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Scyther Bull Log

Creepy Cadillac Encounter

Scyther Bull LogThis is the first story that came to mind and went to print shortly after conception. It stems from a recent dream from which I woke up laughing so hard, my wife couldn’t determine if I was laughing or crying due to tears coming from my eyes.

The dream takes place on the farm where a lot of my REALLY weird dreams start. It took me back to the time that elm trees lined both sides of the driveway and the family cruised around in the big boats – either the 1959 or 1961 Cadillacs.

A storm had just passed. Dad and I were driving out to pick up the elm limbs that so characteristically dislodge themselves from the trees whenever the wind blows or somebody sneezes. As we were headed south, we met a skeleton (with eyeballs) sitting in the drive on a go-cart. This was not your garden variety ancestors-dropped-by-for-a-visit skeleton, more of an Achmed the dead terrorist type.

Reflecting back on the image that was generated in my mind, he was looking down, more bewildered than threatening. Perhaps he was mis-routed by his GPS on the way to visit kin in a rural cemetery. I do not know why I would mean him harm other than it was just plain creepy, besides why waste a perfectly good go-cart?

In my dream world, I was surprised Dad ignored the intruder, got out of the vehicle crossing in front, and started to pick up limbs. I wasn’t going to stand for this so I carefully got out of the back of the car, walked around the tail fins, and slid into the driver’s seat. As I yelled, “Rattle Rattle Mother-! “ (the sound I anticipated on hearing as the bones clattered against the vintage Detroit iron and chrome), I proceeded to grasp the column shifter, and had my right foot located above the accelerator ready to summon the four-barrel carburetor to deliver copious amounts of fuel into the purring V8.

Before harm befell our guest, I woke up, laughing hard enough from the cornball dream to shake the bed. My wife was awakened by this and turns over and asks if I’m OK. I struggled through my laughter as I explained the story. I don’t know if she understood the story but believe she found very little amusement over being woke up over it.

1959 Cadillac Sedan De Ville | Wikipedia/Lars-Goran Lindgren 

A 1959 Cadilla Sedan De Ville. Photo: Wikipedia/Lars-Goran Lindgren

Weiner Dog Warfare

Scyther Bull LogAfter some time away from the blog, I figure it’s time to knock the rust off and do some writing. I mainly like to write about mechanical things but need to venture to another interest – critters. This is a current story about Ruby, our dachshund/terrier mix dog that is not afraid to bring a knife to a gun fight. She is always willing to take on formidable K9 acquaintances, yet can be intimidated by cute little puppies. She came into our family as a rescue pup, and is very personable to her people, showing no favoritism and is very patient with children.

The backdrop of this hell-hole of an incident (at the time) is my in-laws' home in a nice subdivision where we were staying during our move. Our family’s nightly dog maintenance routine was to turn Ruby out for her nightly ritual in the backyard. We noticed for several nights preceding the incident that incessant barking would ensue – a tip off of what was yet to come.

It is during one of these routine pit-stops where Ruby had a family reunion of sorts with a fellow black-and-white friend. She managed a good “dusting” from the skunk on her first encounter. It didn’t take much imagination to determine a good scrubbing was on the books. I proceeded to fill the tub and scour the dog down with the ole wives' tale of tomato juice (didn’t help much) shampoos, and Dawn dish soap, which was best at helping cut the oil out of the fur. There was still odor present, but at least it was somewhat bearable. It was good that this happened first as it was the dress rehearsal of what was yet to come.

A week or so later, the same series of events transpired with more memorable results. As Ruby voiced her mind to the odoriferous rodent, she took one point blank, a laser-guided stink bomb hit from the small woodland creature. Though she was successful at demonstrating how loud her bark could be up close, Pepe Le Pew in turn demonstrated his natural defense mechanism in great detail. After their little posturing of strength was over, she was let into the house, us not knowing she had been perfumed. By the time the smell hit my nostrils, she was already bunkered in under the bed, soaked with skunk oil.

I remember very well peering through my tear-filled eyes, nose draining like a small roof leak in a heavy rain, and noticing Ruby was doing the very same thing as we were doing our best to control our gag reflexes. Thanks to the attention to detail of the architect who designed the house, the toilet was in close proximity to the bathtub in case I needed to multitask. Multiple scrubbings were necessary to apply another coat of shampoo, tomato juice, or Dawn depending on if she was considered a dog, drink or dishes at the time. The dishwashing liquid and tomato juice looked most unfavorable in the tub during gagging. The skunk oil gave me flashbacks to handling pesticides on the farm – the skunk oil penetrated my skin, resulting in the taste in my mouth and smell in my nose. Ruby smelled for more than six months before gradually fading.

