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New Characters

Stories to be told:

Red, the bitter veteran.

Sawyers, the millers Menno.

Travelogue, a continuation.

2006-11-16 17:16

Comment [3798]

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whitey's next adventure

having recently bought a newer and bigger used pickup, i put my old rusty white pickup next to the road and placed a “for sale” sign in the window. for two weeks there were no calls and seemingly no interest. the actual adventure began around 9pm one evening while i was watching a video of “Lolita.” i’m startled by a loud “hey” outside, and it appears to be two guys interested in my truck.

i put on a shirt and head out and am greeted by two central american looking fellows one younger, twentyish, the other possibly in his fifties. the older man was shirtless and the fly of his sagging polyester pants was fully open. they both spoke no english but identified themselves as guatemalan. alot of smiling and gesturing ensued as we walked around the truck, pointing at obvious rust, starting the engine, turning on the lights, and covering the same ground a few times.

the bargaining session with the elder started with me scratching a number in the gravel and he replying “mucho, mucho…” his partner then produced a pen for us to write numbers on our hands, and the older man, who by now i knew as juan, wrote a very low number on his palm. another number or two and it appeared to me that i had initally dropped too much in price and was already below what i had figured was my lowest asking price. it took a couple pained facial expressions and me realizing that i couldn’t really express finer points like the repairs i had recently done or quirks of the truck before i knew that i was going to have to just play along with the limited language negotiations or just walk back inside. i decided to play along and we came to a middle number that juan seemed to like and i was simply happy that my truck would be sold. more language barriers were discovered when thinking about license plates, insurance and registration. we agreed to meet again the next evening.

the next night they wanted to drive the truck over to their employers house which happened to be just down the road. i swapped plates with my own new vehicle and went for a ride with juan to “casa mike.” mike came out of the woods wearing just a white towel, most likely from a swim in his pond. he proved to be elusive and of no help, since he knew no spanish and wanted nothing to do with the transaction. he barely made eye contact and made me think of every corporate white guy taking advantage of cheap immigrant labor but wanting no part of the realities of the lives of his employees. he said he would come up with a phone number of a guy who speaks spanish, that’s all, the rest is your own responsibility. juan and i again agreed to meet the next evening.

later the same night, the two guatemalans honked the horn of mike’s truck in my yard. soonafter i was speaking on the phone with the interpreter who proved to be patient and helpful, assuring me that juan could get insurance and registration. what i was unaware of then was that juan needed a ride to meet steve the interpreter to hash out the details, i felt stuck, but empathized with juan having a dispassionate employer and no means of transport.

3pm the next day i’m driving juan to the appointment, speaking our broken communication, me understanding more of his spanish than i can tell he is able to comprehend my english. numbers easy enough, hand gestures necessary. he didn’t seem to know where exactly we were going, so i pulled into a tractor dealer and used the phone to call steve. we were close and shortly met with a very helpful and understanding steve. the only snag was that mike must have called steve and was unaware that juan was headed to the appointment which left mike without a vehicle and evidently put juan’s employment status on shaky ground.

we wrapped up our business, signing paperwork, recieving payment for the truck and making it clear (through steve) that i would be unable to act as a shuttle in his next series of appointments for insurance and the dmv since i had a serious workload in the coming weeks. it was a quick drive back wherein we both agreed how good steve was and how useless mike was.

i dropped off juan then proceeded home and once more swapped plates so i could deliver whitey to casa mike. it was an uneventful short drive, i took the plates and started to walk the mile and a half home. a gaggle of teenage girls passed, one making special note about liking my socks (to my back). i was relatively close to home when a police officer in an unmarked car pulled over and asked if i needed a ride. it occurred to me that folks walk up and down this road alot, why should he ask me if i needed a ride.
i was filthy in my work clothes and was carrying license plates and had two screwdrivers in my back pocket, but so what? i said “no thanks, i just live up the road”, and he said “what happened?”.
i told him i just delivered a truck and was walking home, at that point he left me alone and drove off in the direction he came.
it left me wondering if someone called him about a suspicious character.

safely back home i reinstalled my plates and enjoyed the view of the yard minus one rusty but always trusty white pickup.
so long whitey.

