Monday, February 25, 2008

Turn Me On, Dead Man

Who among us doesn’t like to head for the wood shop, drop a little acid, and expand the mind???? The Beatles may be the poster boys for the Psychedelic 60’s music scene, but I don’t know if most of the readers of Rolling Stone recognize the woodworking tribute The Beatles gave us.

I refer, of course, to side four of The White Album….Revolution 9.

Number 9…

Number 9…

Number 9…

I cannot help but mumble the words from that incomprehensible Beatles’ track whenever I am using my Shooting Board. I seem to fixate on that “song” every time I grab hold of the hotdog and begin moving my 9 back and forth. (WOW!!!!!…that has GOT to be the naughtiest phrase in woodworking…)

Perhaps it has something to do with my Second Amendment Rights, but shooting makes me happy. Take, for example, this photo.

Tonight I was fitting the long rear stretcher of my Holtzapffel Workbench to the leg mortise. I could have easily been upset that I managed to tweak (mess up) the height of my Forrest Dado King TWICE on this tenon so that I had to do some veneer patching ON BOTH SIDES of the tenon. However, any angst over that mistake just vanished into the air of my woodshop as I went about fixing a different issue. My tenon was 3 3/64” long. My mortise is about 3” deep. What’s a fella to do???

Lock and Load, Baby. It’s time to do some shooting!!!!!

You don't need that A-K; just grab your NINE.

Wet the end grain with mineral spirits, and shoot the end off of that hard maple tenon.

A few passes later, and I have a pile of hard maple full length end grain shavings and a tenon of the perfect length. Make a note of this: Full length end grain shavings quickly block out any self hatred from the dado mistake.

Now I realize one doesn’t need the Lie-Nielsen #9 Iron Miter Plane to use a shooting board, but it sure is nice. Besides, I am a rock crawling Jeep guy from way back…I have an affinity for boxy vehicles that make the almost-impossible look easy.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Poor Timing, Dog...

Well, I have to admit this is a classic example of Skiver timing.

At the exact moment I choose to publicly express the most inappropriate joke I ever told (in the Presidents' Day blog post) the April 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking comes out with the Out of The Woodwork feature that could arguably be the most sensitive thing I have ever written.

I can only imagine a teary-eyed dog lover reading "My New Apprentice" followed by searching out this blog whose URL is given in the mini-bio of me at the end of the article. What does he find in follow up to the touching dog story???? Flippant remarks about dead Kennedys. That is the roller coaster of emotions that one receives as a result of any encounter with my life.

I will have something to say about Simon (and maybe Peyton) within a couple of days (or weeks). It has been difficult to ignore them these past 3 1/2 months as I waited for this article to get published. However, I think once I finally see the April issue on the shelf at Barnes & Noble's I will feel enough at ease to mention the pups without fear of PopWood Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick emailing me to say that I had violated the contract for First Rights to Publish that went with that story.

Please make a note...The King of Inappropriate Humor is also the biggest dog lover on Earth. Pedigree Dog Food summed up my 38 years of sharing this planet with God's palindromic namesakes which I can personalize as:

I'm For Dogs!

If you missed those Pedigree ads a couple of years ago, you can catch one here:

Monday, February 18, 2008

When I was a boy...this was a REAL holiday.

George Washington chopped down the Cherry Tree, but for Presidents’ Day…we’re chopping prices on everything in the store!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This Monday only, you must come to Macy’s Presidents’ Day Mattress Sale!!!!!

I guess things just sort of lose their edge with time. I don’t exactly know when we went from honoring America’s Commanders in Chief to just having an excuse for no mail service and a bitchin’ sale, but it has been at least 30 years. However, I think it would be neat if stores tailored their sales to the man currently in the White House.

Just imagine the late 1990’s….

“And be sure to check out the clearance rack where all stained, black dresses are at a special discount….”

Yeah, Presidents’ Day doesn’t really mean anything to anybody outside of the roster of government employees who took the day off. However, eventually time passes and every holiday slides down from the pedestal of remembrance and becomes just as trivialized as every other former “great” holiday (Arbor Day, Columbus Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.).

