The old ’54 Chevy

Kind of a sad day around here last week as I watched my trusty old Chevy grain truck get loaded up on a trailer and hauled off to her new home in Owatonna. I had been perusing the want ads on Craigslist and ran across a guy looking for just such a beast. Since the old girl has been sitting back under the pines for about a year now without being started, I had been thinking of selling her for a while. That would take a bit of effort on my part to get her running and drive her up out of the weeds for a photo shoot. After emailing the guy, I found out that he basically wanted just her engine for a project truck he was rebuilding. He was a bit particular about making sure her engine was in the year range he was looking for and also that it had all the correct stock parts. Since I knew the original owner and also the second owner, I assured him that all was period correct with the truck. He even wanted a video of the engine running to make sure that it actually did.
I had bought the beast from a neighbor when we lived by Mazeppa. Basically, just because the hoist worked and she had a lovely fourteen foot bed with sides. Her first job for me was as a moving van of sorts when we moved out to the farm in ’94. Made three or four trips hauling household stuff and shop equipment as I recall. Top speed of about forty five miles per hour made for slow and bumpy ride with her two ton rated springs. That was probably just as well with all the slop in her steering it was a real challenge to keep her going down the road in a straight line. Her brakes were nothing special either with much pedal pumping going on before any actual braking took place. I learned to anticipate stops and turns with well advanced downshifts.

'54 Chevy

’54 Chevy

Over the years she hauled countless loads of gravel for our driveway, seed corn from the elevator to burn in our stoves, sand for our cement mixing projects, brush and trees from cleanup of the place, scrap iron to the recycling place in West Concord and I even used her as a scaffolding of sorts when I had to install siding on the barn. Due to her incredibly powerful hoist, there was never a load of rock or sand that she had trouble dumping when it was needed. I can imagine that back in the day she was quite a handsome farm truck, but that was sixty years ago now. Time spent at our farm sitting outside for twenty years has not done her any good. I had to repair the wood floor of her bed and also the sides on numerous occasions. And a few years ago one of her rear axle bearings went out stranding me on the side of the road with a full load of corn. That little episode cost me about seven bills including a tow home and all new bearings, seals and brake shoes to get her back in working order. While I’m sad to see her go, it is probably just as well. Hopefully her new owner can salvage that wonderful inline six engine and part of her will live on.

Labor Daze

It has been a while since my last entry on this blog. Not because nothing has happened this past summer, au contraire, too much has gone down leaving me virtually no spare time to tell you about it. Things that have never given any trouble before have suddenly conspired to break. Other things that should have broken down years ago finally did. I’ve had tractor troubles. My “new” truck developed electrical gremlins and my lawnmower engine grenaded right in the prime lawn-mowing season.
Consider my latest episode on Labor Day weekend: Saturday morning. We were getting ready to leave the house to take in the sights and sounds of the Rice County Antique Tractor and Steam Engine Days near Dundas. My wife casually mentioned to me “There is no water pressure in the kitchen faucet.” Not being one to be alarmed by such statements, I proceeded to run down the checklist of possible causes like the water filter needing to be changed or the circuit breaker switch on the pump being tripped to anything else that could go wrong with our well like a (gulp) bad pump. I found the culprit soon enough, a tripped breaker on the pump circuit. So, I flipped the breaker back on. I tripped almost immediately. I flipped it back on with the same result. This was not good. There was probably a short somewhere but where? A quick call to plumber Mark ( I was quite relieved when he actually answered the phone on a holiday weekend) and he had a few suggestions to look for like a burned out pressure switch, so I checked that. Nope, everything looked good there. His other thought is that maybe a critter had chewed through the wire somewhere between the pump and the electrical box, a distance of several hundred feet. Rare, but it happens, I guess. This would be harder to find and would require fresh wire to be laid on top of the ground and then wired in to both the pumphouse and the electrical box for testing purposes. Not the sort of thing I had anticipated doing on a long holiday weekend. My other option was to fire up my generator and hook that up to the pump to make sure that it was working. Naturally, the generator didn’t exactly fire up on the first pull, or the second for that matter, having sat around for a couple of years with old gas in the tank. A quick fuel system cleaning was performed and I had the beast running, although I had to keep the choke on about halfway for it to run cleanly.
Once the generator was hooked up to run the pump, I could see the pressure gauge making steady progress in the positive direction. Whew. That meant that the pump was in working order so no need to pull the well. That also meant that running a new wire from the breaker box to the pump was my next order of business. Off we went to Menards to gather the necessary supplies. Buying a two hundred fifty foot roll of wire was an eye-opener as well, but then it has been a while since I bought any electrical supplies so I should have expected that.
By the time we got back home it was too dark to attempt any kind of wiring project so I just left the generator hooked up to the pumphouse. We were able to at least take showers before bedtime, however, I had to run back outside after my shower and turn off the generator or it would just keep on running until it ran out of gas. So far, this episode had all the makings of a bad camping trip.
The next day, Sunday, I proceeded to run the new wire from the breaker box to the pumphouse. Once that was completed and the breaker
flipped back on, all systems were go, once again. We had water pressure. Oh happy day!
There was still the matter of burying the new wire and so the next day, Labor Day Monday, I commenced digging a shallow trench for the wire to lay in. Since I had to trench across part of the driveway with its compacted gravel, I retrieved an old pickaxe from the shed and started hacking away at the driveway. A thought occurred to me as I was swinging the crude implement, with the late summer sun beating down, sweat soaking my shirt and it was this: “Here I am, laboring on Labor Day. How appropriate.”
About an hour of that and I decided to see if the local hardware store was open and if they had any kind of powered trencher on hand. Wonder of wonders, the hardware store guy said they were open til 3pm and yes, they had a small trencher that I could rent. I made a beeline for the store and was back within the hour with the trencher in the back of my truck. After unloading said unit and firing it up, I commenced some real trenching. Sweet. This was going to be so much more fun than digging by hand! I had only gone about two feet when the machine found a buried rock and proceeded to smoke one of its two main drive belts. It looked like decision time. Do I take the machine back? (Yet another trip to town.) Or, do I keep going, with only one drive belt powering the trencher? I opted to keep trenching, carefully, so as to prolong the lone remaining belts’ life. All was well until I was about ten feet from finishing up when the machine found another rock and smoked the remaining belt. I guess we were done at that point. I would have to finish up trenching by hand. Sigh.
That’s about how it goes around our place. So close, but yet so far. It could have been worse, I guess. The well could have had to be pulled or a new one drilled. An endeavor like that makes me see dollar signs when I close my eyes. This whole experience has given me a new-found appreciation of seeing a steady stream of water whenever a faucet is turned on. I’m sure those of you who have your own well can relate.