How Things Work


Yesterday I drove the 90 miles to our nearest large town building center. I pulled our heavy duty flatbed trailer since I had to pick up nearly two tons of decking and a bunch of dimensional lumber. This material will allow me to finish the final layer of roof on our backwoods house. Well actually it was purchased to end the parade of five gallon buckets around the house whenever snow melted or it rained. Most importantly it was purchased to end the near hysterical fits my wife had when the house developed impromptu roving waterfalls in random rooms.

The trip was a complete success, and I was heading back when I noticed I needed some diesel for Hoss. Hoss is our old one-ton 4X4 Dodge. He has been good to us over the years. He was the vehicle we hitched the Airstream to when we sold our prior home and wandered the back roads of the Rockies looking for our new homestead. Over the years I’ve called on him to pull more than his fair share of our homesteading dream. Once I loaded twelve thousand pounds on the very same flatbed trailer I used yesterday and made him pull it 800 miles, all through the high mountain passes of these Rocky Mountains. I’ve had very few problems from him and almost all of these I could tend to quickly by myself where they occurred. I credit most of this to his very simple design, he has only one computerize component; the automatic transmission overdrive what-not. In fact the only problems over the years I couldn’t fix by myself were all transmission related. I chose to purchase him knowing full well the automatic transmission was a weak link only because everyone else knew this too and I got him for two thousand dollars less than a comparable stick-shift. Not to disparage him but looking back I wish I had somehow come up with the extra dough for a stick.
Anyways, yesterday after fueling up I was pulling away from the pumps to wait for the family to come out from the store when a god awful noise came from amidships. Looking out the window I noticed the driveshaft, the entire rear driveshaft, lying on the ground two feet from the truck. Following the rule that anytime something embarrassing happens the witnesses are directly proportional to the level of embarrassment the entire family had just walked out of the store to witness this along with everyone else laughing at the pumps. These same bastards I had vacated the pumps as a favor for were basking in my troubles. The lil’ lady comes running up and asks “is that the drive train”. I tell her it is indeed a piece of the drive train; the driveshaft. Drawing upon her vast mechanical knowledge she then asks, “isn’t that important?” If I hadn’t been so busy cursing the pricks who were now pumping gas from the pumps I had just pulled away from I might have came up with some kind of witty remark like, “no, honey the people who make these always throw extra five foot long chunks of steel underneath to make sure the trucks don’t float.” But I was already using my extra non-cursing cognitive power to figure out how to fix this problem.
As I said Hoss is a 4X4 which means motivation power is split between both the front and rear axle when in four-wheel-drive. Since the rear driveshaft was sitting on the ground no power was going to be turning those wheels but I still had a fully functional front axle. Two minutes later I had checked the yoke on the rear of the transfer case which the front of the drive shaft use to be connected to, the yoke on the rear differential that the rear of the shaft attached to. I engaged the front hubs, shifted into four-wheel-drive and was pulling away in what I’d guess was the only front wheel drive truck on the road that day. I was strongly tempted to send some one-finger-salutes back towards the pumps but chose instead to crack open a Colorado Cool Aid aka a Coors. Montana has only a $50 fine for an open container and I figured I’d chance it.
I consider myself a generalist. Thinking about it, the only things I consider myself a real expert on are making socialists look stupid and pissing off feminists, and these shouldn’t really count because of how easy they are to truly master.
When my wife and I were first married our finances were so tight there’d be weeks between any meat based meals. I wanted a steak so bad I went to the library and got a book on hunting. I didn’t fill the freezer that year or even the next but I learned enough those first two years that from then on there hasn’t been a year I didn’t kill at least a deer. Two separate years I’ve killed a buck, bull elk, and bear all within the ten day season of our prior state and all on public ground. Right after our daughter was born the brakes on our old truck were metal to metal and I didn’t have the money to get them fixed. I was able to scrounge up enough money for a Chilton’s book, brake pads and rotors and did it myself.
Several people I know have said they don’t think there is a single thing I couldn’t do, and this probably is true. Sometimes when I’m feeling cocky or lickered up I’ll let them believe I’m some sort of super genius. Even though I did score above the one hundred mark on my last IQ test, the real reason I can do anything is because I’ve always had to. It certainly helps to have thousands of books like we do, but anyone can go to the library and get most of the same information we have in our private library. I think the only real advantage I might have is I read these books for pleasure because I like to know how all kinds of things work and I have the time since I killed our television a long time ago.

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Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 7:28 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. There’s a certain amount of attitude involved in “skill,” too.

    Where others might try to tackle a job, screw it up, and then say to themselves “I’m no good at that,” the guy who can do anything says “well, I just learned a mistake not to make again.”

  2. Sorry to hear of the vehicle issues.

    Like DaveP said, there is an attitude to it. Too many people don’t want to push themselves to do or learn anything and when they do, too often they take the shortcut.

    Mr. D and I have learned most of what we know because of trying to save money or because we didn’t trust that it would be done right. I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon but it will be nice to live around others who are the same way at some point. Maybe then the excitement – and the burden – of learning and fixing can be shared.

    • Oh and btw… what is up with leaving me off the blogroll? Am I missing the secret handshake or something?

  3. Shit Dare2 I didn’t even know you had a blog. I’ll fix it.


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