2005-07-21 19:35

Comment [4411]

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beast of the east hops again

after my last sorry attempt at hopping around on my much-neglected trials-equipped mountain bike and finding myself flat on my back with the wind out of my lungs, i was slow to do the necessary repairs on my bicycle. weeks and weeks later i have finally secured a second-hand, but functioning set of magura hydraulic brakes to replace my antiquated and faulty hydros.

with great pleasure i was bouncing on my rear tire, walking front and rear wheels and generally having a good time this evening on my old beast of the east cannondale mountain bike. seems i’ve been able to keep most of my basic trials skills, but my arms, heart and sweat glands got a hellacious workout in a mere 30 minutes of hopping.

some fine-tuning is necessary, but it’s good to be back on two wheels.

2005-06-22 19:20

Comment [3070]

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little brother

how quickly a visit from two brothers shows the classic roles from childhood. banter, semi-comedic annoyance, competition, impatience, needling, opinion assertion; a full suite of funny and discordant emotions straight from 15+ years ago and within the first few hours.

the tossing of horseshoes and healthy jibes jacking up my own competitiveness (against my own rational objections and annoyance) and amplifying my defensiveness, yet remained a fun and enjoyable weekend that reminded me who i was (am) and included some great conversations, grilled hotdogs, a healthy hike, a bit of junktiqueing, numerous horseshoe matches and recognition of some qualities within all three brothers, some shared, others individually unique.

were we brought up in the same place? yes.
are we similar to one another? at times.
are we different from one another? quite.
are we very close? well, we made it through the weekend.

glad you both could make it.
next powwow will be at one of your houses.
(i wasn’t really going to saw the horseshoes in half.)

2005-05-30 14:15

Comment [3030]

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schlug

ahhh, morning coffee…
the stainless steel thermal mug that i bought several months ago has been very useful in keeping my coffee warm and, because of a mechanical snap closure, doesn’t allow me to easily spill the contents.

months have gone by and i hadn’t really considered the consequences of an all-too-fancy lid that is all-too-difficult to adequately clean. thorough soaping and rinsing, but no internal scrubdown. when the usual flow of caffeinated liquid seemed paltry at best, i figured the slick technology of my treasured mug had come to the end of usefulness.

first i soaked the lid in hot vinegar water (half a dozen courses) and then rinsed and rinsed. chunks of coffee-colored cheese were dislodging themselves slowly. it seemed that i had been sipping my hot beverages through a gelatinous wall of old milk and sugar remnants. i went right to work scraping the interior chamber with whatever i could get inside: the handle of a spoon, the corner of a scrubbing sponge, q-tips, wads of paper towels. i hosed and hosed away at that congealed crud until all i could see was shiny black plastic.

what’s in your coffee cup?

2005-04-26 18:08

Comment [3736]

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HEY you!

as i paid for my iced tea the indian fellow working the cash register said a warm “have a good day, my friend.”
shortly thereafter as i was driving out of the gas station, i hear a boisterous “HEY, HEY YOU!” the indian fellow was running out of the door after my truck. “the diesel, the diesel,” he shouted.
i pointed to the big white van who had earlier filled a tank right next to me as i had aired up my tires.

“okay, okay.” a smile and a wave and many curious looks from a picnic-benchfull of sweat-drenched road crew members.

nothing like a little misunderstanding over money to get the blood flowing. have a good day, my friend.

2005-04-22 18:22

Comment [1479]

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sweet spring

finally after the reoccurring late snows, cold rains and last nastiness of winter, a solid block of seventy-degree spring stuck around. having spent most my recent free hours delving into a replication of a railing for the second largest private residence in america, i was happy to hand off the completed item and spend a day cleaning.

hosing off dusty window screens, washing windows, dumping out the loose dirt and bark from the woodbox, pumping out the cistern, emptying out the drawer in the composting toilet, vacuuming, dusting, anything to get set for warmer days. changing gears felt necessary and satisfying.

plenty more to do, doors and windows to install, trimwork to be fashioned, wedding gifts to be made. but another time for all that. today is rest, sunshine and a cold beer (or three).