I don’t know if America will be honest and accept the reality of it, but we are less than 50 years away from Martin Luther King, Jr. Day being equally blown off by 99.9% of the population. Before 2050, you will flip on your funky 3D Hologram Generator that replaced that Crappy Old 120 inch High Def TV and you will see some horrible black actor in a dark suit with a narrow tie say, “I have a Dream!!!!!!!!!! That everything in the store is 30 to 50% off!!!!!!!!!!!” Mark my words, friends: Someday, we in America will witness the MLK DAY White Sale.

Now, I do want to acknowledge that among my circle of friends who know what funny is…I am considered “The King of Inappropriate Humor.” However, what I have written above is not meant to be humorous. It’s just an example of how today’s greatness will almost always be lost on the kids born two generations from now.

In closing, to end on an up note (and to provide perspective to what I said above), I am going to tell you the Honest-to-God true story of the most inappropriate joke I ever told. A couple of years ago Gail and I were at Hobby Lobby and I looked over at an aisle end cap that was about 15 feet away from the cash registers. On that end cap were little plaster busts about 6 inches tall of famous historical figures. There was a plaster Shakespeare next to the bust of George Washington. Straight off of Schroeder’s piano was the little bust of Beethoven. Without taking a second to think, I picked up the John F. Kennedy bust, turned to face the cash register, and asked, “Excuse me, Maam, is this one on sale, because it seems to be missing the whole back side of its head?”

That was the most inappropriate joke I ever told. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Gail.

Anyway, the point of this blog entry is that I truly worry that today’s kids and the children of tomorrow just aren’t going to be as respectful as we adults are today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Water Stones, Oil Stones, or Scary Sharp...How Does Cupid Sharpen His Arrows?

I don’t like cut flowers. Flowers don’t do anything for me. I do know that they work. I understand the pheromone rush they ignite in women, but they sort of kick off the opposite reaction in me. I truly don’t like the smell of flowers. I have tried to explain to my wife, Gail, that flowers affect my nose and almost create a tingling/burning reaction. (I think they negatively impact my allergies).

However, I am not anti-flower. For me, I think flowers are a lot like colonoscopies. I don’t personally like them, but I’m glad mankind has them around for the people who want and need them.

In years past I would do the roses thing. I think the only flowers I provided to old girlfriends were roses. However, when I met Gail it somehow came out that roses just weren’t her thing. So, for the last 11.75 years, I have not purchased roses. Instead, I just call the florist and say something like this, “Give me something nice between $75 and $100. You guys are professionals so I’m going to defer to your expertise.” I can tell you without question…this technique works.

Earlier this week Gail achieved a personal goal. (She made it 24 hours sober.) So I decided to send her flowers yesterday. I called the florist and quoted a dollar amount, and had them write the following item on the card, “This has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. This is because I am proud of you. Love, Jeff.” The lady took the credit card information, and then she said, “Would you like to go ahead and set something up for Valentine’s Day?” I responded, “Despite what the card said, this is going to cover Valentine’s Day, too.”

Gail works in a Doctors’ Office. The nursing staff is comprised of all women. The physician Gail works for is female. So I know that when I send Gail flowers, I am putting myself up there on the pedestal so that Gail can say, “Y’all lookee here at what my man did!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Let me also say this…I really love women. If Gail was 1/100th the flirt that I am, we’d be divorced in a week. So it is my goal to always be the guy that Gail’s friends compare their husbands to. It’s just my sick and twisted, spotlight-hogging personality that I want all hot chicks on the planet to think that I am the greatest guy in the universe. (I am always working on back up plans in case something happens to Gail...) At Gail’s office the flowers went over BIG.

Gail didn’t bring them home yesterday. She will leave them at work this week so she can enjoy them (and so they continue to get shown off to her coworkers). She emailed me this morning and said that when she walked in the office she could smell them when she was in the hall around the corner from her desk. I emailed back, “So you’re saying your entire office smells like a funeral home????” I am glad the flowers aren’t coming home yet. I really do hate the smell of flowers.

However, this afternoon it hit me. I finally figured out what flowers truly mean to women. It’s something like this….

