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Savage Survival


Darrell Bain's Monthly Blog - December2011

The contents of this Blog may be copied and sent to both friends and enemies with the stipulation that the source www.darrellbain.com is noted and included.

Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Monthly Blog.
Copyright © December 2011, By Darrell Bain

Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Subjects this month: Great Christmas presents for your friends and family, Real funny excerpt from Life On Santa Claus Lane, State of America Series: Affirmative Action, Citizenship and Special Treatment for Minorities, Profiling inconsistencies, It’s Not Corporate Greed, Progress Report, Book Reviews, Deficit Hoax.

Profiling Good here, Bad there

Profiling for college admissions and hiring is good. Profiling for security screening and drug stops is bad. Who judges?

Not Corporate Greed?

I keep hearing and reading in the media about “Corporate Greed”. Greed is an emotion. Corporations are inanimate. They can’t have emotions. Men and/or women can be greedy. Corporations cannot!

Great Christmas presents

Most people read and most people like humor, so what better Christmas gift than the hilariously funny Life On Santa Claus Lane or its companion volume, Laughing All The Way

And for all those pet lovers? Again, everyone loves humor so how about the solid five star rated Doggie Biscuit! for a gift?

Sure, all three of these books are by me, but so what? I’m a writer and I like Christmas, dogs and humor. You like to give Christmas gifts. Go!

Progress Report

My Apertures trilogy is now complete and in publication. Seven of the first eight reviews have been five star. A World Lost, A World Gained is the final book of the Apertures trilogy! The dream of a different alternity where Americans can begin anew has been a goal of twins Jan and Jani Jenkins almost since the first of the Apertures Era. Now they are working against time and selfish politicians to see it happen before the whole world goes up in flames. They are urgently ferrying colonists and equipment to a new earth that only they can reach, but often it seems as if the fates are conspiring against them and all they hold dear. But when the going gets tough, they buckle down and try even harder. Yet this time, the twins may lose all they have worked for. War, unethical politicians, a deceptive mass movement aimed at controlling all aperture formation, along with the terrible loss of loved ones will test them in ways they never dreamed possible. If they can persevere, though, the rewards may be worth it. Barely.

And now I’m deciding what to do for an encore!

Book Reviews

My usual caveat: I only list books here that I like and that I believe just about anyone could like also. I never list books I don’t like because I feel it isn’t fair to the authors. Reading is way too much of a subjective experience and what turns one reader on might do the opposite for another. Here are last month’s reads.

Somehow I missed Rick Bragg’s books when they came out. He is a Pulitzer prize winner and a well-known reporter. He also has a rare and wonderful talent, one that makes you believe with all your heart that you are right there with him during a childhood of poverty with an alcoholic father and how with luck and incredible talent he won his place in an extremely demanding profession with only a high school diploma. I just read his autobiography, All Over but the Shoutin’. Do yourself a favor and read this book. You won’t regret a single second you spend with Rick Bragg and his family, his travels and his descriptions of his people and the area where he grew up that are so vivid and compelling you’ll be a long time coming back down to earth after finishing.

Billy Strobe by John Martel is among the best legal thrillers I’ve ever read. Billy is in law school when he becomes involved in a scam and is made the fall guy. Sent to prison, he finishes law school through correspondence courses. While there he befriends a real hard case who he is convinced is serving a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. A big law firm decides to sponsor him for the publicity and from there Billy is embroiled in a complicated morass of top officers of the firm guilty of insider trading, murder and other crimes they committed in order to save their company. He is busy trying to obtain a retrial fro his prison friend while working 70 and 80 hour weeks as an associate. Before he knows it he is suspected of murder himself. Billy Strobe is a great story by a gifted writer. I’ve read it several times.

Paul Anderson’s The High Crusade was written almost 50 years ago but when I re-read it I think I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time I went through it. An alien exploration party makes a huge mistake when they land in 14th century England and think they can cow a local Baron. Instead their ship is captured and the primitive Englishmen force a surviving alien to pilot them on an exploring mission! Lots of fun and excitement.

William Diehl writes a good thriller.  Reign in Hell is a good example. An ultra right wing militia is the target of an assistant U.S. Attorney General but the man running the militia has no inclination to go peacefully after robbing an arsenal of truckloads of weapons. There are lots of subplots here that make it interesting all the way through.

