Blasted tractor’s wrecking my body!

August 7, 2010

This latest tractor keeps finding new ways to wreck my back.  Take Friday’s misadventure for example:  Bet and I had to run up to Kingston to pick up some new pulleys for the mower which runs on the back of the little Bolens tractor.   Trouble is, the thing eats belts.  Inside a month I have gone through four.  They are scarce and expensive, though I have found a Belarus Tractor dealer in Wisconsin with a sideline in v-belts who sends them to me from an outlet near Stratford.

A talk with Peter Myers narrowed the problem down to the sheaves (what I would call pulleys) which were severely pitted from corrosion.  V-belts are tough, but they must have a smooth surface on which to run. He suggested the sheaves are a stock item and that I should simply replace them.

And so I did.  Then I dropped Bet at a supermarket and had an hour to kill.  The other trouble with the Bolens is that its seat doesn’t have any springs, so I have to pad my spine with two pillows if I want to stay on the tractor for any length of time.  The big Canadian Tire next door to the food store should have parts for lawn tractor seats.  I’d find a way to adapt them.

CTC didn’t have any compression springs for the purpose, but I ran into something else which made me forget all about the tractor project.  It also let loose the latent Walter Mitty in me:  next to the sports department they have set up what looks like a narrow plexiglass squash court, but at the end is a hockey net.  Monitors across the ceiling display information about the moving pucks.  A rack with several dozen carbon fibre hockey sticks stands outside.

I wanted to try it.  It matters not a bit that I am no hockey player – nor that I haven’t had skates on since a field trip to the Rideau Canal Skating Rink during my rookie year as a teacher.  Nor that my two elderly colleagues, Ralph Greenhorn and Ernie Hogan, had to tow me against a stiff headwind the 4.8 miles back to Dow’s Lake from the Chateau Laurier.  The muscles in my back had seized up and I simply couldn’t move.  So much for skating.

Nonetheless, I wanted to try to fire a slapshot through a radar gun, just to see.

I paid my money and a bemused hockey jock from the sports department set me up with the softest, shortest, right-handed stick he could find.  He joined me in the shooting court to control the flow of pucks from the pitching machine and offer advice.

He warned me to shoot, not to hesitate, or I would “get buried under pucks.”  The first white disk squirted along the “ice” from the machine at a steady 22 mph.  I stopped it and took aim at the net, noticing a little light had illuminated the lower right hand corner of the net.  I shot at it and hit the net, along the ice, dead centre.  It must have been that blinking light throwing me off, because I discovered my chances of hitting the target at a range of twenty feet were about as good as those of hitting the areas to either side or above the net, or even the face of the pitching machine.  This was the most inaccurate hockey stick I have ever handled.

What’s more, it was one of the slowest.  Like anyone else’s, my memory is full of cannonading blasts past goaltenders on the ponds and rinks of youth, even though most of the time I played goal because I had a good glove hand and couldn’t skate.

But in the cruel glare of the radar gun, my best slapshot — the one that caught the upper left corner of the net at the same time the light blinked in the lower right — clocked in at 35.1 miles per hour.  Thirty-five?  But Zdeno Chara fires a slapshot over a hundred!

The attendant told me my shots were about average for a fourteen year-old hockey player.  “Lots of junior-level players fire wrist shots over 80 mph.”  The store doesn’t let them try slapshots in the confined area, but my coach didn’t seem too worried about my flailing attempts.  In fact he loaded the machine up again, twice more.  The pucks off my rented stick didn’t get any faster, though once I stopped staring at the flashing lights in the corners of the net my response time became much better.  I even hit the correct corner of the net the odd time.

Eventually my spine had taken on an interesting new shape, my arms felt like lead, my head pounded, and I decided to call it a day.  I thanked my coach and reeled out of the store thinking, “That hockey booth is a really cool thing to try.  Now whom could I lure into it for a  puck-blasting session?”

By the following morning I could hardly get out of bed.  I moaned around the house for the rest of the weekend, all the while blaming that blasted tractor for wrecking my body yet again.

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