I’m coming back to the office after lunch and the Woodcraft van is sitting in the parking lot. Oooohhh…somebody’s gettin’ a present!!!!! I go back to my desk and sit down thinking about who in the office is dating someone new, or who has an anniversary, or who may have learned some new X-rated move. Suddenly, the phone rings and I answer to find the receptionist asking me to come up to the front desk. I get that little flutter in my belly, and I head toward the front. As I round the corner, I can see the brown cardboard box with the Lie-Nielsen logo. It’s a BIG box!!!!!!!! The receptionist is smiling and she tells me that I have a present. The box is about 10 pounds, and when I flip it open I find a Jointer plane. It’s the Big One. It’s the #8. Also, it has the optional Cocobolo Handles. I open the card and read, “Just because I love you….G.”

Rather than put it back in the box, I cut open the blue anti-rust plastic and pull it out. I sort of embellish it with the packing paper (my version of wrapping it in swaddling clothes) and I take it back to my desk where I set it up on top of my overhead bin. In a steady stream every guy in the office comes by to look at my Jointer Plane and tell me how beautiful it is. They take it down and sweep it through the air smoothing imaginary timber sitting on an imaginary bench just outside my office.

The women in the office see all of this, but most don’t get involved with my gift. But every guy tells me how beautiful it is, and they tell me how lucky I am to have a wife like Gail.

Beautiful tools unexpectedly delivered to you at work so that all of your friends can see how much your wife loves you. That’s what flowers are.

(Ignore the fact that Lie-Nielsen Jointer Planes don’t rust and disintegrate over the course of 8 days… it will destroy the analogy and drag you back to the reality of expensive dead flowers and realistic gifts from your wife…like new socks.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

With or Without You...I Got You, Babe.

This is one of those periods of drought....Holiday Drought, that is. After New Year's Day, my employer doesn't have another official holiday until Good Friday. So during this time of multiple calendar flips between now and when THE MAN tells me to stay home for a paid day of celebrating Rome’s preferred method of Capital Punishment from 2000 years ago, I have to focus on things that will keep me going. So, I am thinking about Ireland a lot.

In four months I will be in Ireland. I am interviewing for a Chaplain position with some company called the Ulster Defense Association. I am assuming they are some kind of Defense Contractor but I suppose I need to Google them and do a little research before I show up for the interview.

Okay...I'm not actually going for a job interview. I really just wanted to mention the UDA to see what kind of Google Traffic I get.

In June, Gail and I really are going to Ireland for a couple of weeks. However, we're not going alone. We have been planning this trip for a while and last year we were back home in Indianapolis, and I was talking to my best friend (Matthew) and his wife (Marikay), and I said, "Ya know, if you guys didn't have all of these kids you could go with us. But you guys can’t leave your kids for two weeks.” Immediately there was the stereophonic sound of Matt and Marikay saying, “We’ll go!!!!!!!!”

So in June, I am not only headed to Ireland with my lovely wife Gail, but I get the pleasant company of Matthew and Marikay, too. Now, Gail travelled to Europe with me once back in 1998, but Matt and Marikay do not have even that much European travel experience. So I have developed a plan whereby our little group of four will be able to visit the Emerald Isle and get an especially good dose of the local flavor and perhaps get a true picture of life in Ireland. I think that if we embrace the Irish culture and truly become Irish for those two weeks, we will be able to seamlessly blend into the Irish population.

I’m going to explain my idea by giving you a glimpse of how a typical conversation in an Irish pub might go as the four of us sit down to dine with the locals. Here is the plan:


Oh, no, sir. The four of us are not swingers….at least not yet. Let me introduce the group. These are our friends Matthew and Marikay, this is my lovely wife Gail and I am Bono. Just Bono...nothing else. Just a stagnant pause after that first and only name. Just Bono __(pause)___________,

My wife, Gail was originally a Baine, but when we married she took my name so now she is Gail __(pause)___________, For a while she hyphenated and went by Gail Baine-__(pause)____, But she gave that up because it seemed a little pretentious. (The hyphenating seemed pretentious...not the pompous attitude of only using one name.)


