Saturday, January 25, 2014

Old Iron: Roland

I brought home a snow blower today and added it to the growing collection of things-I-used-to-own-but-didn't-after-the-divorce. If you've been through a divorce, you'll either understand or will look at the pile of things you own and don't know what to do with and say "Is that what all that is?"  Where was I? Oh yeah - the snow blower.

It's a good sized machine, and older Bolens 824 with a real Tecumseh Snow King on it (with electric start, thank you) and made of steel thick enough to cook on. It was built in the late 80's or early 90's, but is still made to be serviced rather than replaced - a concept lost on the current generation of outdoor power equipment offered at the big box stores.

The blower was offered to me for nothing other than the promise of getting it out of the garage, and I was more than happy to oblige. I had no real hope that it would run,  so I expected to have to do the usual old machine dance - belts, carb, tank flush, fuel line, etc. Two flat tires added to the list, and I figured it was still worth the work seeing as it was a decent machine. So here's the thing: I don't own a truck. I own a Jetta wagon, and I was a little nervous that it wouldn't fit and then I'd be stuck having to add the cost of a truck rental to the expenses. I pulled the handle off, disconnected all the controls, and got some help lifting the heft into the car. It fit, and I was on my way home with one of the best freebies I've scored in a while.

Now, remember that I had help getting it into the car? Yeah. No chance of that at home. I had the hatch open and the blower back as far as I could get it in the car, attached the handles and then had no idea what to do at this point. I don't own ramps any more (see the opening lines, please), but I am, uh, brave. I had a 2' tall block and a couple pieces of furring. Close enough if I could get the tire back on the rim and it actually rolled. I figured I could support the furring with the block and that would be close enough. I was lucky (and I have some experience getting tires back on rims) and the tires took the air. It rolled out of the car and onto the furring, and as the too-skinny strips took the weight, they failed. The blower came down to the driveway in a swift, graceful arc and landed on the blacktop with a muffled crash.

Roland was home.

I put it back together and rolled it close to the garage, within extension cord distance. If you don't know, the Tecumseh Snow King is a line of motors that were shrouded in such a way that the heat of the engine kept the carb warm during operation. They often had 120v starters that you just plugged into a household outlet and pushed the start button. SO.. .I did. And guess what?

Roland started within about 10 seconds of cranking.

He needs some adjusting, and some tweaking to be totally stable, but I took a couple runs with it and could throw snow up to the roof of the garage. That's pretty cool. And a good sign for the future of the snowblower.

I like old power equipment. I like things that can be worked on and tinkered with, things that can have broken things replaced and greased and polished (if need be). I like trying to figure out how a mechanism worked, and then how to get it running again.

I like old iron. It's simple and reliable and driven by belts.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Daughter

My daughter is a wonder to me.
She was a tiny little thing when I first met her, but she is no longer. She is growing into a fine young woman, one I am proud to know and even prouder to see that she is her own person. It's not easy to be an individual these days, but I continue to encourage her.

I hope she understands.

So, in light of her birthday, I thought I might share some memories I have of her:

The laughter that used to rise from her toes as I gave her monkey rides to the bedroom
Throwing her WAY in the air and catching her
Watching her act like an 'adult' when she thought nobody was watching
That time she 'burned the ice' (what a story!)
Her broken arm
The time she asked me to take her to the "Girls's Night Out' dance. The ONE time
How happy she was the day I adopted her
That first visit after the divorce
Playing Crazy Taxi with her
That time she named my dinner "Chicken Poop"
Her riding on my lap while I drove the tractor around
How scared she was when the horse freaked out
How scared *I* was when the horse freaked out
Helping Papa feed the bugs (She always had a little gleam when she watched a spider grab a cricket, tee hee)
Watching such a little girl carry wood to the pile
The lost note from school (well, there were a few...)
Hearing that she was a well-spoken student
All those times she climbed onto my back, around to the front, and back again - just like a monkey
Watching her from afar at gym, and knowing that my little girl is growing up

I am so blessed to have this young lady in my life.
I love you, Monito.

Happy Birthday

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dinosaurs and Such

First, Happy New Year.

I've read hundreds of status updates on Facebook all saying much the same thing - Those three words followed by some form of "Make it the best year EVER" or perhaps "Fuck you 2013! I'm making 2014 mine!" or "I'm blessed, be safe, better the world". You get my meaning, don't you?

It makes me wonder why so many people honestly believe that it takes a change in calendar to make a change in yourself. Resolutions made on the last night of a year are no more likely to change your level of commitment to making them come true. If there is something important to you, maybe you shouldn't wait until December 31st to decide to make it happen. I'm not an expert, and I've made my fair share of meaningless resolutions on countless New Year's Eve celebrations, but not this year.  Instead I am accepting that I will do what I have to, and if I do not do what I believe to be important, then shame on me. If I look back a year from now and am disappointed by my own progress, then I will blame only myself.  As it should be, don't you think?

Having said all of that, you might be asking yourself "What does this have to do with Dinosaurs?"
I'm glad you asked.
Is it me or has there been an abnormally large population of dinosaurs in public media lately? I see SO many tee shirts, and hats, and memes, and FB postings, and news articles about prehistoric creatures that I think I'm going to die from happiness! In addition to being a spider (er, invert) geek, I'm a wicked Dinosaur geek. I love when new species get announced, and when new realizations are made about old ones. I love the images that are a part of our culture, and the way that the "dinosaurs were slow and sloppy" people seem to be getting quieter. And for what it's worth, I still think that the argument over the correct position of Triceratops horridus front legs has a ways to go. Both sides have merit. If I've lost you, I'm sure you can Google it...

When I grew up, I wanted to be a Paleontologist. I dreamed of spending time in the field, being a rock hound, and eventually spending weeks digging up the remains of some long-dead creature. I dreamed of discovering new species, and of being there, in the museum, for the unveiling of the mount. I'm not, as you can see. I'm far removed from that dream, even though I sometimes equate my love of the desert to the dinos rather than the spiders. I am not a Paleontologist because in the end, I chose not to be, Maybe not consciously, but the choice was mine. Do I sometimes long for the chance to go back and tell myself to PLEASE follow that dream? No.  I am who I am today because of all my choices, good and bad. I am still interested in the big lugs, and I can still talk about them with some level of intelligence, but I just don't go out and dig for them. Nothing is stopping me from that, either.

If I spent my days lamenting my choices, I'd never have gotten out of my depression years ago. If I spent my life regretting the things I haven't done, I would fill all of my time with that sadness. I'm not doing that.  Instead, I'm going to find myself in the field one day. I'm going to find one of those eco-trips that gives you the chance to spend some time in the field. And that will be awesome. This year I'm going to see New York (at least twice), and the DC area, Phoenix, and who knows where else. I'm expecting to take a hot air balloon ride, and see a performance of Cabaret starring the amazing Alan Cumming. I'd like to think that by this time next year, I will have some adventures to tell. If I don't. then the tales I have for you will have filled my entire year, and that was what ended up being important.

Do more with your lives, my friends, for our days are numbered and short. But whatever you do, experience it completely, will you? Don't regret what you do, choose to do more.

And as always, fly.