Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Suthun Man's Toolbox - Duck Tape

It has been called one of the great wonders of the modern world. (I have an altar to the stuff in my work shed.) It's sticky on one side and silver on the other (and even comes in colors these days!) It is one of those tools that belongs in every Suthun Man's toolbox, in ANY tool box for that matter. (Fun fact: Duck Tape is one of the very few items to have been taken to the moon which was not specifically designed for space travel.)

I've seen Suthun Men (and women) use Duck Tape for car repair, furniture repair, and even clothing repair. There are more uses for it than I can name here. It's an incredible tool. It is called Duck Tape - not DUCT Tape.  (Using Duck Tape on an air duct will actually dry it out, thus it is not good for use on Air Ducts, but I digress...) Duck Tape gets it name from a nickname for the product given to it by military personnel when it was introduced to them back in WWII. The tape was designed as a quick repair for boxes of ammunition as it was always sticky, and water repellent. Soldiers began calling it DUCK Tape since water rolled off it like water off a ducks back. The name stuck.

Now that we've had our history lesson, let's see just how inventive our Suthun Friends can be with this wonderful product.
With a lot of cardboard and a couple of rolls of duck tape, you can create a nice 'Suthun Hummer' - though not quite as 'armored' as the original.

Better yet, with enough duck tape, you can do complete body work.

If your little one has trouble with 'leakage' a bit of judiciously applied duck tape might be just the answer.
(The parent here has at least given his charge a LIGHT beer...)

The Uses and Abuses of Duck Tape have been documented across the internet. If you think you have a new and unique use for it, chances are someone somewhere has already done it. So, I shall leave you with this final consideration: Babysitting.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Lawn Ranger

The lawn mower is the lynch pin in the arsenal of the Lawn Ranger. Without it, he's like Thor without his hammer, Sosa without his bat, or Hillary without Clinton. (They're all tools, get it? but I digress...)

Two weeks ago I told the story of the demise of Big Stumpy and his associate in grime, Rocky. (They will sing songs and write poems about it someday...) I also pointed out that I had to buy a new lawn mower. The story of the lawn mower makes for an interesting (hopefully) story, too.

Note to self: If you hit a stump you kill a lawn mower. Good information that. The first time I hit a small stump, the mower continued to work, but had a heavy vibration in it. The second time, the mower wouldn't start. Dead. I took a moment of silence and began my nightmare.

Places that work on mowers won't give you a quote over the phone. No, really, it's true. They have to actually LOOK at the machine to be able to give you a quote. In addition, they want to charge you for the time it takes to look at your pathetic fossil fuel powered friend and laugh. (Hey, Charlie, get a load of this! He hit a stump and wants to know how much to fix it! HAW HAW HAWWWW) This happened all in my mind and I was not about to be laughed at by a couple of Suthunas in coveralls and charged for the pleasure. In addition, let's face it, I couldn't afford the fee.

A few months back a local hardware store gave us a credit card with a ludicrous credit limit. This after we had redecorated most of the house and put it all on "another card." It's one of those "All-in-One" stores with lumber and washers and dryers alongside your nice Mattocks (with the nigh indestructible polycarbonate handle) but I hesitate to give their name as I really don't want to advertise for anyone. I also don't want them to rethink the ludicrous credit limit. So we headed over there to check out the Lawn Mowers.

We examined the whole line and spoke with a nice intelligent man who gave us the stats on each model, and for obvious reasons ($$$) we chose one. Being the careful buyer I am, we took a night to think on it. The next day we were back with the model in mind; but as we approached the door, my lovely wife spied some mowers sitting out down at the far door. Upon inspection and a little help from a salesman, we discovered that these were John Deere mowers, refurbed and for sale for $100 off the original price. That $100 off put the price right at where we were about to buy an inferior brand and came with the John Deere 2 year warranty, so in short: we bought it. (That's the model in the pic above...)