Is that brilliant, or what? At first I thought that Matt and I would each go by Bono during the entire 11 days we are in Ireland, but that might seem contrived or fake to the natives if our group had two Bonos, so we have decided that only one of us will go by Bono per day. On the odd number days, I will be called Bono, and on the even number days, Matt will be Bono.

Personally, I have decided that on my non-Bono days I am going to go by the name Seamus Americus, which will show my willingness to embrace the Irish culture while maintaining ties to my roots back here in the States. Matthew, it is your choice if you want to use a travel name on your non-Bono days. Perhaps you could use the moniker of the greatest Irish singer of all-time (or of 1972 anyway)...Gilbert O'Sullivan.

I informed Gail of this plan tonight and now she wants to go by Sinead for the entire trip. So, when we check into the fancy hotel I think I’ll have to use our real names, but as soon as we ditch the luggage, we’re going to hit the town…just a couple of local, native Irish couples: Seamus, Sinead, Bono, and Marikay.

I think this is a brilliant plan. The natives will never expect we’re a bunch of Yanks come over to enjoy their 19 hours of Irish Sunlight per Day.

‘Hello, my name’s BONO, and I would like a table for four.”

“Taxi-man. My name’s BONO, and we’d like to go to a place that serves either Budweiser or Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

Blend right in…

With the trip less than four months away, I have started to focus on pronunciation, because for the last 22 years I have pronounced the name of the U2 guy like the last name of Sonny and Cher. So, I have to fix that before I get over there and start using that as my given name.

Because one thing I know…after years of traveling internationally… avoid at all costs coming off as an Ugly American.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Blogger Video Question

In an effort to better understand what people are looking for in a blog (other than the great deals on Whiteside Router Bits, Saw Sharpening, and Bicycle Tours of Italy that are being thrown in your face via the Google Ads on this page...) I am seeking some feedback. I am wondering if the video of my nephews from yesterday's blog entry came through ok. I ask because I clicked on it once, and it buffered and started playing within 3 seconds, another time 12 seconds. However, another time I clicked on it and it appeared to fully buffer, but it never started playing.

So if you are a natural born feedback provider...feel free to categorize your experience with yesterday's video of the twins by clicking on one of the four choices in the poll below. (Why do I get the feeling the phrase "video of the twins" is going to attract a whole new group of readers from the search engines???)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Go Jackson!!!! Go Jackson!!!!!

(I know there are a lot of female woodworkers, but this one goes out to woodworkers with Y chromosomes...)

My wife has a phrase, “Testosterone Kills”.

She always says it to me when I leave the house with a bicycle.

I grew up as a cyclist. I am still a cyclist. My wife and I have about a dozen bikes hanging around the house. There are bikes for every racing and riding genre: fixed gear track (velodrome) bikes, Cyclocross Bikes, Mountain Bikes, a Tandem, road bikes galore. Although I am passionate about Italian bikes (take a look at the photo below, then ask yourself who else do you know that has an Italian Flag suit to wear to bike races?), we run the gamut with brands like Colnago, Bianchi, Faggin (named after former World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Leandro Faggin), Cannondale, Klein, and Specialized. My teenage years bare a marked similarity to that of Dave Stoller in Breaking Away. (I have to admit that although I can still quote every line from American Flyers, I never actually saw Breaking Away until I was in my 30s.)

Cycling may seem like a healthy activity. For me, it burns about 1000 calories an hour (given my mass, the roads we ride, and the speed we ride at). However, one must temper the apparent benefit of the cardiovascular exercise of cycling with the less apparent fact that TESTOSTERONE KILLS.

It is nearly impossible to be clipping along with a group of friends in a paceline without the ol’ competitive spirit coming out. Among cyclists, competition is active even when there are no race numbers pinned on the jersey….it just happens. Yes, there is camaraderie. Yes, there is cooperation as the paceline rolls along like flying geese with each member taking a turn at the front to block the wind. However, even during a casual group ride there are race moments that occur (like long climbs or sprints for stop ahead signs) when the camaraderie goes away, the testosterone flows like a tsunami, and the only thing you can think of is putting the hammer down and making some of your best friends feel pain similar to that of passing a kidney stone. There is no money at stake and there are no beautiful podium girls to kiss, but if I don’t crush some other guy (another old has-been who also now sports a double digit body fat percentage) then I am just not the man I used to be back in the day…

Most women cannot understand this. I understand it, but I wish it weren’t like that. I often wish I could find a group of cyclists who were edifying, encouraging, and full of brotherly love. However, most of the time the Go Fast Gene destroys all of that brotherly love stuff. So instead I live in a world where every bike ride is just a blink away from turning into a race.

