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Tales of a hay hauler: The little things

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 28 September 2021

I forget who told this story many years ago, so I can’t give proper credit, but here goes:

A fellow and his young bride were exploring part of a town that had many small shops.

As interests differed, they parted with a time and place to meet up. As he neared the rendezvous point, he passed a street vendor selling ice cream cones for a nickel each. He bought one for himself and was just finishing it as he met his young bride. She asked where he got the cone. He said from the street vendor he was sure she had passed moments before – that it only cost a nickel.

I would have liked an ice cream cone too,” she said mournfully.

“Why didn’t you get yourself one? They only cost a nickel.”

“I didn’t have a nickel.”

Sharing the incident later with his father, the wise older man put his arm around the shoulder of his son and said, “Never leave a lady without a nickel.” Just a little nickel.

used car is always an adventure. Especially one that’s not your classic one-owner creampuff, one that’s showing warts and wrinkles, but it runs and the price is right (cheap). Such was my 1965 Dodge Coronet two-door hardtop with bucket seats and the gear selector mounted in the center console. It had the 361-cubic-inch V-8 engine, the smallest of the big-block family of engines. Never the fastest car on the block but still rather robust in the performance arena.

One of the previous owners had installed glass-pack “Smitty” mufflers on the dual exhaust. I caught my young wife a couple of times holding the automatic transmission in a lower gear, then letting off the throttle at speed to enjoy the unmistakable back rap of the non-factory sound level exhaust.

The car ran fairly well considering its age, even though it burned oil as well as it burned gasoline. I put a carburetor overhaul kit in it and it ran some better but was, more often than not, difficult to start. I finally took it to an older friend, a car mechanic by trade. He said there was a little steel ball, about the size of a BB, that functioned as a one-way valve in a fuel line that was missing. He had several in the “just-in-case” drawer of his toolbox, and with that addition, the old bomb ran fine. Just a little thing missing.

On a trip to visit some grandkids, I had occasion to spend a few minutes with an old friend. Back in the day, we were 10 feet tall and bulletproof. He was a heavy truck mechanic, the only one I ever knew who could torque down the main bearing caps on a Cummins engine using only one hand on the torque wrench. Most needed both hands and an extension cheater bar.

Then, over the years, we both started whining about aches and pains, probably self-inflicted. Then grumbling about growing old. This visit, we caught ourselves bragging about how long we’d managed to survive. John was doing something with a single-cylinder gasoline engine. Said little stuff, like lawnmowers, was about all he was tackling now that he’d made it to 79.

Near his shop was a fairly new zero-turn landscaper-size lawnmower. The kind where the operator sits in the center with a handle on each side. Two big wheels in back and a pair of swivel wheels in the front. Pull one lever back and push the other forward, and the machine will spin in a circle without uncovering the spot it was parked on. At least a $3,000 machine new.

They brought it to John because it had lost power and would barely run. Said he found the air cleaner packed full of dirt and it had overwhelmed the filter so that dirt was being sucked into the engine. Once he cleaned that out, when it started it blew blue smoke so thick he could kill all the mosquitoes in the block. He said it was better when he loaded the engine oil with STP “motor honey” – but only for about five minutes.

He said the small engines that were hauled in for him to do something with usually had one of two “little” things as the issue. The first, the fouled air filters – and the other, that no one checked the oil in the motors before they started them up.

Little things. Technology has finally advanced so I can carry in my shirt pocket a flashlight that’s just barely larger than a ball-point pen, and it actually has usable light – actually, about the same as the old “D” cell incandescent-bulbed flashlights.

Most of us have our own way of quickly putting a serviceable edge on the blade of our favorite pocketknife. Mine is a 400-grit belt on a belt sander anchored at a 45-degree angle in a bench vise. When I do, an important “little thing” is to take a handful of the favorite kitchen knives with me. Little things make heroes.  end mark