After all the hullabaloo we may ask has Ruby learned her lesson? I doubt it, as she is still pretty sure of herself and runs and barks at every critter she finds. I say she’s probably like one of her owners – when something is in your blood, there is very little that can stifle the enthusiasm.

Ruby in Grass

Baleing with Buford

OSFB HeadshotMost people who have had pets have had one that stands out, not that the animal has been more loved, but has just been more memorable. Buford was that dog for me. He wasn’t an inside dog nor a porch dog, he was a go-along dog. He was always willing and wanting to perform chores with us around the farm.

Buford came to reside at the Farm before I was born. As with most things growing up on our farm, he went by many names, Red Dog, Sport, and Boof. The story as it was relayed to me is that on the way home from somewhere Dad stopped to literally see a man about a dog and he came back with a small red pup. Many stories are told about Boof by any of my siblings as he was a pup when the older brothers and sisters were at home and lived a very honorable 18 years and passed peacefully in the Barn when I was in my teens.

This dog loved going places and was very adept at self-loading himself into the backs of pickups or trailers. We would take him many places and the old hound would stay around until time to go back.  For the most part, he was a well-mannered dog that guarded against varmits, left the livestock alone, but on occasion lent himself to shredding wood, namely on the farm buildings where he could get a hold with his teeth.

One of my favorite stories with this companion is bailing hay. Our main bailing set up at the time consisted of the Fordson Major (Bluebird), the International 55W wire tie bailer, and four pull behind bale trailers. 

The trailers would be hooked behind the bailer and towed around the field with hand stacking the hay as it fed out the chute. Buford was always jumping to whatever trailer that was to be used at any given time and would ride for the duration of the cycle.

The story that follows happened nearly every time we bailed hay. Buford would jump on the trailer hooked behind the bailer. We would go about stacking the hay, roughly 5 or 6 bales high and stacked clear to the front of the trailer till there was no room to stand, boosting the final few bales on the very top. Buford would ride along, jumping up on every successive layer until he was on the very top. What he never remembered was the old adage "what goes up, must come down". After the trailer was stacked to the gills, Mother would pull the bailing rig to the side clear of any un-bailed windrows and we then would pull the hitch pin, leaving the loaded trailer to retrieve later to be un-loaded in either the barn, or a stand-alone stack.

We then would progress to the next empty trailer, back up, hook up, and start the whole process over again. Boof would be stuck on the top of the trailer full of hay, tail wagging, with a look of puzzlement on his face. As we would pull into the next windrow we could see him and hear his growls, grunts and yelps, and he could see was our grinning faces as we would progress further down the field. After a while, with all sorts of excitement, he would search for the most advantageous route down which required him lowering himself down as far as possible while hanging on with his rear haunches. Then with his front legs stretching down over the side of the hay until he felt comfortable, he would jump the rest of the way to the ground. With renewed excitement, he'd shake himself off, start running towards the current rig, jump on, and would start the whole process over again. This could happen several times a day, all with the same results.

When it was time to move trailer to the stacking location, he would follow the Merry Harris (our Massy Harris 44 gas) to the loaded trailer, and while hooking up, Boof would circle the trailer barking and looking for a place he could jump back on. Most times however, he had to settle on trotting alongside the trailer. He then would follow us to the unloading location and would end up sitting under the trailer in the shade or in the Barn panting until we were finished, then he would jump back on the trailer and then back with us to the field to finish the the rest of the baleing. 

Chrysler Critter Carrage

OSFB HeadshotOne winter during a heavy cold spell, one of our cows had a calf. By the time it was found, the little critter had become very chilled and required veterinary attention. Enter the machinery for this story: my parents 1972 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham that looked docile, but under the hood beat a 440 (non HEMI ) with a four barrel carb that would propel the boat 118+ miles per hour (experience talking here) and still knock out 22 miles per gallon on road trips without breaking a sweat. But I digress and direct my writing to the story at hand.