I’ve reviewed this book several times because I keep coming back to it to read again and again. That should tell you how much I like it and how gracefully the book has aged. Three To Conquer by Eric Frank Russell tells of an alien invasion where the invaders can be identified by only one man, making him their target for death!

I’ve just begun reading Andrew Gross and I like his detective Ty Hauk and his adventures where nothing is as it seems.

Grief Stockley is a new author for me. His legal thriller, Illegal Motion, is about a black football player in Mississippi accused of raping a white coed. Small town lawyer Gideon Page has to deal with racial bigotry, campus politics and his own family history in this well written book.

And again, I re-read David Weber and Steve White, collaborating in The Stars at War I and The Stars at War II. The two volumes consist of four novels, of which the first and last provide plenty of gist for the two books in the middle. Military science fiction fans will like them for sure.

I also re-read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. It is a depressing book in some ways but so true to life in his description of the “Okies” during the Great Depression that it’s worth any number of re-reads. I know it’s true to life because I spent some time with and worked with migrant laborers in the sixties. Times had improved by then, of course, but it is still an incredibly hard life for those who follow the crops. I know.

Series, State of America: Affirmative Action, Citizenship and Special Treatment for Minorities

          This segment will cover a lot of territory but there’s a reason for it. The headings above are all dear to our hearts. We’ve heard so damn much about them that the very mention grates on the nerves of one group or another and causes opposing groups to cheer and shout. There are constant fights in courts, in congress, on the streets and at our workplaces on who should get what special treatment, and why. I’ll tell you what, if we used a little bit of common sense about voting rights and citizenship to begin with a lot of the fistfights and ass kicking would be eliminated.
          Let’s take voting first. Of course anyone who is a citizen and isn’t in prison should be able to vote. Ah, but look what the politicians trying to get votes from one minority group or another or trying to swing enough votes to put their party in power or to stay in power have done. It’s ludicrous and sad and angers me. What the hell am I talking about, you ask?
          Okay, suppose a legal immigrant wants to become a citizen? Simple. They study up on the constitution and our laws and pass a test then swear allegiance to America. That’s how it used to be. Not now, though!
          First of all, they don’t even have to learn much English any more. There are guides that help you pass the exam with only a limited knowledge of English. And then the fun starts! When you go to vote, you don’t have to know English at all! The voting machines or the voting papers are required by law to be available in many different languages! Want to vote in Chinese? Just cast your ballet in an area where there’s a bunch of Chinese. Same for Spanish. Once the citizenship exam is passed a new citizen can forget they ever learned even those few words of English.
          How did that come about? Simple. For example, politicians said Hmm. Lots of Spanish people in my district. If they can’t read English they won’t be able to vote, or if they do they won’t understand how to vote for me or my party. Dod oh Dod, what shall we do? Aha! Just pass a law to require ballots in Spanish as well as English! And I’ll get their vote and so will my party!          What we wind up with is people voting in a language other than English. That in itself wouldn’t be too horribly bad but here’s the rub: if they don’t know English, how in hell do they know what the shit they’re voting for? Or what the person they’re voting for stands for? I can tell you quickly. They don’t!
          The way it ought to be is if you want to vote, you have to do it in English. Period. The requirements for citizenship were written specifically so applicants had to learn English. It should stay that way and require they vote in English if they want to vote at all. Period!
          It gets worse. I’ll get into illegal immigrants later but for now let’s talk about schools. Again, seeking those old keep-me-in-office votes and the Teachers’ union votes, all of a sudden up pops a requirement to teach school in the native language of students, no matter where the hell they’re from. That gets teacher union votes because that means more jobs for teachers and it might get the other language person’s votes because they think their kids are being done a favor by being taught in their native language. It is really sad because these do-gooders never correlate drop out rates with that second language instruction. The teachers go along with the requirement whether they like it or not because if they don’t follow the requirement (which has the force of law behind it), they’ll get fired.
          Okay, those do-gooders say, what’s so bad about it? Heck, we’re teaching the kids in a language they can understand. What could be wrong with that? Okay, I’ll tell you. Even if I grant you the benefit of having good intentions, the result is that the kids never learn how to speak English very well which causes them to have difficulty later on in school or college and after that, they’ll have trouble getting a decent job. And then the do-gooders say, well, you’re so smart what would you do?
          It’s really pretty simple, you stupid do-gooder. I’d start the kids who didn’t speak good English in a class that lasted a year and where only English was spoken. It wouldn’t count as a grade and the kids would then start school a year behind the other kids but by God when they started school they’d be able to learn because they could speak English! “How do you know, smarty?”they’ll say. And I’ll answer, “Because I’ve seen what happens when you immerse kids in all-English instruction, even when they start later in life. They either learn English or they’ll fail a grade and have to stay back until they learn enough English to pass. When their parents know the kids have to learn English in order to ever amount to anything, they dig in and help the kids. I saw it over and over again when I was in grade school and we had a huge influx of immigrants from WWII coming into the country. It’s been proven over and over by psychologists and experts. Get the kids immersed in English and they will learn. Simple as that. If they are taught in their native language part of the day and English the rest of the day they wind up falling further and further behind their classmates because they don’t learn their lessons well in either language.
          So again: Before the kids begin the first grade, give them a whole year of nothing but English. Make them speak English in class all day long. Kids are smarter than most adults give them credit for. Hell, they like to learn! All you have to do is tell them that once they learn English they can read wonderful books, learn all kinds of new things, learn to do math and write stories and best of all, to join the other kids the next year on an equal footing. You think they wouldn’t? If you do, you have no faith at all in our kids.
          Of course this solution would mean a lot of second language instructors would lose their jobs, wouldn’t it? Boo hoo. You think I care? I don’t give a damn. I care about those kids who are being put on a path to failure by having instruction in a second language for years and years and wind up dropping out of school because they fall further and further behind. I don’t care about those second-language teachers losing their jobs and no one else should, either. They should be glad to see kids passing in school instead of failing and besides, they have their teaching certificates. If they are any good they can find another job. If not, the school system is better off without them. Besides, the whole silly, stupid system was started by bleeding hearts who always think they know best what’s good for people, kids included, and by politicians for no other reason than they thought it would get them and their party votes. Be gone with it! Banish it and never let it darken our educational system again!


