Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why is winter always a surprise?

I've lived in Canada long enough to know that come November, you might wake up one day and find snow on the ground. Furthermore, that snow is likely to stay awhile. Like till next May.

Nevertheless, November once again found me unprepared.

The snow-blower for my Ford 4000 is parked behind the garage. If memory serves, I think I need to fix the drive chain, which snapped on my last snow-clearing mission back in the spring.

The Ford 4000 is conveniently parked just out of range of my longest extension cord. Once the temperature falls to below 10 C, that Ford diesel needs to be plugged in for a couple hours before it's going to start.

You know the temperature is well below that if the snow stays on the ground overnight.

The day I parked it there I had just attached the 3-furrow plow, meaning to get to plowing up that weed-ridden flower patch on the east side of the front yard. That's a job the Farm Manager has been nagging about for at least two years, and if nothing else, I thought mounting the plow was a gesture of good faith on my part.

The walk behind snow-blower is in partial dis-assembly in the garage. It will start and run, but there is something wonky with the pulleys. It'll spit a drive belt out before I'm halfway down the driveway. I planned all summer to fix that, but here we are with snow on the ground, and wouldn't you know it, I never got around to it!

Last time I was out and about I'd dumped off a load of tree-tops behind the woodshed, thinking I was going to cut them into wood-stove sized pieces of firewood. That's another issue the Farm Manager has been on the warpath about.

"You better get going on the wood because it doesn't look like we'll get to Christmas with what's in the woodshed now!"

She's right of course, but I can't admit that, so I've been fobbing her off with how next time it's a nice afternoon I'll be carving up those six-footers behind the woodshed.

Today that nice afternoon came.

I haven't actually fired up the Stihl for a good two months. Topped her off with gas and bar oil, and set about to starting her up. After a few pulls on the cord I noticed I had bar oil all over my pants, my boots, the floor... and on account of the temperature, the bar oil had a viscosity just slightly more fluid than used bubble-gum.

I'd forgot to put the cap on the oil reservoir.

While I'm cleaning up that mess, I notice that one of the two nuts that secures the chain sprocket cover is missing. This has happened before. They will vibrate themselves loose if you don't tend to them. Not a big deal. The saw runs fine with just one nut holding the sprocket cover in place. Just keep an eye out...

So I get at my woodpile, and not five minutes later the other nut falls into the snow, the sprocket cover flies off, and the bar and the chain both disappear into the snow.

I'm left standing there with a perfectly running Stihl but it has no bar and no chain attached to it. Not gonna cut a lot of wood with that rig.

While I'm debating whether I should run into town and buy chainsaw parts, or just slash my wrists now and get it over with, Kipling calls.

You know how whenever you're at the end of your rope, if you can find somebody with an even more horrendous hard luck story, you find the strength to carry on?

Well, Kipling only calls a few times a year, but every time it has that salutary effect.

He's just finished rebuilding his VW diesel van for the nth time. That's not a slag on the VW; it's got over two million miles on it. You have to do a rebuild every half million or so.

But the story isn't that simple. That diesel broke down on the edge of an Indian reservation somewhere north of Ottawa. He had another couple hundred miles to go to deliver the load of windows he was taking to a building supply place up there.

The locals were friendly enough, but they didn't have the technology to fix a VW diesel, so Kipling is stuck, in a snow storm, with a diesel that won't start, and a load of windows that need to get delivered the next day.

He calls his broker and has them send another truck up to complete the window shipment.

That truck is going to take ten hours to get there. In the meantime, Kipling figures he better stay with his van to protect both the van and the cargo from vandalism.

While all this is going down he's also got the worst cold in his life and it's getting worse and worse by the hour, and he's thinking he's just another cough away from pneumonia.

"I coughed all night. I coughed so hard I shit myself."

Well, that was more info than I needed to know, but suddenly I was able to put my chain-saw issues into perspective. I've got a warm house right here. He's spending the night in an unheated van in the middle of a blizzard guarding his windows. Not to mention cleaning up after that personal hygiene incident under those circumstances.

Long story short, Kipling gets a ride back to Cambridge with the driver his company sent up to finish his job. His van is still up there in the boonies. He borrows a truck and a car hauler and heads north to retrieve his van. While he's winching the van onto the trailer the OPP stop by, and wouldn't you know it, he's got absolutely no paper work for the truck he borrowed.

There was some to-ing and fro-ing, but fortunately reason prevailed. The cops concluded that he wouldn't be stealing that ten year old VW van if he was driving a new F-350 Ford, and they gave him the benefit of the doubt on the rest of his story.

Getting the benefit of the doubt from the cops isn't something you can count on these days.

Anyway, he didn't get paid for that job and he was off work the next two weeks rebuilding that VW diesel.

I missed an afternoon of chainsawing.

It just proves that your troubles can be few so long as you compare yourself to someone who has lots more.

Oh, and winter has arrived!

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