The first time I ran it, it ran rough. So, back to the store. They gave me a song and dance (really, full orchestra and everything) about it being 'gravity fed gas tank' and they cleaned and replaced the spark plug (for free) and sent me on my merry way. One week later, same scenario, so I took the machine back and insisted on it being repaired. Hey, it came with a warranty, so why not?

A few days later my wife gets a call from some Jack Ass (no that's not his name but it's what I call him) who says he's from John Deere and needs to pickup the mower. She tries to tell him that the mower is in the hands of the Hardware folks, but he's a bit too Suthun to understand. So, now it becomes my endeavor to make sure what is REALLY going on with my mower. 2 Full days of 1) Phone Tag, 2) "Oh you just missed him..." and finally I had to get the manager on the phone. Then I get a call from the Lawn Mower guy to explains that he's getting me a new mower. "Ooooo!!" says I..."a NEW MOWER?" (Do New Mowers come with that New Mower Smell like new cars? Ooooooo) I was fairly fainting with the vay-pahs at the thought!

A few days later I pick up my new mower and they are nice enough to load it in the back of the Jeep. (It's still in the box, and I'm dancing around like a 3 year old who has to pee) and my nice neighbor helps me unload it in the driveway. It takes another few days until I test it out, but It was absolutely amazing.

There is nothing and I mean NOTHING like a lawn mower with REAR wheel drive. As the bag gets heavier, the mower gets better traction and it climbs hills with ease. You cannot walk too fast or too slow, it adjusts with your speed as you push on it. It worked so well that the string trimmer was spurred into working long enough to trim the entire yard. I had finished the front and back in the time it used to take me to do just the front.

With my lawn now coming under control, I feel a bit closer to being accepted as one of the locals. Next, I have to save up for a riding lawn mower, or maybe I'll end up getting my neighbor to help me do this:

Sunday, September 13, 2009


If you're planning on living in the South, you gotta know a little about NASCAR Auto Racing. NO, not just any racing of motorized vehicles, it has to be NASCAR. Fer instance: What do those letters mean? NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. Like some religious cult with several charismatic leaders vying for supremecy, NASCAR has fans who follow their respective favorites with a fervor not unlike the followers of Jim Jones only instead of Kool Aid it's gasoline. They intone the names of their favorites like catholic saints: Gordon, Waltrip, and of course Earnhardt (No. 3).

This picture is all over the internet. It shows a true fan. He's got his girlfriend/wife/significant other to carve the number "3" into the hair on his back. But it shows even more than that. Look at the track. It's like they are in a plane flying by overhead! They are in the 'nose bleed' section but that doesn't dampen their enthusiasm for the event. I imagine they truley enjoyed the experience, too. Me? I'm afraid to say I get bored watching car races. Any car races for that matter. I mean, what's to see? The cars go round the track. The cars go round the track. The cars go round the track The cars...zzzzzz

I'm amazed watching the races on TV. Amazed at the true intensity of the fans. I find myself watching the crowds in the stands more than the cars on the track. Fueled with beer and the exhaust fumes, they can get rowdier than a Manchester United Football match. (Look it up...) They cheer as the cars go by, hefting their drinks in salute and then they compare notes, knowledge and place bets while the cars go round the far side of the track, only to do it all again as the pack screams by again.

Some will say that the fans only go to see the accidents. Not so. Ok, so there are a few who do go hoping to see a bit of blood and oil on the tarmac, but the true fans, TRUE FANS go to cheer their favorites, tracking the standings like wall street investors and trading stories of the pit crews with those who they find around them in the stands. True Fans hate to see the accidents. They want to see every car in that last lap, vying for the finish line the roar of the engines drowned out by the cacophony from the stands. True Fans go for the race.