          Where were we? Oh yeah. Affirmative action. How in hell did we ever get to the point where every single minority in America thinks they’re deserving of special treatment just because they’re a minority? To explain, we’ll have to go back in history to a time most of you don’t remember.
          I said in the introduction to this book that Blacks in America have a hard row to hoe. They do. I’m not excusing crime, dropouts from school and the lack of normal family life for the majority of blacks, where the woman is the wage earner and the kids frequently don’t even know their father. Nope, not excusing it at all. But you know and I know that Blacks are discriminated against in many insidious ways that aren’t illegal but nevertheless make it hard on them. However, if you think life is hard for blacks now you ought to have lived in the southern tier of states that included the thirteen states of the old Confederacy plus a few others tacked on, like Oklahoma, back in the fifties, sixties and before. The segregation of blacks in those states back then was called Jim Crow laws. The term originated from a minstrel routine (and I’m not going to explain that. I could go on and on and never get to the meat).
          Jim Crow laws required and allowed segregation of blacks (people of color) from whites (Caucasians). Schools were separate. Restaurants had special seating if blacks were allowed in at all. Most hotels didn’t allow blacks. Restrooms were separate. You could see signs everywhere, such as No colored allowed, Whites only, Colored entrance in back, Colored must be seated in the last rows of this bus, and on and on. Then in 1954 the Supreme court ruled that segregated schools were illegal. Other rulings outlawed separate seating in restaurants, separate restrooms and other aspects of segregation in the sixties, I think it was.
          Major changes in a society do not go over easily, nor without anger and obstruction. “Busing” became a term spat out by whites like a curse word and for many of them in that area of the country it was. Most of the laws passed to remove deliberate segregation of blacks from whites were based on the interstate commerce clause of our constitution. I won’t go into the reasoning but I will say that once that much was accepted, liberals jumped all over the interstate commerce clause and based damn near any law you can name on it.
          Now let’s be clear before I go any further. I personally believe that people should be legally equal. That is, I don’t believe I should be favored in court because I’m white nor do I believe employers should discriminate in hiring because of color. That’s my intellect talking. Most people would say they believe the same way I do. However…let’s be honest. And by honest, let’s admit what’s in the emotional part of our minds. We all want to congregate with people more or less like ourselves and given the opportunity, we by god will!
          All the liberal do-gooders who claim they’re totally color blind are out-and-out liars. All the right wing extremists who say they aren’t prejudiced, they just want to associate with their own kind are liars. All of the great middle strata of people like you and me don’t really think like we talk. I include the so-called Christians here, too. Ever notice how Churches are segregated everywhere? Blacks go to black churches. Whites go to white churches. Neither of the groups make any Goddamned attempt to reach out to the other color of people, do they? Don’t lie to yourself, now. You know damn good and well that given a choice of hiring two equally well qualified persons, if you’re white you’ll hire the white. If you’re black you’ll hire the black unless an affirmative action law requires you to hire the other person.
          Would anyone like to take a guess why this phenomena occurs, frequently voiced as “Birds of a feather flock together?” Can’t guess? Give up? Okay, I’ll explain. It’s in our genes. It’s how we evolved. Everyone thinks first of their family, then their clan, then their town, then their state, then their country, in that order. It had to be that way, way back before civilization in order for us to survive. We had to stick together. And we still do it today. We all think our brand of religion is superior and if we could we’d by Golly make everyone either go to our church or go somewhere else. We think our football team is the best whether it is or not and to hell with your football team. We think our town or city or state is better than yours and we here in America are convinced that our country is heads and shoulders superior to any other country in the world. France feels the same way. So do the people in Israel. They think they’re the best in the world. People in the Muslim countries are certain their countries are better than others because they have more Muslims there. On and on. That’s why we fight wars, by the way.
          So how should it be? There should be no laws favoring one group over another anywhere of any kind. Our constitution says we’re all equal under the law. If you feel like you’re being treated unfairly, go sue. That’s what courts are for.
          You know what’s going to happen if we keep on favoring every minority under the sun? The country will wind up balkanized, broken up into smaller countries and there will be no more United States of America. That’s what’s going to happen. We shouldn’t discriminate nor should we favor. This includes Women, Indians, Blacks, Rednecks, Italians, Orientals and everyone else. No discrimination, no affirmative action. We all know we like our own kind of people best and we all know that when a group of like people get a chance to advance over the bodies of other people unlike them, they’ll do it in a heartbeat. So no laws for special groups because if you ever make a law for one group, every other group is immediately going to begin raising hell to have laws favoring them. That’s what’s happened already. The best way to quit it is to never have any laws except one, based on the constitution: It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation or what have you. Of course we will go on discriminating like human beans have been doing ever since we had enough intellect to count to three, but at least if we feel strongly that we’re being singled out unfairly we can go complain in a court of law on the basis of one law, not a jillion of them. Enough. Time for more goring of the sacred oxen next time. I’ll bet you’re still reading, aren’t you, even if you disagree with me? Know why? You’re reading words put down by someone who’s speaking honestly. You don’t see that much any more.

