No duct tape in sight means it’s really garbage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 8, 2004

It seemed like a week doomed from the start, the week leading up to the grand “Fofa July” holiday. Doomed, anyway, from a mechanical point of view.

Son Clifton and I headed out from The Ponderosa (that’s what I’ve come to call home, especially since Miracle Number Four makes it seem like the Cartrights’ dinner table), toward Demopolis Monday week ago. The Plan was for his granddaddy to meet us at The Times, and carry him back to Mississippi for week’s visit.

Since the Sergeant Major’s in the habit of getting up in time to make and drink a pot of coffee before rousting the rooster, I figured he’d be in Demopolis awaitin’ long before we arrived, even though it was a late afternoon pickup we had scheduled.

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It was that last traffic light in Selma that got us. We had to stop, and upon revving up again, found the Chevy, christened just the week earlier as The DeerSlayer, had lost its get-up and go. Two hours later, we sputtered into the parking.

The rest of the week was consumed with trying different means of rectifying the problem with a Vortec 5 liter engine not getting enough gas. Fuel filters changed, Sea Foam – the stuff you put in your gas tank when you suspect there’s water where petroleum is supposed to be, tire kickin’ and the use of a few slightly more descriptive parts of speech than usual all failed to solve the problem.

By Friday, I turned to Gerry for help. “It’s the fuel pump, no doubt about it,” he said.

Well that was a bit of good news. After all it was still under warranty because it hadn’t been in my fuel tank a good two months yet. Problem was, there was about 200 miles between ‘Slayer and the mechanic who could get the part replaced.

Luckily, Sergeant Major and Clifton were coming back through on Saturday, so ‘Slayer stayed in Demopolis for the Fofa weekend.

I drove and, thankfully, didn’t break anything on the way back to The Ponderosa.

But that would change once we got home.

Saturday was hot as blazes, but shortly after dark was the fireworks display and it a nice gentle breeze kicked up making the afternoon tolerable. Up from the couch I arose with a grunt, for there was yard work to do after a late afternoon lunch.

Down the hill to the neighbors I headed, in search of the faded blaze orange Scag Zero Radius. It wouldn’t crank on its own. Not to be dissuaded, a pair of insulated lineman’s pliers was all that was required to “hotwire” the contraption. It fired right up after the safety circuit was completed with the metal pliers.

I noticed a little less umph from the machine as it climbed the hill. Oh well, the hydraulic pumps were weak on the old lawnmower anyway.

I actually made it through cutting the front yard before it started smoking … and stopped moving.

One of the pumps had finally given up its ghost and had taken the drive belt along with it.

We drug it back down the hill with the F150 – my neighbor’s F150. An hour later, I discovered the pump had been leaking fluid for a while – judging by the dead and dying St. Augustine on which it had been sprayed.

The same said neighbor had invited The Family to camp out at the Presbyterian Church to take in the fireworks show, it being just across the way from the stadium. A fine watermelon cuttin’ was undertaken just before the first explosion and we had an enjoyable time. Didn’t even loose a single kid in the crowd in the stadium.

Sunday – the Fofa itself – worked out fairly decently. We took kids and all to the beach. We didn’t loose one there, either, and managed to break in enough time at the honor-box watermelon patch near Samson and pick up a $2 watermelon that “looked like one from home,” Caitie Bug opined. At seven, she has a clear understanding of what a “real” watermelon looks like and insists on picking them out herself – or at least getting final approval.

As I said, we made it back to The Ponderosa with time to spare, except that I was sunburned from the all the fun.

I said my prayers that night, thanking The Almighty for his providence in seeing us home without me breaking anything.

Monday was hotter than the day before, and there was no breeze. I tinkered with my son’s go-cart (which hasn’t really run in a year) and fixed his scooter. Amazed at the fact I hadn’t broken either, I felt vindicated.

A few steaks on the grill for supper and a pay-per-view showing of Master and Commander would make my holiday complete.

That was until The Ponderosa went dark. Completely. No power anywhere. My neighbors had lights, and more importantly, air conditioning.

Back down the hill to the neighbor, who happens to be an electrical engineer. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that he knows anything about the wiring in a house, but he’s safer than me just poking around. We poked together, ascertaining that the 60-amp breaker that must feed everything else in the house was shot.

“I didn’t do it,” I said. “I was just runnin’ the blender and Buffy was just orderin’ the movie.”

A couple of hours later, we had managed to, one, rewire the two breaker panels; and, two, actually supply the required amperage to run everything in the house.

“It’ll hold ’til the house catches on fire,” Neighbor said.


“Just kiddin’. You Baptists take everything so literal. I was surprised you ain’t already burnt the house down.

After surveying the work and giving the go-ahead to replace the meter, Neighbor added: “You know you’re startin’ to be high-maintenance.”

I didn’t have time to reply. Number One Son had slipped onto the back deck. From his perch above the power box came his Wise Saying.

“You just figurin’ that out? My rule is if you can’t fix it with duct tape, it’s probably needs throwin’ away. And y’all ain’t used any duct tape anywhere.”

Some how he managed to disappear just before the lineman’s pliers reached his perch.

; he’s kerry co-chair