Solving the problems of the world.
The "Memories of a Former Kid" cartoon in the February issue of Farm Collector took me back to a warm summer afternoon when I was about 12. My uncle, RV, would visit here in the Capon Valley whenever he could break away. I used to look forward to it because of the occasional road trips we took together.
There was a combination general store and garage in Wardensville that consisted of a small frame building with a long porch roof that half-covered a couple of gas pumps, and a freestanding garage with a single bay door large enough to get a poultry truck in. Uncle RV was friends with the owner and he would stop by to join some of the local boys who sat on ladder-back chairs as they solved the world's problems. If I had been good, and hadn't gotten in his hair that week, he would ask me to tag along. Man, I was clicking my heels because he would buy me a Royal Crown Cola and a Moon Pie.
The conversation seldom varied. Farming, logging, pickup trucks, tractors, fishing, hunting, etc., were all hashed out. On this particular afternoon, the topic was getting a tractor started on an icy cold winter morning. And with that, each man put his two cents' worth in on how he accomplished that task.
The important point was how much "coal oil" (read: kerosene) to add to the crankcase to thin the oil. Little did I know, I was about to witness my first adult disagreement. There was tension right from the start, when one man allowed as how he thinned his oil in advance. He said he added his coal oil while the engine was running. Well, that would never do, another man said, because it would flood the engine with a lubricant that was too thin. The first man said he had been doing it for years with no problems.
Then there was the disagreement over how much coal oil to add in total. One guy said he just kept pouring until the valves "were fixin' to clatter." That, of course, was a disaster, because it laid the groundwork for spinning a bearing. He didn't think so, though, because he had been doing it since he was a teenager and plowed his fields every year with that tractor. On and on it went, with some guys getting miffed over the perceived stupidity of some of the assembled. After all, something had to be done because none of the machines had been broken in on detergent oil. Adding a multi-viscosity detergent oil would destroy the engine as it scoured it clean.
The discussion finally settled on trying to determine how much coal oil to add so the old girl would spin. Uncle RV worked for an oil company, so everybody hung on his word: No more than 10 percent of the crankcase capacity should consist of coal oil. I thought we had 'er licked until one man remembered that the hollow where he lived up past Trout Run was the coldest spot in the county, so that proportion would never work. He was sternly reminded that he was going to damage his engine, but since he had been working it for years, that was an impossibility.
I had long since finished my RC and crumpled the wrapper of my Moon Pie before it was finally decided that, to keep the peace, each man should stick with his own recipe. After all, everybody would be seeing one another at church, so it was prudent to remain civilized on Sunday. As for that poor guy who lived in the hollow up the way, I am sure he was viewed with a suspicious eye.
Lang Moss, Wardensville, West Virginia