That was my background before I found woodworking. That is the baggage I brought into this Wood Thing of Ours (La Cosa Nostra il Legno).

With woodworking, however, I have found nothing but encouragement. (Except of course for the internet forum guys who would flame their own mother....) So ignoring the internet flamers, woodworkers are very encouraging.

Woodworkers belittle themselves and tear apart their own work, but I have never personally seen anyone rip apart another woodworker.
I just don’t see guys talking to each other at a woodworking class or guild meeting saying things like, “Nice Gaps in your Dovetails, Tommy!!!! Have you ever tried cutting them with your eyes open????”

There is no equipment bashing such as, “You know, Gerald, Kunz is an ancient German word that means ‘owned by a guy too cheap to buy from Veritas or Lie-Nielsen.’”

Chris Schwarz and I have bantered with each other when there was no one else around, but we quit doing that after he went too far, hurt my feelings, and I threw a chisel at him. (As I drove him to the hospital he had to eat a big bunch of crow about his saying I had NO chisel sharpening skills.)

Truthfully, in my wonderful four years of woodworking, I have encountered nothing but friendliness, encouragement, and respect from every other woodworker I have met.

So somehow woodworking takes us to a higher level of male interaction. It moves us past the primal aggression and competition and closer to Zen.

Or perhaps it really moves us back… back to a time when we were innocent little boys and didn’t have to tear someone else down in order to make ourselves feel better.

Take a moment and watch this video. These are my twin nephews Jackson and Harrison. They are truly the toughest two kids I have ever seen. It is my assumption that for 9 months they shared a sack where they did nothing but grow, develop, and bang their heads together. They had to be doing head-butts for that entire time because they have no concept of pain. I have seen each of them take a shot to the head (normally from their older brother) that would leave any other kid on the planet wailing like Dom Deluise after dropping a cookie down a storm grate. Jackson and Harrison are Bad-To-The-Bone Junior Tough Guys. They are like little white identical twin versions of Ronnie Lott. Two tough little boys should be competitive. Two tough little pit vipers should be ready to put the smack down. Two little outlaws should be ready to prove to the world that each is the fastest gun in town. The video shows something else.

I shot this the week after they turned 4 years old. Disregard the part where Jackson grabs his crotch. (Why is it that every guy from age 2 to 92 just instinctively wants to grab his junk???) Also, disregard the unknown 6 year old stranger trying to tell us that confidence can move mountains…. whatever…. that’s a completely different motivational speech, kid. Confidence is not what makes this video great. The thing that makes this video great is: THE AUDIO. As Jackson conquers the Monkey Bars, listen to his twin brother Harrison shouting in the background.

Go Jackson!!! Go Jackson!!!

Do the last one and you’ve won!!!!!

Jackson, you've won!!!! You get the first cookie!!!!

And when I ask Harrison if he wants to do it too, the reply is a simple “no”. At four years old Harrison doesn’t define himself through comparison to the kid he looks exactly like. He doesn’t want to do the monkey bars, but he is thrilled that Jackson does.

Perhaps it’s because I have been a woodworker for exactly 4 years that I feel the same way as the four year old twins.

I don’t want to make infill planes, but Konrad Sauer has a gift from God. Go Konrad!!!! Go Konrad!!!!!

I don’t do inlays, but Garrett Hack is amazing. Go Garrett!!!! Go Garrett!!!!

I don’t make Disney inspired furniture, but Marc Adams has an ability so incredible that it almost certainly involved alien abduction in one of those Hoosier Cornfields. Go Marc!!!! Go Marc!!!!

It reminds me of a song by David Baroni, a truly gifted singer/song writer that I first met in Hobart, Indiana back in 1984. It says,

“To be a child again.

