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Old Squawky

What promises to be no doubt the last gorgeous day of the season in the Ohio valley awaits outside.  The last major job I face before winter sets in is to move our single pot-belly pig into the chicken coop before my son and I set off on the old Amtrak line and head back to Anderson Valley for a spell.  Some friends will be stopping by and feeding her while we're away.  I don't have a lot to say about pot-belly pigs yet because I've never butchered one, and except for venturing out to feed her once a day, the only observation I've made is that she's nothing like the Durocs and other western breeds who are all extremely active and require electric fence to contain. Miss Piggy, as I call her, prefers to lay around in a homemade nest like a walrus on the beach 24-7, only ceasing to snore when she hears me dump feed in the pen.

Other than Miss Piggy, the only goal before we depart Friday is to once again start up the early 1970's model David Brown diesel tractor that is still parked in a field behind our house where it has lingered since I purchased the machine several weeks ago from a colorful local known as "Old Squawky."

"It's NO BIG DEAL," Old Squawky repeated at least twenty times when I first agreed to pay $2500 for the machine.  "NO BIG DEAL."

1970s David Brown Diesel Tractor

The first tractor I'd ever actually purchased, this vintage diesel magically motored the fifteen mile drive south and west from Old Squawky's equipment yard to our farm, where I parked in front of the barn and should have actually parked IN the barn.  Later that day, I could not resist the urge to start up the David Brown, who will hereby be referred to as "Old Squawky."  I hadn't had a tractor since Hoefest, when my old buddy who'd loaned the ancient Farmall 300 tractor had decided to restore the antique and sell it on-line.  Without a tractor, I'd been unable to work the crop residue and weeds into the ground from our sweetcorn, watermelons, etc., and the lambsquarters and pigweeds were rearing their ugly heads and waving them at me defiantly in the autumn breeze, so I hooked Old Squawky up to the disk and was pleased to see he had no problem pulling the 10 foot-wide contraption, until I made the first turn along the edge of a neighbor's cornfield and the engine died.

"You got starvation of fuel," the mechanics all agreed.  So I replaced the fuel filters and emptied out the sediment bowl, a process that turns out to be tedious on the British-made diesel motor, as the sediment bowl is strangely upside-down, allowing air pockets that must be purged by cranking the motor incessantly and bleeding the air out the valves on the fuel pump.  They all knew Old Squawky, as well as the David Brown he'd sold me.  "It's NO BIG DEAL," they said, imitating him.

As I investigated further, I discovered the oil-based air filter to be full of rainwater, the negative cable on the starter motor not even bolted to ground on the engine block but dangling loose.  It was a miracle the tractor had even started.  I've gotten it running three times since, the first for forty-five seconds, the second maybe two minutes, and the last time probably close to four, so the tractor is gradually making its way back to the barn as we work the problems out.

The weather turning sour soon, I look forward to visiting friends in Anderson Valley.  Sarah Songbird of the "Real Sarahs," also of the Anderson Valley Nursery, is helping put on some kind of a show at Lauren's, starting at 9:00 on Saturday, November 22.  The Sarahs will open, and after they play their set I'm going to get up and do what I like to call the "Ballad of the Bullshit," punctuated by music.  We plan to spend a week rehearsing with some other musicians, prior.  For that reason I sent her a cd with a bunch of my songs last Tuesday, and anxiously awaited her review of the material.

"You're definitely at the beginning stages of your musical journey, Spec," she finally said Sunday Night over the phone.  "I'm not sure what the others will think of your stuff."

"I know."  I told her how I'm not really at the beginning stages, how twenty years ago I flipped a jeep and propelled headfirst through the side window, magically surviving with nothing but a sliced ear and nerve damage to my left arm, renderring my left pinky useless.  My left ring finger is also limited in application, so for more than a decade I struggled to play the simplest chords on a guitar, finally discovering the banjo here in Indiana and removing the top string so there are only four, with open G tuning, so I can actually play my songs after years of mental and physical torture.  Playing guitar for me had always been like a guy with one leg trying to succeed in the long jump.  "Look.  I'm not proud of my musical ability."

"And what's this about Topless Turnip Tossing?  Sarah and I are serious artists."

"What's that, Sarah Songbird?  You got a problem with alliteration?"

"Well I'm not putting anything about toplessness on our poster."

"It's not what's implied.  I was gonna say 'Topless Turnip Juggling,' but decided to go with the alliteration.  Also, I can't juggle."  I went on to tell her how my dad, a Lutheran School principal, is an excellent juggler who used to entertain us kids at recess with volleyballs, basketballs, or softballs.  "I'm sort of like evidence contrary to evolution, since I can't juggle."

She laughed.  "Still I'm not putting toplessness on the poster."

"Cool.  It's not up to me."

"And I'm not sure about that song, 'Crank Ho Stayin in the Basement.'  That doesn't fit with our genre."

I told her how I'm no fan of crank or prostitution, but I have several friends who live in houses with extended family and they've got uncles and literally crank hoes staying in the basement 24-7; it's the reality in rural America 2014.  In fact four of the last five women who stalked me at the gas station or bar in Verona turned out to be strung out on crank, the only exception being one from Austin who is hooked on pills and heroin.  "That's the dating reality where I live, within a hundred mile radius," I told her.  "I got to get to Bloomington or Nashville to meet wholesome hippie chicks."

"Still not sure about that song.  I don't know what the others will say about it."

"Just remember this, Sarah.  It's really NO BIG DEAL."

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