Deficit Hoax

By the time you read this perhaps the so-called “Supercommittee” will have agreed on that 1.2 trillion dollar deficit reduction or even if they haven’t the automatic cuts will come into play equaling the same amount. Folks it is an out and out hoax! Oh, maybe 1.2 trillion will actually be cut and our leaders will be patting themselves on the back hard enough to throw shoulders out of joint, but the media and congress have just quit mentioning that the figure is for ten years! That amounts to only 120 billion a year reduction per year out of a yearly deficit of 1.5 trillion dollars! It’s a pebble taken from a mountain of debt. Hell, 120 billion will hardly pay the interest on the other 1.3 trillion that will be borrowed. What a crock!

PS: They did fail. No big deal. It was a hoax to start with.


Excerpt Life On Santa Claus Lane: Contagious Things

Foreword: I warned Betty before we married that I wasn’t handy with tools. She just didn’t realize quite how unhandy I really was! The following excerpt from Life On Santa Claus Lane is more or less true and happened over and over. Me and mechanical thingys just don’t get along.


          By the time I quit my regular job, the first tinges of arthritis were beginning to show up and after a year of so I began to wonder if I had made a good deal with Betty. It got to where I would rather wash a load of clothes than work outside, especially when I needed to fool with Tractor for one thing or another.
          A good friend of mine who is lazing his life away in blissful, riches-filled  retirement among the sunny beaches of Florida once told me (well, more than once--a bunches of times) that one shouldn’t get too close to work because it might be catching. This theorem proved abundantly correct one morning. I knew better because he had told me often enough but I just wouldn’t listen.

