Mechanical ability is one trait that I did not inherit from my father. While I’m a decent welder and an average carpenter, if you put a wrench in my hand, it’s a pretty safe bet that something is going to break. Dad, on the other hand, could overhaul an engine blindfolded, as was proved when he completely overhauled his tractor while suffering from severe cataracts in both eyes. When he was finished, it started on the first crank and ran like a sewing machine until the day he died.
Even though I realize my weakness as a mechanic, I continue to attempt basic maintenance operations on most of my machinery. Just last week, I began the daunting task of changing the oil and filters on two tractors, four mowers and the utility vehicle, starting with what I thought would be the easiest. Three hours later, after breaking two tools and making a 15-mile trip to the parts store, I had one machine completed. I decided to wait until the next day to start another one.
Early the next morning, I started on the big lawn mower. Surprisingly, everything went so well with that machine that I decided I would take the air compressor and blow away all the debris that had accumulated around the engine last summer. There was a lot of it, and as the old clippings and leaves were being peeled away, I noticed an oddly shaped object at the base of the engine that was flopping back and forth. When I had finished the air-blasting job, I reached down and grabbed the unusual item. Looking at it closely, I had no idea what I held. It was about 5 inches in diameter, 2 inches thick, and had a large threaded hole in the center. Since it was John Deere yellow, I knew it belonged on the lawn mower.
For the next half-hour, I searched every nook and cranny in, around, under and on top of the behemoth riding mower and found absolutely nothing that looked as if it was missing a part. Frustrated, I even resorted to retrieving the owner’s manual (I never do that) and looking at every picture in both the English and Spanish sections, and could find no picture that contained the bright yellow disk.
I decided that since I needed to go to my implement dealer and pick up a tractor filter that was on order, I’d take along the “extra” part and let them tell me where it belonged. I stopped by the house to tell my wife where I was going, showing her the plastic piece that had no home and had me completely bumfuzzled.
Now, as inept as I am as a mechanic, my wife is more so and only knows two things about machines: Fill it with fuel and — push the throttle as far as it will go. So, it shocked me when she said, “No need to take it to the implement dealer. I know what it is.”
“Really,” I said in a much too condescending tone. “What is it, Mrs. Goodwrench?”
“It’s the bottom of an old hummingbird feeder.”
Crownover lives in Missouri.