Friday the 13th

September 13, 2013

At this point it’s almost ten a.m., and I have retreated to my bed to hide for the remainder of the day. Any reasonable man would do the same. Terrible things happen to me on Friday the 13th and they usually travel in threes.

First, I should have suspected something was up when a wasp dropped from the plastic roof of my shed onto my shirt collar at 4:00 a.m. and stung me while I was walking the dog.

This morning a guy came for a second look at a piece of machinery I have advertised. His father approved; the mechanism worked perfectly. It should have been a sale, but just before he had left to come to our appointment someone had offered him (free of charge) another machine which would also move his sawdust and he felt he should look at that one first. He’d get back to me. Fine, no problem. Needless to say, he soon called back to tell me that he had chosen the free one.

So I decided I should oil the mechanism on the manure spreader. Its apron is a pair of chains driven by cogged wheels which roll above and below the wooden bed of the trailer. Cross pieces join the chains and enable the mechanism to unload its cargo. To oil the chain I planned to extract a couple of litres of used engine oil from the collector in the garage, an 18 gallon tank on wheels with a large funnel on top which wheels under a car on a hoist for oil changes. It also boasts a connection and a series of valves to allow the use of an air compressor to force the oil out of the tank and presumably into a waiting container.

Twice I have performed this function involving adding air to the tank while directing the resulting stream of oil into a five-gallon pail via a siphon hose which otherwise sits draped over the edge of the funnel. Today I discovered how big a mess ten gallons of old oil hooked to an air compressor can make in a garage if anything goes wrong.

I blamed myself and cleaned the mess up as well as I could.

The third disaster occurred when I returned to the spreader, started the tractor and the PTO, and carefully dripped oil from a gallon container onto the chains, taking great care to avoid the dangerous turning shafts. The track broke.

A cotter pin holding a cogged idler on the right front corner had failed, allowing the gear to slide off, causing the chain to …. I shut the tractor off before things got worse, leaving me with a bent bolt to repair and a complex apron mechanism to readjust.

This should not have happened.

Then I thought of the date. Damn! Friday the 13th.

So instead of fixing the mechanism I retreated to my computer, hoping against hope that the third disaster of the day wouldn’t involve something indispensable like my laptop. (I’d been too sleepy at 4:00 a.m. to attach any significance to a random wasp sting, so I cowered around all morning until I realized that this Friday the 13th had probably completed its mischief for the day.)

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