1972 Chrysler New Yorker 

Rather than subject the critter to an additional frosty ride to town in the back of the pickup, it was put in the trunk (that was about half the size of the barn) and Mom and Dad set off for the Veterinary clinic."Doc" as we called him was one of those entertaining characters that was always thinking out loud and had a colorful vocabulary that though not personally offensive, requires some judicious editing.

Mom and Dad pulled up outside the clinic and Dad went in to get Doc. When they came out, Doc asked Dad "where's the calf? Dad took him around to the trunk as Mom pushed the electric trunk release to reveal the calf nestled in some old blankets, gaining much needed body temperature. Doc made the comment of all the years of being a vet, it took Dad to be the first one to bring livestock to him in the trunk of a luxury automobile. The calf was checked over, medication administered, and the critter was deemed OK to go back to the farm to take up space basking in the warmth of a heat lamp in the barn.

While Dad and Doc walked around the front of the car, Mom said she smelled something like burnt hair. After determining that the calf was not in any danger of becoming BBQ, Dad popped open the hood and revealed a skunk perched under the hood, left feet on the valve cover and its right feet on the inner fender well. The critters fluffy tail hairs had come to rest on the exhaust manifold, however it was cognitive enough not to allow the meaty portion to come in contact with the heat. Doc went into his office and returned with some type of large caliber hand cannon and told Dad to poke the skunk and when it jumped out, he would send it to oblivion. Dad, unsure of this hasty request was none too eager to start poking the critter under the hood of his car resulting in a massive under hood pungent air freshener. Doc replied "ah, don't do that, I don't want a dead skunk in my yard, take it downtown and park in the intersection of first and main, open the hood open and let the police deal with it!" Fortunately for local law enforcement, Dad just said he would just let the skunk travel back home by the same means as it came. 

All four of them made the journey home via the long way as Mom and Dad thought it better to avoid town in case something went terribly wrong that would result in a pungent mess to clean up. They went to the house where the calf was rejoined to its mother in the nice cozy barn; Dad picked up his .22 rifle and the pickup and sent Mom out by the oil well tank batteries where the goal was to dispatch the skunk. Upon trying to coax the critter out the skunk exercised sound judgment and was able to traverse the engine compartment and car frame to avoid Dad from getting a clear shot. After a few minutes of synchronized critter flushing out, Mom and Dad determined that it was too cold to be worried about the skunk. The New Yorker was left out at the tank battery for a period of time that allowed the cold to sink in encouraging the critter to seek a warmer residence. The car was later retrieved with no physical or smelly damage.

Perhaps this skunk benefited from the farmland critter safety course inspired by the earlier baling incident. Human contact 101: how to keep safe while humans are in pursuit.

Stinky Critter Cube

OSFB HeadshotWe were baling hay one clear and sunny summer day on the family farm. Mother was at the tiller of our Fordson Major (Bluebird) pulling the International 55W square baler. She kept on path following the clockwise-circular windrows formed by the sickle bar mower and side delivery rake that crossed the field before. The Bluebird’s diesel engine wafted puffs of smoke and the transmission grunted keeping in sync with the rhythmic whumph, whumph of the bailer plunger.Although unfortunately the International 55W baler went to the scrap yard years ago the Bluebird is still always at the ready to preform any task

Dad and I were on the bale trailer being pulled by the set-up stacking bales. The long ribbon of fresh mown hay was feeding steadily into the pickup, and routed into the bale chamber by the fingers where by mechanical timing it was formed, compressed, and tied into a bale. The finished bale then was fed out the end of the bale chamber, onto the bale trailer where it would be stacked to await transport to the haystack/barn for storage, later to be used to feed livestock in the winter.

On that particularly memorable day, as the smell of the fresh hay wafted in the air, Dad tapped me on the shoulder with a hay hook. When I turn around, I saw his tobacco stained grin as he says, “Hey boy, lookie there,” moving the hook to point at the bale chamber where there was four inches of skunk tail sticking straight out of a bale, the hairs on the tail swaying softly to the bumping movement of the plunger.

In our neck of the woods, because of the lack of human domestication, “civet-cats” or skunks be nasty little creatures that make tasty meals (for them) out of chickens and eggs (for us), and thus since they themselves don't appeal to a roasting oven with taters and carrots nestled all around, they are considered vermin, rodents, or any other type of creature that you don't send Christmas cards to or invite to family functions. Also, the equipment, however small it seems compared to today’s modern mechanical marvels, lacked the horsepower and agility of finely tuned road course race car that would be needed to melishisly cube even the pokiest of small farmland creatures.

