Baxter Black: Handyman Jacks | TSLN.com

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Baxter Black: Handyman Jacks

People develop a morbid relationship with the most unlikely things. "Git rid of that horse, Newt! It's bound to kill ya someday!" But Newt keeps saddlin' up the widow maker.

"Don't be eatin' those chilis, Newt! Ya know they'll keep you up all night!" But Newt eats 'em and spends the night on the john.

"Dadgummit, Newt! I know that was yer Daddy's pocket knife, but enough's enough!" But Newt's still cuttin' calves with a half-inch blade.

I've spent half my life cursing Handyman Jacks. I've turned the air blue coaxing them to cooperate. I can attest that it is impossible to injure one with anything short of an acetylene torch. I know they will work the first day, but the instant they are exposed to the smell of burnt rubber or the hint of desperation, they sull up.

Oh, they work sometimes, just to keep you off guard. Like the time I was cruising a country road east of Malta and I felt a thunk. I saw my rear wheel pass me on the left, bounce through the ditch and disappear into a field of waist-high wheat. It didn't take long for the truck to stop. For a hundred yards behind my rig it looked like I'd been installing telephone cable.

Stuck out there, I improvised with a long fence pole I found near an irrigation pump. I jacked it up with the Handyman Chin Smasher and Slim Mechanism. Up one, down two, up one, down one and so on. From the rear I wedged the pole over the axle and chained it tight. The pole stuck out several feet behind the bumper. Then I lowered the truck down by pounding the jack with a calf puller until the bumper rested on the protruding pole. I waited until a lone irrigator passed by and had him drag me 10 miles back to the farm shop. I limped in like a one legged cross country skier!

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Two years later the jack showed its true colors. I was comin' south outta Grouse Creek in a brand new 3/4-ton vet truck. The high mountain road was snowpacked and I was testing my traction. I missed a turn and slid off a ditch, high centered. 'No sweat,' I thought, 'I'll just jack it up and pile some wood underneath the tire.' Once again I engaged the Combination Handyman Post Puller and Fickle Finger Mangler.

I jacked that baby up till the pickup was clear, packed everything I could find under the tire and flipped the lever that lowered the jack. With each pump of the handle, the pickup rose instead of fell. I alternated pumping and whacking the jack with the star wrench. Finally I got clear to the top of the jack.

My brand new pickup had its left hind cocked up like a dog markin' his territory. It took an hour on the lonely road for a meandering hay truck to rumble by. It was equipped with snow chains. They backed up to me and, with a screech and a whomp, pulled me off the jack.

I drove that pickup for three years with a bent frame and a driver's side door that never closed properly.

But I'm still carryin' the miserable rat bag of a jack around in the back of my latest truck. Me and Newt, knowin' better but stupidly hoping it'll work just one more time. F