No Plan Survives Reality

A quick update: The rain has abated and the breakneck growth of everything bad, accompanied by the stunting of everything good seems to be tapering off. The corn is taller than me, which is no great feat for corn, but is an improvement. The rag weed has stopped growing just in time; the trees around it were beginning to show discernible signs of embarrassment.

I have been out and about on the place; doing this, that, and the other, which we can talk about later. I left you hanging on the last post concerning the piece of major equipment I bought. If you have not read my last post in Old Folks at Home Stead you can find it here.

I have never owned a “Lawn Tractor”. Every time I think about one, I picture a fat guy in checkered Bermuda shorts and a Grateful Dead Tee Shirt, wearing a hat with two Bud Lights in holders and straws leading down to his mouth. I know that is an unfair generalization, but you only have to see that sight once to scar you for life.

I always used a push mower. Anything more seemed to be just showing off to me. Then I bought The Homestead. Our yard is plus or minus an acre; I would guess plus. It is not an easy mow. We moved in last August and I think I mowed it four or five times before the end of the season.

I hate lawns. It is unnatural, unless chickens and goats are eating on it. That is from an Appalachian Mountain background. Bottom land was garden or pasture, side hill was pasture or orchard and the top of the mountain was woods. Lawns were for rich people and “flat land fereners.” Also I have a lazy bone but that is another post.

Be that as it may, because of the size of the yard and the age of the man, it was time to get some kind of lawn tractor. Not long after this decision, one Sunday after church I was discussing this with a friend who, as it turns out has a son-in-law who had just bought a new lawn mower. It was one of those 360 degree things, with a five feet cut and some such other stuff as is beyond my ken, and he had an old one for sale.

Sight unseen, I said I would take it. It was a little over a week until I could go see the lawn tractor. It was an older one, but I have no idea of the year model. It was a Bolen which actually is a brand name; research has shown me that the engine was made by Troy Bilt.

The machine had two problems, which Jeremy was quick to point out to me. One was an issue with the battery, which will not hold a charge. No real problem there as long as the engine kept charging. The other problem was that, from time to time, when you engaged the parking brake you have to reach back by the rear axle and release it. Neither of these were deal breakers.

We brought my new toy home, and that day I mowed with it the first time. It worked great! There is a learning curve involved in how to operate it, but I had downloaded the manual from the net and, seeing as I could drive an M1 Tank, an M113 Tracked Vehicle, and any normal road vehicle, up to a five ton truck, I did not think a riding lawn mower was going to buffalo me.

On my third time mowing the lawn I was really gaining some skill on the little beast when, coming around the northwest corner, I heard a pop and a thump then we stopped moving. I don’t know about all riding mowers, but it seems a lot of them run on a belt drive system. For instance, mine has three belts; one comes from the engine to the wheels, another from the engine to the mowing attachment, and the third from that one to the blades.

The short belt from the engine to the wheels had broken. I knew it was a broken belt because I found the mangled piece of it behind the mower. It is a good thing that lawn tractors are not heavy. I pushed it to my house garage and stored it there. Then I took the mangled belt with me to Jerry’s Automotive and Hardware on Main Street in Braymer. Total distance to drive one way: about 3/10 of a mile. I love small towns.

Coming in the door of Jerry’s establishment, I looked at him, held up the belt and ask, “Jerry, do you have a belt like this?”

He examined the belt I was holding up and said, “I hope not.” Did I mention the belt was pretty beat up? As it turned out Jerry did not have the belt for my mower in his place. On further inquiry, no one in Caldwell, or adjoining counties, had this particular belt. So I placed a call back to Jerry’s so he could order one for me. No more mowing for three days.

On the second day, I picked up the belt. I planned to fix my mower on the third day, so that I could mow on my day off. One thing you need to know: I had no idea how to replace this belt. So, being a modern kind of hillbilly, I looked it up first on Google, and then on YouTube. I firmly believe that if one wanted to build a time traveling 1947 Jeepster there would be a YouTube video about how to do it.

I know to a certainty, there is one on how to remove and replace the drive belt on a Bolen’s Lawn Tractor of my model. It is about 8 minutes long. I watched it twice and set about to do the job. Since the removing part had already been completed, all I really needed to do to put my new belt on was take off one big nut and slide this big pulley, beneath the nut, up so I can get the belt on it.

Since the guy in the video had used an adjustable wrench to loosen this nut so did I. A word to the wise, at least wiser than me: the guy in the video had loosened the nut before he made the video. He had also removed springs so that some things went easier. I was determined that I was going to loosen that nut with an adjustable wrench.

A little voice in my head asked, “Think you need to be wearing your buffalo hide work gloves Ed?” I ignored that voice and, hand deep in the bowels of a Bolen’s Lawn Tractor, I gave one more long, steady, hard, pull. Something gave, and my hand slipped all the way around, with my fingers striking a hard object out of my sight.

I pulled the offended hand out to examine it. It was beginning to smart a little, I tell you that. My middle finger of my right hand was bleeding a little from a scraped knuckle and I saw a line on my ring finger of my right hand. Probably a scrape; no big deal. Then I made a fist.

Have you ever seen one of your knuckles? No I do not mean all that skin that lies on top of it. I mean having that skin roll back and show you the whole bony joint? I went upstairs and Connie put yarrow on it. OUCH! Then we put a bandage over it and I called our Doctor (who was twenty-five miles away in Hamilton, that day), to get three stitches and a work excuse for two days.

This is the damage that can be caused by an adjustable wrench and a hard head.

This is the damage that can be caused by an adjustable wrench and a hard head.

The next day, with the right tools, a stiff finger and invaluable help from Connie, we got the job done and the day after that I mowed the lawn with my newly fixed lawn tractor and that same stiff finger. Today, they took the stitches out of my hand. I will have a pretty spectacular scar to add to an already impressive collection. The doctor suggested I tell people I was bitten by a shark.

But if this story has any lesson beyond don’t use an adjustable wrench because they slip, and learn to listen to good advice; even if it’s from you, it would be no plan ever works out like we want it to. Those who appear so competent at anything only have practiced it so much they have learned to recover, before we even see the mistake.

5 thoughts on “No Plan Survives Reality

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