January 23, 2020

Who Does That?

• By John F. Chisholm •

I may as well admit right here that I’m completely baffled by humanity.

I have three stories to tell.  They’re all true, all related.  You’ll see.  Bear with me.

First, it turns out that I couldn’t equalize the draft between the Daimler’s carburetors for good reason.  The right intake valves weren’t opening fully.  Those valves, in turn, were malfunctioning because the rocker arms weren’t receiving sufficient lubrication.  That was an issue because someone had assembled the rocker shafts improperly.

I’m proud to say that someone was not me.  Not that I’m completely blameless in these circumstances.  Because when Doug and I rebuilt that engine, we carefully removed and labeled all four rocker shaft assemblies for proper reinstallation.  We didn’t take them apart.

Bad move.

Running dry, the right intake rockers actually ruined their shaft.  Then the intake valves wouldn’t open properly.  That led us to the problem.  Finding one rocker shaft in such desperate need of assistance, we checked the other three.  All required rebuilding.

Not only were the lubrication ports misaligned but the shafts themselves were installed upside down.  That blows me away.  Correct assembly is obvious.  But if you’re really in doubt, it’s all in the manual.  Truly.  Someone had to try, really try, to screw up those mechanisms.  In that, at least, they succeeded.
Just think about that for a moment.

Who does that?

Second, last Saturday I picked up an eight-ton manual hoist at the dump.  (That ‘picked up’ phrase is a euphemism.  I didn’t do any picking.  No.  The tractor did all that.  The unit weighs over two hundred pounds.)  It was an effort disassembling, cleaning, repairing, reassembling and lubricating it but the worst part?  Hoisting it into place afterwards.  It wasn’t easy.  You bet, I didn’t want to drop it on my head.

The impact might well have damaged the hoist.

But when everything was finished and the hoist hanging, ready for use, I looked for it in my 1965 W.L. Blake Company catalog.  I admit, it was an off-chance.  But, you know what?  There it was.  The exact unit.

Forty-eight years ago this hoist sold new for $787.00.  But wait, that’s not all.  The chain had a per-foot charge of $10.60.  There’s over 15 feet of that, plus a massive swivel hook at one end.  Then someone purchased the load-limiter safety wheel for an additional charge of $159.50.  Worse, even back then, Maine had a sales tax.  Add it all up and somebody paid well over $1,100.00 for this hoist.

Now consider that its value today is compounded dramatically by the fact that manual hoists in this size range are no longer available.  (Presently you have to mortgage your house and buy an electric hoist instead.)

But none of that is the amazing part.

Years later their heirs, someone, somebody ― it’s hard to believe that it was the original purchaser ― brought it to the dump and threw it all away.


Who does that?

Last among my stories of gaping disbelief is my wife, Wendy.  Thirty years ago she must have realized the sort of arcane endeavors that fascinate me.  She must have seen how difficult I can be, how awkwardly fatherhood would sit on my predilections, just what sort of person I truly am.

She married me anyway.  Even more amazing, she’s put up with me through all those years.

She’s stayed.


I’m in awe.

Who does that?