Sunday, May 16, 2010

Up in Smoke

Today was a beautiful day.  I got up early, walked out of the house to a beautiful sunny, warm day.  I spent seven hours working in the yard, mowing, weed-eating, hanging up the heavy bag, putting up the canopy on the gazebo, watering the garden, etc.  It went much better than last Saturday. 

Last Saturday was windy and a bit on the cool side.  The wind did a good job of stirring up all of the pollen, so I immediately started sneezing when I walked outside.  Not a problem, I am used to it by now.  I mowed the front lawn with the push mower and then moved on to the tractor for the backyard.  About 20 minutes into the backyard, the tractor seemed to be slowing down.  I thought it was my imagination, sort of an allergy induced mind trick to make me feel like the lawn was going to take longer to mow. 

As I turned the tractor to make another pass on the lawn, the wind suddenly died down and I caught sight of something not right.  A little plume of smoke was coming from the front of the engine.  I hadn’t noticed it before because the wind was blowing hard and my already clogged nose wasn’t reporting anything other than its hatred of nature.  I shut off the mower and let it cool down (i.e. I walked around the yard cursing and kicking at things). 

When I returned, I inspected the engine and couldn’t find anything that could be causing it to smoke.  This isn’t the first time I have caught the tractor on fire, two years ago I ran over a small pile of leaves and they got caught around the exhaust and with a little breeze, burst into flames.

I thought something similar was happening, maybe with it being so windy, something got stuck around the engine and was just burning off.  I inspected the engine and exhaust and couldn’t find anything.  I got back on and started her up.  Everything was right as rain, for another 5 minutes.  This time, my nose, taking a momentary break from expelling high speed snot, got a good whiff of burning oil.  And there was that smoke again, this time a lot thicker.  I jumped off and saw the entire side of the engine covered in motor oil.  I messed around with it some more, added oil, checked for leaks, but I couldn’t find the source of the leaking and burning oil.  I tried to start it up again but the engine had seized and refused to start.  More cursing, more kicking at real and imaginary things.

Get it fixed or sell it for scrap metal?  After a long internal debate and then a very simple conversation with my wife, the scrap metal option would probably be the easiest and least expensive in the long run.  I headed out to what I thought would be a relatively quick trip to Sears to buy a replacement.  I already knew what I wanted, having seen it every time I get one of their ads in the mail.

I waited patiently as the Sears salesperson worked with other customers and when it was my turn, I told her what I was looking for.  She showed me a couple different models, explained some features, and even tried selling me their top of line professional garden tractor with a 54” deck, PTO, 23” rear tires and a reserve fuel tank for twice the price of the one I wanted.  I explained I wanted to mow the lawn, not harvest the back 40.  I gently guided her back to the one I wanted.  Craftsman lawn tractor, built by Husqvarna, 46” deck, 24 HP engine.  She said I was in luck, there was one in stock.  We headed to the outside warehouse to take a look at it.  We then proceeded to look at every single tractor in the building to find the right one.  It wasn’t there.

I asked if she could check with another store to see if they had one.  “No, they don’t,” she explained, “I called the two closest stores last night looking for one for another customer and they were all out.”

Last night.  You didn’t have one last night.  Did you think that the warehouse would magically grow one over night?  Why did we spend an hour reading the serial numbers off of 150 tractors if you knew you didn’t have one last night?  Did you think that over night, two of the other tractors might get frisky and spawn a new one?

“Can I have the floor model?”  (I really didn’t want the floor model, I saw at least 10 different kids jump up and down on it while I was waiting, who knows what other abuse it has taken in the year that it has sat there.)

“No, we don’t sell the floor models.  I could order you one, it would be here by Wednesday.”

“I can deal with Wednesday.”

“Well, it would be here on Wednesday, but it comes unassembled in a crate.  It would be ready for pick up by Friday or Saturday.”

My mind quickly calculated how many people saw me come into the warehouse with this woman and if I could be identified as a suspect if she was found dead with a Craftsman lawn tractor shoved up her ass.  “Umm, I will think about it.”  And quickly left before the voices in my head could persuade me to do it.

I headed to Home Depot.  Big mistake.  The is the busiest Home Depot on the east coast, one the busiest in the country and a Saturday in spring is perhaps one of their busiest days.  There was not a single parking space open in the entire lot.  In my current mood, a large crowd of people would not be the best place for me to be.  Lowes was another ten minutes away and if I couldn’t find anything there, I could head to the overflow Home Depot (yes, they build a second Home Depot seven miles for this one strictly for overflow).

Lowes proudly displayed a row of several different John Deere mowers.  All of them at least $800 more than the comparable models at Sears.  But they had an amazing offer going on, if you purchased one that day, you would get a John Deere hat for FREE!  Who could pass up that offer?  No thank you.  But what did I see in the second row of mowers?  The same exact mower that I wanted at Sears.  A Husqvarna 46” cut 24 HP, except this one was orange instead of the Craftsman red and black.  And it was on sale for the same price!  I flagged down a sales associate and yes, he had five in stock.

“Are you sure?”

“Um, yeah [jackass], I just sold one to someone else and there were five more like it sitting right next to it.”

I told him I wanted one.  As part of the current sale, I could get a $120 dump cart along with it for free.  What?  No hat?  I told him that I already own a dump cart and he agreed to knock the $120 off the price.

My new toy:

The heavy bag hung temporarily from a tree (Thanks Mr. Dave!):

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