  When I did so there was a grinding of gears as I forced the shifter lever into first gear.  Yes, I did get it into gear, but it was totally without help from the clutch.  Gene and I were afraid of this, but it took this long to confirm our fears.  We’re not sure what we did wrong, but we can’t blame this one on the Pony.  Back when we installed the clutch we must have missed something pretty important.  So, we’ve got a big job ahead of us, because to have another go at the clutch, we’ll need to pull the engine.  Poop!

I suppose we can take some solace in the fact that once in gear, our drive shaft, transmission and differential were all working, because the jacked-up Pony’s back wheels were spinning around merrily.  That’s something the Pony hadn’t done on its own in decades.  I apologize that I have no video of this, but when son Andy said, “Make sure you’ve got fresh batteries in the camera,” I said, “Oh, no problem, I just put new batteries in.”  Apparently not!  Again, poop.

But I do have a photo for you.  I’ve got a number of unwritten blog rules.  one of them goes something like this.  If I’m in any situation where I and anyone who’s around me spontaneously break out in laughter, the thing that caused the laughter is probably good blog material.  With that rule in mind we’ll go to the topic of mushrooms.  Here specifically is the little devil to which I refer.

I haven’t even bothered to look it up, because I like the name I’ve given it.  I call it the North Carolina Stink Head.  These babies can range from just a  couple of inches to six or seven inches tall.  And of course due to their shape and size I suppose a name something like the North Carolina Phalic Stinker  might be appropriate as well, but I’m not really here to go into the phalic aspect.  I would suggest, however, that there’d be a lot less sex going on if, well, you know, “they” really looked like that.  No, I’m going to concentrate on the stink, because folks, even if “they” looked like that, if “they” smelled like that mushroom smells…well, Adam and Eve probably never would have sinned and started this whole over-population thing.

How bad does it smell?  These things grow out of the wood chips they spread in the beds in front of our place.  When I open the garage door in the morning, I know immediately, I mean RIGHT NOW, if one of these stinkers has popped up.  This horrendous mushroom smell takes over the garage.  But it’s not just the smell of mushroom, it’s putrified mushroom.  This thing is the arm pit, the dog turd, the Limburger cheese of mushrooms.  It’s the ginkgo berry of mushrooms.  If you’re not familiar with ginkgo berries they smell like dog vomit.  Before we moved down here, we had them all over the place in Philly, disgusting!  It’s funny, but we’d see certain folks come collecting them, don’t ask me what for.  Maybe they used them to put curses on things, or people.  I sure hope they didn’t eat ’em.  Something here actually does eat the stink heads.  I suspect it’s squirrels; god, the bad breath they must have!

What brought on the laughter on this recent occasion was my description to Andy of how I attempted to deal with the last one of these that popped up, which should do as an example of just how bad these things smell.  First I went out with a trowel, and while breathing through my mouth scooped the noxious nasal offender into a plastic grocery bag.  I thought right away, that’s not enough, I better double bag it, so I did.  I pitched it in our garbage can and went about other business.  The next day I brought down a bag of garbage to throw in the can, lifted the lid and Holy Jesus, it smelled awful in there.  I grabbed two more plastic bags to further encase the stinker and figured that ought to take care of it.  Oh no, next time into the can, still just disgusting.  The week was moving on toward garbage day, so at this point I dumped all the little garbage bags into a big Hefty bag, cinched it up tight and thought, if that don’t do it, the little bugger wins.

I’m here to say that the stink head won.  The smell got through everything, and even after the garbage truck came and the stink head became someone else’s problem, my garbage can still stank.  It stank for a week.  It stank for two weeks.  And finally this week I went at it with Mr. Clean (with Fabreze), and scrubbed it good with a broom and then let the can air-out.  You won’t believe it, but now the can smells pretty good…but with just a slight under layer of stink head.

It was Tuesday night, I’d just gotten home from my “guinea pig gig,” and The Princess announced we were having spaghetti with MUSHROOM sauce.  I ate a few, but I’m telling you, the ol’ stink head has messed with my appetite for any kind of mushroom.

Lots of movement in the various meters on the homepage.  Click the highlighted word to check them out.  Included there is the cost, primarily shipping, of some fabulous welding work Doc Fullofit did on the Pony’s seat.  I’ll feature that in the next post.