          The day started by me having to change out the mower for the spray tank on the tractor, a task I really detest. Detest is a high falootin way of saying I hate to do that job. However, it has to be done sometimes, so that morning I girded my loins, rolled up my sleeves, spit on my hands and kissed Betty goodbye just in case Tractor decided to fight to the death instead of merely whipping me two falls out of three the way it usually does, and went out to do battle.
          The way it most often goes is that I start off by dropping the mower on my foot by accidentally bumping the hydraulic lever while taking up some slack in the supporting chains so I can get them loose, then straining both gluteuses and a couple of bicepses trying to simultaneously reach back for the lever to raise the mower while pounding my fist on the fender telling it to let go and at the same time cussing Tractor for starting right off into the feint-shift-and-kill mode instead of just putting up its dukes like it should for a fair fight.
          Once I get my foot loose I almost always pinch the skin on my hand with the wire pliers in enough places so that they look like they belong to a bare-knuckled boxer and speaking of knuckles, they get barked by wrenches and the PTO (power takeoff) attachment every freaking time because I forget and pull it too hard while getting it loose and bump my hand on the sharp end of a hose attachment, thereby causing me to cuss and drop the end of the PTO on my other hand. This makes the two hands look alike, both bruised and showing the first drops of blood.
          Next comes untightening the gangs on each side because implement makers don’t know enough to make the attachments all either on one side or the other. The mower attaches inside and the sprayer outside. Besides that, I always tighten the lock nuts too tight on the gangs then can’t remember which way they turn so I wind up getting them REALLY tight before discovering I’m going the wrong way but in the meantime my big pliers have slipped off the nuts ten dozen times and every time my hand or finger or thumb or forearm bangs into a projecting part and cuts or punctures or abrades or bruises as the tractor proceeds to give me another lesson in counter-punching and body blows. Eventually, with the aid of WD-40, hammer, vise-clamps and a diagram drawn in my own blood showing which way each nut should turn I get the gangs loosened enough so that I’m ready to detach the PTO arms from the mower. This means flipping up the ring of the ring clamp, pulling it out of its slot then screaming bloody murder as the ring flips back down of its own accord and catches two fingernails between the ring and the shaft of the ring clamp.
          A short pause while I heat a paper clip and drill a hole in the nails to let the blood from beneath them then it is time to unhook the top arm of the three point hitch. For this I use the other hand to handle the ring clamp so that both hands will match when it destroys the nails on that hand just like the other.
          Now every thing is loose. I count to be sure. Three hitches. Three loose. One PTO. One loose. However, if I were removing the spray tank I would forget to remove the nut and bolt holding the chain which prevents the PTO from winding up the hoses and when I started up I would drag the tank behind me for a few yards before it tipped over and told me I was a mechanical idiot. Fortunately, I was detaching the mower this time so Tractor didn’t say much, just muttered a little under his breath about all the blood I was getting on him.
          Now I go over and back Tractor up in order to attach the spray tank. This involves forgetting to take the gear drive out of rabbit and put it in turtle and zooming backwards at a thousand miles an hour and backing into the tank, knocking it over and gouging out great chunks of turf with the spinning back wheels while trying to figure out what is going wrong. Once the initial maneuvering is over, the rest of the chore is simple, merely involving lifting one end of the tank with one hand, positioning one of the side arms of the three point hitch with the other hand and lining up the side shaft of the tank with the hole of the side arm with another hand and if you counted three hands you are perfectly correct because that’s how many it takes to do that. However, if you reach carefully into the fourth dimension and don’t stay there long you can bend space-time around so that it appears you have a third hand and then the attachment works with only a bruise and long slash to the forehead where you have been supporting the weight of the three hundred pound tank while using your hands for the lining up job. If you’re real careful there you can usually come out of it without hitting an artery and spraying blood everywhere and just bleed normally from the veins like always.
          Repeat for the other arm after first wrapping greasy bandana around head to keep blood from getting in eyes and blinding you.
          Now I’m almost finished and barely even feel the ring clamp eat the fingers of my left hand then turn around and chomp on the fingers of the other hand because I forgot to put the retaining washer on first when attaching the top arm and have to start over.
          About this time one of the grandkids will pass by and ask Granny why Grandpa is saying all those bad words to Tractor and she will tell him or her that grandpa always talks that way when he’s putting something on or taking something off the tractor and the grandkid will go on his way repeating what I have just said and get me in a lot of trouble later on with their parents, but right now I’m already in trouble so I don’t worry about it.
          Last but not least is sliding the PTO pump sleeve over the PTO head on the tractor, which is naturally buried deep in a dark hole that is too narrow to fit your hand in to press the little button attached to the spring which releases tension on a retaining pin so that by the time you have it on it also has on the skin which would normally be residing on your hand. Oh yes, I forgot one more step which is tightening the gang nuts so tight that I can’t get them off next time even if I could remember which way they turn, but I think that‘s already been mentioned once, hasn‘t it?
          And normally of course I have strained every muscle in my back and neck while bending and stooping and contorting arms and legs and spine into positions which they were never designed for but which they must assume in order to perform the tasks described above so that when all the above is finally finished one may see grandpa crawling away from the completed tasks on his hands and knees, dragging his twisted limbs and back, leaving a trail of blood, sweat, tears and hurling epithets right, left and behind about the origins, habits and destinations of engineers who design tractors so hard to work on.