Oh if only I could be a child again.

A new beginning that would change the end

and make come true: the Might Have Beens…

If only I could be a child again.”

I still like my bikes. I love the strength and beauty of Italian made Carbon Fiber, Titanium, Steel, and Aluminum…

But through sawdust, I was re-born.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sarah, Get Me Sheriff Taylor!!!!!!!!!!!!

(This post is about 2000 words long, but it's a true story, so I wanted to tell the whole, rambling story...)

Sometimes tragedy befalls people, and their deaths leave unfinished business that require attention. I can think of multiple times when a politician has dropped dead or hit a tree while skiing without a helmet and their spouse stepped up to fill the vacated political position until an official election could be convened.

This blog nearly experienced a dose of regicide last week. However, I don’t think Gail would have stepped up to continue the blog had I been required to face judgment before my Maker. (Question…with Johnny Cochran now deceased, I wonder if he is available when it’s time to defend my life?) “He spent some time in an Earthly Jail, but he sho’ don’t deserve no Hell!!!!!!!!! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7!!!!! Judge open the gate and let this white boy into Heaven.”

Yeah I think that could be helpful when they open up the book. We always picture it as a long, single file line on the Day of Judgment, but they may have multiple lines. So if Johnny Cochran is busy with another case when it’s my turn to face lamb/goat classification, then I may try to track down Nipsey Russell. I don’t think it actually has to be a trained litigator…I mainly think the key to acquittal is finding somebody (anybody) who can bust out some catchy rhymes.

Gail will not continue this blog if I die. She’ll be busy writing her own blog about gorgeous cabana boys at 5+ star resorts all over the world as she “mourns” my death through the extravagant spending of life insurance pay-offs. (George Bailey ain’t the only fellow who is worth a heck of a lot more dead than alive…)

I have a friend who will remain nameless (TERRY) who has been telling me for five years that I really need my own reality show because every 3 or 4 days things happen in my life that are just abnormally weird (but highly entertaining). A classic example was last Tuesday…your typical snowy/icy day on the frozen Eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

Before I could back out of the driveway, I had to go out and get rid of the 5 inches of snow that had fallen during the night AFTER the freezing rain had left a nice 1/4 inch of ice on top of everything. So I got all bundled up and pulled on my goofy John Deere cap with the winter ear flaps and headed for the garage. I mainly wear the hat because it ensures I look completely retarded as I blow snow. It keeps my ears warm, but it does make me look “special”.

Anyway, wearing the goof-ball John Deere Winter Earflap Cap, I went out to the garage and opened the overhead door. Then, I jumped onto my 1981 John Deere model 214, fired up the Kohler engine, and engaged the PTO that set the auger spinning on the 37 inch snow blower. I shifted into first, heard the chinkling of the chains on the weighted tires and I grabbed the Variator lever as I headed into the snow drift that showed where the lower 3 feet of the garage door had been.

I love blowing snow on my garden tractor. Honestly, it takes about 5 minutes to clean my entire driveway, and if I am lucky one of my neighbors will be out with a stand behind snow blower and I can watch him complete two rows (10% of his driveway) in the five minutes it takes to ride along on my big Green and Yellow 1000 pounds of All American steel, snow chucking Wonka-mobile. Hell, even at 26 years old, this thing is so impressive I really deserve to get some of that Mellencamp Farm Aid money just for owning this thing. And if I get to do this in front of a shivering neighbor pushing and pulling on an unwieldy little machine made by MTD, then it is the equivalent of pulling up next to the former high school bully in your Mercedes Convertible and telling him you would love to chat but you have to get your supermodel wife off to a photo shoot before you go off to do your night job as a heterosexual male porn star. You could say I like blowing snow.

(Sometimes, very in this photo from a couple of years ago...
it's warm enough to blow snow without the hat.)