A bit of a post script on the stink head story.  The Princess and I went out to dinner tonight.  Unfortunately I’d left the car in the drive with the garage door open.  As soon as we entered the garage we knew what was up, literally.  That’s right, as if to mock me another of the first mushroom’s brethren had popped up and was makin’ a STINK.  He was 3 times the size of the one I photographed.  We got in the car as quickly as we could, but even with the car doors open for just 30 seconds, it took a couple of blocks of driving before we’d flushed out the bad air.  When we got home we ran the “stink head gauntlet” in the driveway, shot into the garage and closed the door.  If that thing hasn’t been eaten by morning, I’m getting the shovel, and this time I’m burying it in the woods…about a mile from here!

Hope you weren’t planning a mushroom omelette for breakfast, and thanks for reading.

Chapter Two…The Meat Locker

First, credit where due, son Andy was here visiting, and the name, GuineaPig-O-Meter (now copyrighted and authorized exclusively for use in this blog) is his and his alone.   Not sure that’s something to take ownership of, but, I wanted that to be clear.  It likely says something about both of us that on seeing the new wording in print, we both laughed out loud.  Then too, I hope you noticed the nice “pop” in that meter this week.  I’ll tell you, the folks at UNC conducting the ozone study are no dummies.  They’ve got the old “carrot and stick” thing down to a science.  When I go into the lab, they can work me over “six ways to Sunday,” but as long as they keep handing me a check as I go out the door, I’m their man.

I’ll take you out of suspense right away.  The Destiny cab delivered me to the EPA building on the UNC campus, so there was no evil plot, at least not yet.  After about an hour of pre-exposure tests, I was led into the “exposure chamber.”  If you recall, the chamber is really a converted meat locker, and by the way, the fact checkers reviewed my last post, and determined that I had the manufacturer wrong.  It’s a ThermoKool, not a Zero King, but what a beauty!

I spent 3 hours in the chamber, half the time spent walking on a treadmill, the other half sitting around eating snacks and resting.  Turns out the real torture in the chamber wasn’t the treadmill, or the ozone, but the TV.  I could watch whatever I wanted, but not wanting to mess with it too much I chose CNN.  Man, after watching that for a couple of hours and seeing the same stupid stories covered over and over again, I just shut it off.  Next time I think I’ll go with reruns of “I Dream of Jeannie.”

After the workout in the chamber was complete, they had me eat lunch and then rest for TWO HOURS.  After that, more tests…and more resting.  The highlight of the day was the final test, the sputum induction.  Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?  In this one they had me breathe in moist air in which they infused progressively higher levels of salt.  The purpose was to get me to cough-up my lungs, well “ok,” some of my lung cells, so that they can study the cells.  Not to get too graphic, but well, why not.  Once at each level, they had me stand over a sink, cough my guts out, and then spit whatever came up into a cup.

Now, I’m not going to say that I don’t ever spit.  As a matter of fact, I spit all over the place when I’m biking.  But I gotta say, this is the first time that someone asked me to spit in front of them AND PAID ME FOR IT!  The folks running the study said that they don’t always get lung cells in the spit, so I’m kind of anxious to hear whether or not I was good at it. 

Speaking of being good at it, my junior high school friend, Skip, was the best I’d ever seen.  Once, we were riding home from school on my bike.  I was pedaling and steering, and Skip was riding side-saddle on the bar.  A dog came out from a nearby home and was running along side us about 15 feet away.  Skip said, “Watch this,” and after hawking up a big juicy loogie, he spit toward the dog.  That loogie made a beautiful arching assent and then settled back down with a “spluch,” right on the dog’s back.  We both laughed so hard it was all we could do to keep from crashing the bike.  I know, gross, but hey, it was junior high.

So, to finish up on “test day,” home I went after my day of ingesting, and testing, and resting.  I was so well rested at the end of that day, I couldn’t get to sleep that night!  Next time I’m going to have to prepare better by staying up late the night before.

Tractor News
Had a bit of a scare last weekend.  I took Andy out to Gene’s to watch a test-start of the Pony’s engine.  It took us a number of tries, but we finally got it going.  I had wanted to see if I had fixed an oil leak, turns out I hadn’t.  But while we were running the engine, I had one of the those “aha!” moments, or maybe in this case, an “oh no” moment.  Some loose tumbler in my brain finally clicked into place after I observed for perhaps the tenth time that the gas in the sediment bowl was blue.  Good gravy, the gas tank liner I used to coat the tank’s interior is blue…the gas is blue…THE DAMN LINER IS DISSOLVING INTO THE GAS!