2005-04-10 15:46

Comment [721]

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a long-awaited sink

just shy of a year (about 5-6weeks) from the date i started wreaking havoc on the musty wreck of a mushroom barn, i finally have a kitchen sink and cabinets. a trusty sawhorse has been my main sandwich preparation station and coffeemaking island, but its time has gone.

getting running water in the kitchen took much longer than seemed necessary, but today when i returned home from work, the plumber had finished the job, and i will no longer carry my dirty dishes into the cold shop or upstairs to the tiny bathroom sink. this was one of the last major pieces to make this mushroom barn apartment a comfortable and functioning space.
some of middle class life’s little conveniences sure do make me feel happy inside.

the metal shop is also nicely up and running, equipped with all the small tool as well as a propane gas forge, drill press, welder, and a big bandsaw on loan from a friend. trying to knock out some old sculptural projects that have been waiting in the wings and attempting to move into new areas simultaneously.

started tearing apart my motorcycle that has been mothballed since its flywheel came loose that fateful day in 2003 on a rainy highway in Wichita, KS. almost made it into the transmission, but a 27mm socket was needed, so i had to postpone final surgery for the diagnosis of the future life of the BMWr65.

at least i can wash my grimy paws in the stainless tub that is now soundly fixed in my cozy kitchen.

2005-03-03 15:47

Comment [217]

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holiday barn razing

christmas eve at the farm would not be complete without a good dose of either construction or destruction. this year i chose the latter. yesterday was spent ripping off all of the siding boards, a task that i had begun about a year ago. the barn (once a machine shed and stud horse barn) has been a long-term project, starting with collecting anything resembling a useful tool or antique. since this shed was the only one without tin, the contents have slowly been soaked with rain and the daylight filtering through the hole-filled cedar shakes has been inadequate to dry the moisture, creating a rather moldly, soggy environment. implements were shuffled to more sound structures, scrap iron and tin was transported to the local scrap yard (mullins salvage).

a year ago i offloaded a hefty pile of saturated wood which was amply covered in raccoon droppings. i also found an eight-foot long black snake which seemed to be hunting mice. this freed the half-loft from a great burden and led to a rambunctious removal of the siding on the north side. the barn was left in this state until most recently.

fast-forward to xmas eve day where the barn is a mere skeleton, standing on its main posts both solid and rotted. the roof is mostly intact, or at least as intact as has been traditionally normal. the posts all had a decent 15degree lean to the east and was begging to be shoved in that direction. i spent a while gathering what lengths of chain were around and fired up the john deere 3010. the five pieces of chain i found varied in individual length, but gave me enough distance to hook to one of the four center posts and keep the tractor safely away from the drop zone.

a few final checks, a brief consultation with el don, who had coughed and sputtered his rusty ford ranger nearby for the event, and i mounted the tractor to see what would happen. the first tightening of the chain looked good and started the structure rocking in my direction. i rolled back forward (loosening the chain as i was backing up for best view and stability), then gave another tug which snapped a weak link on one of the 5 chains. after a few minutes i was rehooked and went for the next tug. i throttled up the engine, let out the clutch and pulled the barn my way. it fell neatly and easily with one corner hooking on a tree, which rotated and snapped the brittle roof and laid the near side flatly on the frozen grass with the far side falling within the footings of the old barn.

the cleanup was the time-consuming part, as i intended to save the largest and most sound beams and boards. much of it is oak and the 100yr drying period has locked many of the nails tight, and the rusty fasteners often snap or shear off and fly past like a bullet. tonight i will sleep sound as about half of the reclaiming and half of the repiling of the rotten wood is already finished.

2004-12-24 12:00

Comment [29]

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backhoe bodywork

since july 1st my truck bed has been rather out-of-sorts. the rear end impact of a ford f250 pushed my bumper down and in, kinked the very end of the box tubing frame and forced the sheetmetal over the wheels out sideways.
this left the truck looking rather sad and somewhat hunched back on the rear wheels.

with the help of a local equipment operator, a short chain and a backhoe we attempted a bit of shadetree bodywork. the bucket of the backhoe was laid flat near the crease in the interior of the bed and a chain was looped around the bumper near the bracket attatching it to the frame. the other end of the chain was looped over the teeth of the bucket and securely hooked to itself.
with a slight, yet powerful curling motion the bed was forced down and the bumper pulled upward. once one side was roughly straightened, the process was repeated on the other side of the bed.

most of the worst kinks were taken out and the bed looks happier and perkier.

2004-09-16 17:21

Comments [2]

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