I have a dark secret. It’s something that I’ve kept locked away from the world for quite some time but it’s fighting to come out. So, like a tearful teenage mum confessing on daytime TV about how she shagged their Susan’s boyfriend’s brother’s half-cousin Wayne while Billy her husband was working his third job frying burgers to keep little Dwight in diapers and Red Bull, I feel an overwhelming urge to reveal the whole sordid truth (just without the Kapper tracksuit).
I don’t like working on machines.
There, I’ve said it. Yes, I might have a first class honours degree in Mechanical Engineering, but honestly, I just really liked the maths and physics and Electrical Engineering was off the table because I tend to electrocute myself when left alone with plugs. Plus, anyone that witnessed my Expandable, Foldable, Portable Dog Basket will understand why I was counselled away from Civil Engineering. Let’s just say it would be a curious and unnerving world if I got to design and build the bridges.
Don’t get me wrong, I love engineering mechanics and can phwoar about a well crafted machine as well as any man, but getting hands-on and intimate with bits of engines bores me. I know as a would-be farmer and a blokey-bloke I should like tinkering with my solenoid and get all charged up by alternators, but, well, the truth is they’re just frickin dull. I’ve struggled with the belief that I should like working on cars and engines and machinery, that I just need to focus some time and I’ll begin to understand the magic. After all, my brother was a mechanic and my Dad used to tinker with his car when we were kids. It’s practically genetic.
Then this weekend I had a moment inspired by George The Tractor. I’ve neglected him. After being left alone in his green garage for a month in the cold, he’s not a happy tractor and it’s all my fault. I know diesel’s don’t like the cold. I drive a Jetta TDI and that grumbles more than Emma putting socks away when the temperature hits zero. So it was no surprise that as the snow lay piled and I cranked his engine to start to shift it, he remained cold and lifeless. As unresponsive as a Frenchman to a day of hard labour, Big George displayed no visible signs of life. There could be only one explanation: the battery was frozen and drained. I managed to get my battery charger on it but even 90mg of ER-grade Melahiladrillabone stat couldn’t bring that battery back from whence it had gone. Then I had the idea of taking it inside to warm up. Who’d have thought I had to disassemble both headlamps only to discover that short of a handy fifth dimension in which size is optional, there doesn’t appear to be any way to get the damn thing out?
So, after failing to stimulate any life in my tractor and utterly frustrated by my lack of mechanical skills, I hand-ploughed the 100′ x 20′ driveway clear of eight inches of wet snow which led to two important revelations. Actually that’s not true. I had three, but the first was I should have built the house closer to the bloody road which is superfluous to the story here. So ignoring that, I realized that first of all, I’m not a winter person. I like the sun and could quite happily do without the snow. Give me a nice hard frost any day or at the very least, a son old enough to handle a snow-blower without mincing up the cat, his own feet or the cat and his own feet and I’d be a happy chap.
Second, it’s impossible to be excited and interested in everything. Could I learn to be a good tractor mechanic? Sure, with enough time and if I’d exhausted all other possibilities including:
- learning how to speak French without sounding like the neglected love-child of a Pakistani Jamaican with a mouthful of peanut butter
- discovering how to complete a Rubik’s cube before being overcome by the urge to hurl it into a low-earth orbit
- understanding how to wire a plug without bringing down the national grid and
- getting a reasonable explanation for why Canadian electricity companies get away with charging more for delivery than the actual energy itself (especially since I was forced to pay several thousand dollars for my own damn pole)
Sorry, digressing again. My basic thinking is that if Cooter can do it for the Dukes of Hazard, then I’m confident learning the basics of vehicle mechanics isn’t beyond me. Should I flagellate myself like a catholic priest caught with his hand down the wrong cassock because I don’t want to? No, of course not. Like any decently ruthless Swiss banker will tell you, there are times when you’ve just got to buy your way out of an uncomfortable situation, act like you’ve done nothing wrong and then see if you get away with it.
So, that’s what I’ll be doing. Shaun The Hunter is coming to give me a hand getting the old battery out and I’ll be dropping in a new one this week. Then I’ll make sure Big George doesn’t get neglected again and is made to work for his keep. The lesson here? That a tractor’s for life, not just for ploughing. Oh, and keeping a hobby-farm running isn’t something that will wait until the weather warms up.