I’d been fretting over this since the weekend, but took action today by calling the manufacturer of the liner.  It’s not often that I get good Pony news, so I was overjoyed when Denny, at Northern Factory, Inc told me that it is perfectly natural for the blue dye to leach out of the liner into the gas and turn it blue.  He says there is no harm done by this.  Woo Hooo!  Our conversation then turned into one of those “small world” things.  Turns out that Denny is Denny Englemann, and he works at Northern’s home office in Willmar, MN.  I said hey, my grandparents lived in Young America, not far from there.  Amazingly, it turns out his grandparents were from YA too.  We had a nice chat about small-town Minnesota, and boy, it sure made me feel nostalgic to hear him talk in that Minnesota voice.  Of course, being as he has roots in the same place I do, I trusted him implicitly, so “case closed,” we’re moving on to other issues.

More good Pony news.  A one inch long connector I needed for the throttle rod had proved mighty tough to find.  Then, a couple of folks came up with it, but maybe sensing my desperation wanted $20 for it.  Crazy!  But yesterday, Maggie Simpson, Parts Detective, called me back and said she’d found the part. And the price…$7.95, that’s more like it.  Maggie strikes again!  Don’t forget, tractor freaks, if you need parts call Maggie at Kuhn’s Equipment.  Contact information on the “Links” page of this blog.

Finally, and to keep cousin Bill reading, I’m including a photo.

While Andy was home, The Princess celebrated a birthday, nevermind which one.  That’s a Princess-approved photo of her with Andy, and with the birthday bonsai plant that Andy gave her.  Aren’t all three of them just precious? 

Have a nice weekend everyone, and thanks for reading.


It’s 6:30 in the morning, but the darkness is absolutely smothering.  Low clouds and mist seal off everything except some dampened neon just outside the parking lot.  The contrast between the bright light in the motel lobby and the gloom outside makes it difficult to see what’s outside let alone focus.  But the longer he stood there gradually his eyes fought through the reflection on the sliding glass doors, through the dark and damp outside and came to rest on battered, black minivan parked under the portico.  That must be me he thought.  He stepped forward, sliding glass doors parting ahead of him, as he silently slipped away from the comfortable and predictable, from everything he’d known.

With the van, now directly in front of him it was easy to make out the name on the door, Destiny Transportation.  Jesus, he thought, could that be any more cryptic?  Then out of the mist around the back of the van, stepped the driver,  shrouded in mist, dressed darkly, with cap pulled low.  The driver slid the door open, barely revealing the bench seat in the tomblike darkness inside.  Our fretful passenger struggled across the seat dragging his duffel behind as the door slammed so quickly the duffel smacked his right hip.

The almost overwhelming level of auto deodorizer thinly masked the pervasive underlayer of body odor, but the windows were non-functional.  All he could think was, I’m trapped in here.  That feeling and the dark, the damp, the hideous, suffocating, stinking air all combined to make him feel uncomfortably claustrophobic, near panic.  There came only brief relief as a pulse of outside air slipped in with the driver.  He was feeling small, almost invisible in the darkness, when the driver’s voice tore him from his thoughts.  “Where…hack, hack, hack, cough, cough… where…(then a long wheezy inhale, and finally) …you from?”  Smoke much, he thought?  Jesus, clear your throat, man and give ’em up.  “Where am I from… why aren’t you asking where am I going?”

Ok, multiple choice question.  Was the squeamish passenger in this little scene:
a.  A character in a Stephen King novel?
b.  President Obama, on the way to the debate Wednesday night?
c.  Your idiotic author heading to his ozone session in the meat locker?
d.  All of the above?

Certainly a case can be made for answering “All of the above,” but in fact the answer is “c.”  Yeah, you bet I was worried.  And give me a break, a cab with destiny on the door and a driver who doesn’t care where I’m going?  Sheesh! 

More in another installment, but if you’re not reading this on the website, but in an email, please go to to visit the site and check out the new GuineaPig-O-Meter.  Thanks for reading.