The following paragraph is only my mind reckoning that the odiferous rodent must have sought shelter in the windrow. After its error in selection of the ol’ “fight or flight” instinct, must have stood its ground (a noble gesture), got fed up into the baler by the pickup, was escorted into the chamber by the fingers, and with one rotation of the baler crank, cha-whump, the skunk’s space-time continuum was altered, and it was instantaneously transported from the wide-open plains of Kansas into something that in comparison might resemble an ultra-economy apartment in New York City.

After the bale came out of the chamber, we chunked it over the side, and since it’s a no brainer that the critter would not have survived at the same density as the bale that encompassed it, we continued to finish the haying. We continued to work around that bale for the rest of the haying process, and it stayed in the field for an additional cutting and was finally moved across the lease road and into the shelterbelt where I figure it must have served as an educational tool in an animal safety course, for in the following years, I haven’t experienced any additional critter mishaps associated with baling.

Dangers of Driving Deeres

OSFB HeadshotOur vintage farm equipment sat idle a few years after Dad's retirement. Most of it has been in the family since before I was born, so I consider it all my brothers and sisters of iron. After a long rest, we went to work on checking and getting it field ready and back in the game.

Case hauling bales
Our Case 830 Diesel back to work hauling bales. After a careful disassembly and cleaning of the fuel injection pump, I gladly came back to life and preform its tasks as designed. 

We have four vintage tractors on the farm. The 830 Case, our biggest had set idle after the cows were sold off. It had been used to feed the large round bales. When the battery was charged and the jumper cables applied, we found the engine would turn over, but wouldn’t start. Also I wasn't getting the tell-tale diesel "smoke" from the stack that would have been a sign that the cylinders were getting fuel. I determined compression was OK because the engine would light off on good-ol gasket-blowin connecting rod bendin starting either.

Deere in weeds
The 70 Diesel had set for a longer period than the Case. With a check of the fluids, topping off of the gasoline, battery boost for the pony engine, John-John started on the first try. 

We then decided to take a page out of the old physics book regarding liquids and take the path of least resistance, which meant giving our 1955 John Deere 70 Diesel a run at the field. This tractor has been a good runner all of its life and despite a few eccentricities, it will give a good days work. The current ticks it has are very little brakes, the power steering sector hangs up, and we have little time or money to tend to either.

After checking the condition of all fluid levels, I climbed up, went through the pony engine gyrations to lite off some diesel fuel, prepared to snag an implement, and roll to the field. After attaching the chisel, I selected fourth gear like I had done years earlier, tapped the throttle, and firmly engaged the clutch. As the tractor lurched forward for the next few moments, I experienced an adrenaline rush equal to that of finding a bee’s nest in the pasture while mowing. The engine was strong and responded well to my commands; however the steering and brakes were less enthusiastic. I found myself putt-putting along at a lively gate for the house unable to control the direction of the equipment. As I jerked back on the clutch, I literally stood on both brakes with all my mental capacity focused on the conversations I was going to have on how the restoration of the house was taking a totally different direction with a hole through the bathroom wall and the tractor nestled comfortably in the dining room. A photo shoot of a 1880's farmhouse with a bay window in the privy could have been a trend setter - see who's driving in the yard or eating dinner while sit-in on the can.

farmhouse northeast
East side of the Farmhouse that nearly got punched by the tractor. The Evergreen can be seen to the extreme left. 

John-John (family name) and I came to a halt with the front tires approximately 10 feet from the house and the exhaust lightly puffing at the branches of the evergreen by the side of the house. With relief, I lowered myself to the seat, selected reverse and backed the tractor into the center of the driveway. I stopped, put the tractor in neutral, carefully climbed down and waddled over to the garage where I got a pry bar to pry the seat cushion out of my butt.

John-John with 16ft. Krause
Our John Deere 70 Diesel much as it appears today. 

So now, I am more cautious and maintain second gear as my yard gear until such time as I get the steering and brakes back working to a more factory-like standard. I figure in the cost of repairing vintage equipment to field ready condition for small acreages when I’m mechanically inclined is a lot better than payments on new, and as for me, I enjoy the trip back in time.

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