Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fixing things ~ My column from Sunday's paper

The warm weather put me in the mood to break ground. This past week I went out to gouge up a spot at the back of the fence with my old tiller.

The beast sprang to life but then coughed and sputtered as if it had mechanical emphysema. I stepped to the shed to fetch my tools and cleaned the spark plug, checked the fuel filters, but when I cranked it again, I got the same result.

I tinkered a while longer and then kicked the tires a couple time just to show it I meant business, but the only thing that started was the pain in my toe.

This is not my first planting season so I felt sure it was afflicted with gum in the carburetor.

Saying my tiller is old is an understatement because Methuselah bought it used from an antique dealer. Before he died, he passed it down to a relative, and it clunked through the millennium from heir to heir to like a bad debt.

I've been using my local parts supplier for many years. Some of the parts they stock are marked with hieroglyphics instead of part numbers, so I felt sure they'd have a carburetor for my tiller.

When I walked in this past week and asked for a rebuild kit or a replacement carburetor, the clerk asked for the model of the tiller. When I told him he tapped a few keys, scratched his chin, and scrunched up his face as he looked at the readout on his computer. Experience has taught me that this is NEVER a good sign.

The unspoken response usually means that a replacement part would have to be carved from bone by a retired watchmaker and it would take 18 months to deliver, or that I’d have to donate a kidney to pay for the part. The latter turned out to be the case, so I took my old carburetor and walked out dejectedly.

I brooded about it on the drive home, but I decided to try a long shot and work on the carb myself. What could it hurt?

So, after coffee I put on my coveralls, fetched my tools and set to work.

I placed the old carb on my workbench and disassembled it. Fortunately, no springs or tiny parts flew out which is always a plus.

I laid all the pieces on my bench and cleaned them as gently as a newborn baby with sensitive skin.

When I put it back together and reinstalled the carb on the tiller. I had no idea if it would crank or not, but I said the mechanic’s prayer – “Lord, please let this thing crank, or I’ll use it as a boat anchor.” I filled the tank with gas, and pulled the crank-cord.

It sprang to life and ran as solidly as the day the cavemen built it.

I was so happy that I got pieces of freshly ploughed earth on my teeth from the twirling tines.

It feels good to fix something that I had no idea I could actually fix.

Dogwood blossoms in a vase. I know, it has nothing to do
with this post., but I just liked the picture.


  1. This just made me smile! I feel the same way when I finish a wood project that someone has neglected or abused and I'm restoring it. It's a beautiful thing to fix something!!!

  2. Well done Rick. I can see this will be an annual exercise each spring.
    Ms Soup

  3. Nice bit prose, gentle on the mind raising a pleasant smile. I'm not sure what a tiller is - probably not something to do with steering boats in this case, I'm guessing - but suspect I'm just about to have a similar experience with my strimmer.

  4. My grandfather used to take such pride in fixing things. He said it was one of the best feelings on earth. I sure wish he could read this post :)

  5. It always feels good to be able to fix something...it gives us a sense of control. I always love being able to fix something on my own, but I love puzzles as well.


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