So last Tuesday morning, I was down at the very end of my driveway chugging the snow blower into the big chunky ice blocks that the county salt trucks had scraped and pushed and filled up the end of my driveway. Honestly, the end of my driveway looked like a two hundred year old field stone fence made out of icy snow chunks that had started their lives on Terra Firma out in the road. The way I handle this is to bust through the wall on the upwind end. Then, with the breach established I managed to drive down the length of the wall with the snow blower acting as a ballista to level the wall by chucking ice balls 30 feet in front of the tractor. (I LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!) Try to imagine the mechanical beauty of a mere 14 horsepower leveling an 18 inch high wall of icy softballs and volleyballs. CHUNKA!!!!!!!!!!!! CHUNKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CHUNKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the while looking over at your neighbor whose stream of snow out the chute of his little snow blower looks like the weakened stream of urine from an aged elephant whose urinary tract is narrower than a stick of angel hair pasta. Honestly, this is not a testosterone-enraged competition but as long as I managed to get a great deal on a basket case garden tractor 10 years ago…I should be able to bask in the joy that I receive from the creature that I lovingly restored to mechanical perfection.

As I got to the end of the wall, I had my head down looking for the gear shift lever that I needed to put into reverse when former Chicago Bears Free Safety #45 Gary Fencik (or possibly current Indianapolis Colts Strong Safety #21 Bob Sanders) came out of nowhere and put a lick on me that dang near knocked me off of my garden tractor. Just as I am basking in the glory of John Deere Driven/Kohler Powered bliss…I got hit on my right side with a 16 pound bowling ball traveling at 45 miles per hour.

The following disjointed sentences are the thoughts that went through my head over the course of just 4 or 5 milliseconds. It seemed like an eternity, but it was 5 milliseconds at the most. (It has been cleaned up immensely. I normally think in language that would offend George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Billy Bob Thornton, but for writing it down here I am changing the thoughts to a decidedly PG rating.)

WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!?!??!?!?!?!?

HOLY COW!!!!!!!!!!! Where did that snow plow come from. That must have been a plow truck come by that I didn’t see. Dang, that’s how a fella gets killed out here. Man O Man if you don’t see the plow truck coming, he could kill you when he kicks up those ice balls from the street. DANG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know there wasn’t a plow truck. There were headlights but they were way too low and way too narrow to have been a county plow truck.

It was a pickup truck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And that means………..


Some guy wants to drive down my road and spray up snow and ice just because I’m wearing this Retard hat?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

------------------- End of Thought Diary -----------------

That was it. That whole thing went through my head in 5 milliseconds. Then, I turned to look down the road to see who had chosen to do this juvenile but evil stunt.

Here is what I saw…………

It would seem that rather than intentionally spraying me with snow, a young fella had managed to lose control on the ice and pass his 4000 pound banana yellow truck within a couple of feet of my snow-blowing butt as he took out my mailbox and parked in my front yard.

My PG-rated thought was HOLY SHUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Notice the newspaper in the orange bag out in the street. It was in the mailbox prior to impact.)

He ended up being a very polite young man, but as he stumbled out of the truck, into the icy street, over into my driveway, he was experiencing an adrenaline rush of near combat magnitude. He is borderline freaking out as he tells me how sorry he is and how he will fix my mailbox.

I tell him everything is ok. I ask if he is hurt. He says he is not hurt. I assure him he is ok, and I tell him to relax and to not worry about the mailbox, because insurance would cover the whole thing.

He then said, “I don’t have any insurance.”

Apparently the expression on my face under the ear flapped hat must have changed, because I saw fear in his eyes. Acting like the mature adult I am (and remembering everything I have learned in the years of court mandated anger management sessions), I paused….took a very deep breath…….let it out very slowly…………took another breath…….let it out even slower…… Then, I softly said, “Really?!?!?! No insurance, huh?!?!?!?”

He was a very, very polite young man. This was a guy who recognized that his best approach was hat-in-hand apologies. He said, “I’ll pay for your mailbox.”

“Oh yeah, well what if you had hit me? What if you had been two feet farther to the right and had run my butt down and it took hundreds of thousands of dollars to put me back together….would you have paid for that, too?”

“Sir, I am very, very sorry.”

“You know…you can’t be driving without insurance.”

Now, I am sure he was fixated on the hat, but all I could think was, “am I supposed to call the Sheriff?” so I said, “Ya, know…I should probably just call the Sheriff. Anybody else would just call the Sheriff, but I don’t want to have to do that.”