Nashville recently got a new Super Speedway so now I can avoid going to Local NASCAR races as well as those out of town. Someday, I know one of my 'truly' southern friends is going to invite me to a race and I will have to go. Maybe then I will truly understand the excitement, but until then, I think theres a race on TV and I've been a hankerin a nap.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Between the Stump and the hard place...

Things grow fast in the south. I mow the lawn once a week and sometimes twice. The vines and trees can get out of control. With a big pruner I can cut off the suckers and vines, but sometimes I miss a few and they end up growing into bushes. Cut them down and that leaves a stump. Some of these stumps are small, and some are big.

For the last two weeks I've been working on my yard, trying to get these stumps out of the ground. I won't go into the story (too much) of the new lawn mower, but I will point out that those little stumps left over from the small suckers and trees you cut down can jump up out of the ground and attack your defenseless mower when you least expect it. One of them did jump up and killed my old trusty lawn mower. That's when I went on a rampage taking out the little stumps. (Visualize Rambo with a pith helmet.)

I felt kinda like Superman when the first two stumps popped out of the ground the first weekend. They came out of the ground like I was harvesting carrots! Then I went after my nemesis: Big Stumpy. Big Stumpy is a conglomeration of sucker stumps and god-knows-what that have grown together over time and I finally just lopped it off at near ground level to get rid of the thing. What I was left with is a troll like massive ugly stump that can only be called "Big Stumpy". Ok, I'm making light, but this thing is about 24 inches across at the widest point and still had little green shoots coming out of it every so often. Big Stumpy wasn't hidden in the grass like the little ones so there is no chance he was going to kill any of my fossil fuel powered friends, but once I got started (and over zealous) I knew it would be a fight to remember. Like the Rumble in the Jungle, this would be known as Brawn on the Lawn....ok, stop giggling and we can move on...

Big Stumpy

Stumpy gave me quite a battle I have to say that. When L'il Stumpy killed the lawn mower and I bought a new one, I also picked up a Mattock, also known by some as a 'Pick-axe'. With a heavy head and a hickory handle, it's one of those things which can almost change your DNA to SUTHUN as you carry it out of the store. Testosterone covered the handle as I brought it out the first time. The Mattock is what helped me to kill the two little stumps and I was sure that it would serve me well in my efforts with Big Stumpy.

The first skirmish with Big Stumpy was a a draw. I dug a bunch of dirt out from around it, and sweated a lot into the 90 degree weather. Big Stumpy squatted in his big hole and stayed solid. The following weekend, I was out there again, determined to make a dent of some kind. This is where Big Stumpy showed me his toughest side. He broke the Mattock. I heard it snap, and I couldn't' believe it. I nearly shed a tear. I mean it's not like Hickory grows on trees, I mean...uh...well, ok so it does.

I went to the store and picked up a new Mattock., but not another of the standard with the hickory handle. THIS ONE has an unbreakable polycarbonate handle with a lifetime guarantee. Big Stumpy was quivering in his big hole when I hauled the tool out of the back of the Jeep. I squared my cap on my head, snugged my gloves on and waded in.

Right away, I found out that Big Stumpy had a hidden partner. "Rocky." Buried right there beside the stump was a rock easily as big as the stump itself and was the main reason that Stumpy had so easily resisted my efforts to break him. The mattock broke off a piece of it, but it was the unbreakable polycarbonate handle that allowed me to lever the big grey beast out of the ground. With Rocky out of the way, Big Stumpy didn't have a chance. In only minutes I had him laying on the ground beside the big hole screaming for mercy. He got none.

Dead Stumpy and Rocky

The only bad part to this is that none of my Suthun neighbors was around to see my victory. I carried Dead Stumpy out to the wood pile as a big SUV drove by - someone I didn't know - but he saw the stump and saw my victory. He did exactly what I'd expect from a fellow Suthunah...He nodded. I nodded back.

I tossed Dead Stumpy in the woodpile. Later, I set Rocky in the garden. The Mattock with the polycarbonate handle hangs in the place of honor in the tool shed.