          That’s what happens normally. I had to describe it in order to start this story (Gads, am I really just starting?)  because that morning, after only an hour or so I was able to actually walk away from the job and was only stooped over some and was merely dripping blood rather than pouring it and had at least half my skin intact and hadn’t punctured myself with the screwdriver more than three or four times while tightening up a hose clamp which had worked loose.
          All in all I felt as if I had fought Tractor to at least a draw and decided that if work was going that well this morning I should try to get some more done and that’s when I got into trouble just like my friend in Florida warned me about.

          I started up Tractor after washing off some of the grease and sweat and blood and headed out to do a little bush hogging with him. Big Tractor acted like he didn’t want to go. I looked down and saw that his front foot was sort of flat. I guess I should have been thankful it was there at all after both the boys, my stepson and son-in-law had used it since I had. I got my air tank to air it up and found it was empty from probably one of the boys airing up a truck tire and not refilling it. Fortunately, I have been through that before so I keep a spare air tank hidden under my bed, figuring they will never look there and all I have to worry about is Betty complaining about the greasy carpets but those can be cleaned and besides, I’ve found out the grease spots look just like the dark spots on the carpet that are naturally there anyway and I don’t know how Betty always spots them but never mind. I got my spare tank, aired up Tractor’s front paw and actually did go mow for a while--until I noticed the tire was low again.
          Back at the house again, I saw that the tire was beginning to separate from the rim. I thought about calling the tractor place and demanding a replacement since it was only twenty years old but decided the paperwork would probably have been lost by now so I thought I would go ahead and get a new tire. First though, I had to jack up the tractor and get the old one off, which meant finding a lug wrench. That’s where I should have stopped and called Charley’s tire service because after my last experience with changing a tire I had sworn I would never do it again. I didn’t mind myself though, and I know just what my friend in Florida is going to tell me when he reads this so he may as well not do it and save some words.
          I went out to the barn where tools for tires and the like are supposed to live. I guess I should never have told the boys they live there because ever since then I have never ever been able to find a tool for a job when I want one. My friend would tell me that this proves I shouldn’t have been doing something like looking for a lug wrench in the first place because that leads to work but I did anyway. Not finding a lug wrench in the barn despite the fact that I have bought at least half a dozen in the last twenty years, I headed for son-in-law Rob’s house. He wasn’t home. I looked in his shop. I found my post hole diggers, my ax, a pair of shears I thought I had lost and bought new ones, my old fishing tackle and bunches of other stuff which looked suspiciously familiar but no lug wrench.
          I went to stepson Mike’s house. He was home.
          “Hi Mike,” I said. “Have you by chance borrowed my lug wrench?”
          “What lug wrench?”
          “The lug wrench that lives in my barn.”
          “Oh, that lug wrench. Sure did.”
          “Oh. Well, I need to borrow it back,” I said.
          Mike looked pensive. I didn’t like the look.
          “Hmm.” Mike said. “Oh--now I remember. The last time I saw it was that day we had so much chicken we couldn’t eat it  all.”
          “Why not?” I asked, intrigued. Mike & family could eat chicken til the cows come home.
          “Matthew was playing boomerang,” he said. Matthew is our four year old great grandson.
          “What’s that got to do with it?” I asked.
          “He was playing boomerang with the lug wrench.”
          “He was playing boomerang with the lug wrench in the chicken yard.”
          “Oh.” I commented. “Well, can I play with the lug wrench now?”
          “As soon as I find it,” Mike said.
          I didn’t wait for the missing lug wrench to turn up. I went to town and bought another one, then got out my jack which I keep hidden in one of Betty’s old jelly boilers. So far neither of the boys has caught on.