“Sir, I get paid on Thursday, and I will bring you $100.”

Cha-Ching!!!!!!!!!!!! Capitalism Alert!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let’s profit from the negligence of others!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“One hundred dollars?!?!?!? The mailbox alone cost One Hundred Dollars. Not to mention the lumber post and the time and effort to put it in.”

“Sir, I will bring you $200 when I get paid on Thursday.”

“Well, ok…$200 is about right.”

Then, I say, “I’ll need to get all of your drivers license information, but if you need to call somebody to pull you out, then you can use the phone.” The story takes another interesting turn….

“Sir, it’s my uncle’s truck, and he doesn’t know I borrowed it, so I really can’t call him. Can you pull me out?”

My brain shouted, CALL THE SHERIFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I paused. I chose to not let him know that in the back garage behind my house sat a Jeep with Air Locking Differentials and a 9000 pound Warn winch. Instead I pointed at the blue Jetta in the garage (the garage door was still open) and I said, “PULL YOU OUT?!?!?!? I HAVE A VOLKSWAGEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I also ignored my wife’s V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked next to the VW, and he chose not to bring it up.

He said, he would try to get out on his own since his uncle’s truck had Four Wheel Drive. I supported his efforts by loaning him a snow shovel.

Then, we discussed the possibility of his screwing me over. I explained that 99 people out of 100 would just call the Sheriff. I told him that in addition to the driver’s license information I was going to take a whole bunch of photos of him and the truck so that it would strengthen his resolve to return on Thursday with the agreed upon cash.

We talked more as I shot the photos, and I found out he was 19 years old, and he had just finished up his 3rd shift job down the street at my former employer. (That’s the same company that paid me to move up from Indiana 12 years ago when I was an ambitious, young, brilliant, and successful mechanical engineer. That was back when I still thought I could set the world on fire.)

His driver’s license indicated he lived at the trailer park about 3 miles away.

He managed to dig the truck out, and when he walked back up to me to return the shovel and confirm the plan, he promised he would be back on Thursday. I told him Of Course He Would. Without saying it…I reminded him that with all of the photos, his butt was mine. All I had to do was contact the Sheriff and/or his Uncle….and his life would get real tough. He got in the truck tried to get traction on the icy street as he headed home to sleep, having worked all night building car parts.

I went back in the house and thought about a lot of stuff:

I get paid on Thursday…. (I could actually see the wheels turning as he tried to figure out how much he was going to net from that paycheck.)

He was so polite. There was no thug attitude. He was polite.

He doesn’t even have his own car.

His license is valid, though.

If he’s working third shift down there, that means he is still with Manpower, so they can’t be paying him more than $8 or 9 bucks an hour.

$200 for my Step 2 plastic mailbox and a pressure treated 4 x 4 post.

Two feet farther to his right and I would be dead. Not maimed….dead. That truck had to be going 45 mph at least. Oh, yeah…dead.

What was the deal with all of the Emergency vehicles this morning? Oh, the guy down the street with the big John Deere Garden Tractor with the Snow Blower got run down by a yellow Dodge Ram. Was he hurt? Only for about 5 milliseconds…then he died.

The quote of the year: “I don’t have any insurance.”

I get paid on Thursday.

A normal person would call the Sheriff.

There were lots of thoughts I dealt with. I just kept coming back to the fact that a normal person would just call the Sheriff.

I, honestly, waited 6 hours before I called.

I made up my mind about 4 hours after it happened, but I didn’t call for another two hours. I decided he deserved to at least get 5 or 6 hours of sleep after working third shift.

I didn’t call the Sheriff. I called him. I told him that I wanted him to take the $200 and put it toward getting some insurance. I said that he and I had both come very close to a tragedy that morning. I narrowly avoided getting killed, and he narrowly avoided going to jail. I let him know that I had already fixed my mailbox, and I also told him that $200 was worth a lot more to me when I was 19 years old than it is now. I said that as far as I was concerned it had never happened. He never lost control on the ice. He was never in my yard. He never hit my mailbox.

He thanked me very sincerely.

I reiterated that he needed to get insurance. He politely agreed.