Baxter Black: Mechanical problems
January 23, 2017
On the coldest morning of last December my pickup wouldn't start. It wasn't the battery; it turned over. I ground away at the starter, manipulating the manual choke (it's 30 years old) until the battery began to weaken.
Installing my daughter behind the wheel and hooking up the jumper cables, I squirted jets of ether down the carburetor's throat as my daughter ground the starter. Occasionally it would catch and a ball of flame would shoot from the two barrel!
I broke off and went to town for more ether. My daughter suggested it was outta gas. She switched the gas gauge from MAIN TANK to AUX, "See," she said, "it's empty."
"No," I explained, "You've just switched it wrong. See, the other tank is full."
I used another can of ether to no avail. I released my daughter, unhooked the cables and left my pickup for the wolves.
That night I lay in my bed plotting how to pull it to the mechanic in town when my unconscious mind finally spoke up, "Dummy, switch yer tanks. Yer outta gas!"
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Which I was. I haven't confessed to my daughter yet, so if she doesn't read this column I'll still retain my position as "The Perfect Father." Unfortunately, Bruce's whole family was there when Mr. Lanham diagnosed his mechanical problem.
Bruce was a recent arrival to northeast Missouri. As the new Extension Service man from California, he was making big waves. Because everyone knows that California produces people on the cutting edge of agricultural technology!
Bruce's tractor was on the blink. Either the transmission or the linkage was fouled. "I've checked it thoroughly," he told his wife and kids, "I'd better call Mr. Lanham."
Mr. Lanham is to the age where he doesn't worry about coddling people. He asked a few questions over the phone. Bruce, a grad of Fresno State, became impatient explaining he'd done all he could but the tractor still wouldn't start. Would Mr. Lanham please come and check it.
When Mr. Lanham arrived Bruce pointed to the shed, sat down to lunch and answered the phone.
Three minutes later Mr. Lanham appeared at the kitchen door.
"Are you gonna have to haul it to town?" asked Bruce.
"Nope. It's fixed."
"Great! What was wrong?"
"Hard to explain…"
"Okay, so how much do I owe ya?"
"I don't understand. Ya fixed it, right? So, how come you don't know?"
"Wull, ya had a wrench stickin' outta yer tool box so the lid wouldn't close. The clutch pedal was hittin' the lid so it wouldn't go down all the way. And Sonny, I never charged anyone to rearrange a toolbox before."