          I pinched my thumb and finger turning the little twist to make the jack work then twisted it again when I jacked it up too far before sliding it under the tractor axle then pinched it again when I slid the jack under the axel. After that, I got down on hands and knees and began working at lugs which hadn’t been touched for twenty years. There are six lugs on the tractor wheel. There are six horizontal and six lateral muscles in my back that will never be the same, likewise for six vertebrae and six disks. And six thumbs, each of which got the skin rubbed off them when I thought the lugs were loose and they weren’t.
          I may be dumb and mechanically challenged and not listen when I should but no one has ever told me I’m not persistent. Eventually the lugs took pity on me and gave up the struggle. I slowly, carefully, grunting and groaning each inch of the way, stood up and then reached down to take the tire off the rim. It didn’t move an inch.
          In the olden days I would have gone in and had a quick six pack to fortify me and come back out raring to go. Now I was just raring. I got a hammer and banged on the tire. Eventually I banged too close to where I was holding and then I was really raring. Finally I sat down in the dirt by the tire and wiped sweat and blood from my body. There, staring me in the face were six screws. Aha!
          I called Betty several times and eventually she came out and helped me to my feet. I went to look for my big phillip head screwdriver. Let’s not go into that again, shall we? Suffice to say that after another trip to town I found myself back down in the dirt working on those six screws. It turns out that I have more than six muscles in my back. All the rest of them began complaining. I told them to shut up, that I started this job and by gum I was going to finish it.
          Eventually the screws came loose. Off popped the cover, revealing a gob of grease. Grease? I stuck my finger in it and felt little balls rolling around. Balls? Ball bearings? Rats. The screws just uncovered the cap to the joint on Tractor’s foot. I always wondered where all that grease went.
          On with the screws. The dog got interested during this operation and came over to help, and helped himself to a free face lick while my face was down level with his. He licked up sweat and blood until he got bored then ran off with the pliers and was burying the hammer when I caught up to him. A good thing because I needed that hammer. Since the screws had nothing to do with the flat tire, obviously I just needed to hammer harder than I had before to get the tire off. I got to my feet, wobbling a bit and began banging again. Harder. Harder. Eureka! The tire came off the rim. Alas! My banging jittered the jack from its precarious position and the whole left front side of Tractor dropped into the dust.
          (Interval of cussing, censored).
          By this time it was very late in the morning and that SLJ (shi.. little job) had eaten up the whole morning and wasn’t finished yet. Since I have no air conditioning in my truck and the temperature was approaching a hundred degrees (this is Texas, remember) I borrowed Betty’s car to take the tire to Charley‘s tire shop which I should have called to come take care of the whole business in the first place. I very carefully spread newspapers in the trunk so I didn’t get her car dirty, then got ready to go. Biscuit wanted to come. I let him in. He promptly traced gobs of grease onto the passenger’s seat. I carefully ignored it, hoping I could think up some reason for Betty’s car to be all greasy inside before she noticed it, like maybe the grocery sacker got hair oil on it or something but leave that for now.
          I got to Charley’s and the nice man told me the tire was so old he would have to send for a replacement which wouldn’t be in until the next Tuesday. I blessed him and told him that when the tire came in that he should put it on his service truck along with a big jack and a husky young helper and come to my place and see how good I save money by doing chores myself.
          There is a moral or two to this story.
          One, always listen to your friends in Florida.
          Two, once you’ve finished a job, don’t look for more work. It will only get you in trouble.
          Three, remember that work is contagious. If you hang around it you will wind up finding more work so it is best to avoid it whenever you can.
          Four, tractors are evil and should all be put in prison.
          And finally, if you want to keep your tools, hide them under the bed or in old jelly pots. Your kids will never think of looking there.


Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
December 2011


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