Monday, September 23, 2013

How 'bout you just pay for it yourself?

Grumpy curmudgeon Toadroller here.

I don't have enough webbed fingers and toes to count the number of examples that have passed through my experience in the last week alone where something a person or group of people wanted had a cost to and their initial (and only) reaction was to find a way to get others to pay for it, subsidize it, bankroll it, get it for free.

  • In the local kids recreational soccer league where, for $20, you get practice fields, a team bag of balls and cones, pinnies, a shirt, and the mandatory medal of mediocrity.  A parent complained that each player should have their own ball.
  • The local school wants to take one of their sixth grade group on a bus trip to Bar Harbor.  Car Wash!
  • A thespian group is putting on a play; they asked the parents to fund-raise through finding corporate sponsors at a pace of two each, $25 per.
  • Parents bitched that there weren't enough porta-potties at the athletic events.  Can every town contribute?  Emails, estimates, strong-arm tactics, guilt, high-fives.  Total price of a rental? $95.
  • Much hand-wringing locally, but the property taxes went up by $400 this year.  Co-incidentally, each schoolchild now has an iPad.
  • I'll be hosting a course on personal finance at my parish.  It has a $93 cost associated with it.  Well worth it; cheaper than dinner and a flick.  "Is there anyway we can help the people pay for it?"
  • Buy an energy-saving (insert appliance type here) and get a $50 rebate check from the government.
  • Let me subsidize that conspicuous consumption Prius for you in the form of tax deductions.
  • Would you give our special interest group tickets to your sporting event?  It's for the kids.

It's not the concept of fundraising that bothers me.  It's the mindset of having to get someone else to fund the endeavor, no matter how small it is.  Why do we need a car wash to gather funds of $30 a head?  Why would you expect the soccer league to provide a ball for every player?  They're $15 for the fancy ones. 

How about you just pay for it yourselves?

I've always joked with Mrs. Toadroller that we should set up a car wash or magazine drive for our own family's "Spain Trip!" and see how far we get.  I've had enough friends and family ask me to support their child's dream of touring haunted castles in Ireland; it's time for them to fund mine.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A little excitement

It's been a long time coming, but I'm excited about the newest internal-combustion-engine-based transportation at the Toadroller homestead.



Friday, April 19, 2013

Warren Buffet? Really?

I received this forwarded chain email from Warren Buffet.  Really?  Warren?  Wow!
I couldn't resist responding.




 
Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.
 
In three days, most people
  in The United States of America will have this message.

This is one idea that
  really should be passed around

*Congressional Reform
Act of 2013
 While I understand the emotion behind this message, anger over the fact that Congress fails to do its Constitutional duty, fails to represent its constituents, passes bills without reading them, engages in conflicts of interest (crony-capitalism, crony-environmentalism), and statism, a reform act is not necessary.  This email chain is cute and good for a chuckle, but uninformed and reactionary. Voting Congressmen and Congresswomen out works well when the voting public takes the responsibility to educate themselves on the issues, on our catholic morality, and on what Congress is truly doing.  Failure to educate ourselves and hold representatives responsible has led us here.  It is our fault.

The term “reform” is heard quite often, and I believe it is used in a very misleading way.  When we hear the word reform, we think of un-complicating things, bring them back to a simpler time, back to common-sense understanding and plain-English interpretation.  But to reform literally means to re-form something; change it, form it again in a new way.  We’ve witnessed quite a bit of reform in this country over the last five years, with calls for more, and I don’t think anyone could honestly say things have become more simple, more common sense, with plain-English interpretation.

This document also has a tone of envy, of do-unto-them, of get even.  I understand the sentiment, but the items below are vengeful, wouldn’t accomplish much, and reveal an ignorance of the liberty available to us in this exceptional and unique country in the history of the world.  Is America perfect?  No.  But it’s better than the alternatives.
 
As is attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help small men up by tearing big men down. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot lift the wage-earner up by pulling the wage-payer down. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot establish sound social security on borrowed money. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

We won’t solve the problem of our congressional representatives by tying them to devices which are bad for us as human beings, no matter how much fun that might appear.

1. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman/woman collects
  a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.
 There is no tenure beyond the fact that congressional representatives are re-elected term after term.  This can be fixed by not re-electing them term after term.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future
  funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with
 the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
 A nice symbolic gesture; I’d be surprised if Congress wouldn’t do it on their own for votes.  Our president just took a voluntary paycut himself. 
It would be better for all Americans if Social Security were made optional or disbanded entirely.  By taking 12.4% of an individual’s income (you pay 6.2%, your employer pays 6.2%), you’re robbing individuals of money they could invest or save, and of the compounding growth that income could have through the decades they work in exchange for a pittance, a fixed distribution from the government when they retire.  Educating someone on the time-value of an investment can be done in ten minutes, can be done in a high school course.  Instead, many spend their adult lives living in financial ignorance and discovering in retirement that they have fixed incomes.  When an individual saves 10% of their income through their lives, they will do better than what Social Security provides.
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
 You don’t purchase retirement plans.  You save for retirement.  You prepare for retirement.  You retire from wage earning when you can affor to, not when you’re “old enough.”  As Americans, we are responsible for our own retirement. Be it through corporate pensions, tax advantaged retirement accounts like IRAs and 401ks, stock purchases, owning business or other assets that return income, or just stuffing money into jars, you’ll need income when you’re no longer earning wages.  It is not difficult, but it might require sacrifice or thrift.

Should congress get a pension?  I could care less, other than I pay for it and that it is a very sweet pension.  Other government employees get pensions at the federal, state, and local level.  Shall we envy them as well and remove their pensions? They have sweet pensions too, although some states and municipalities are discovering that they can’t afford them.  They’ve spent too much.  How will they fund these obligations? 

In the private sector, pensions are few and far between because employment doesn’t often last the 20-30 years it has in some industries in the past.  And it’s less costly for a corporation to match contribution to retirement plans than have the liability of pension payments for decades.  It’s also less risky and better return for individuals to own their own retirement moneys rather than depend on a corporation that may disappear.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower
  of CPI or 3%.
 It does seem a conflict of interest, doesn’t it?  But we can always vote them out if they do something we don’t like.  Although we don’t seem to be angry enough.  As the CPI (Consumer Price Index) doesn’t include the cost of gas or food, it’s not a very good indicator of inflation of the cost of living. 3% sounds nice, but what if we experience inflations of 10%?  15%  It’s happened in my lifetime, in America.  Back to that Social Security thing.  A fixed income isn’t very good when the price of things goes up.
5. Congress loses their
  current health care system and participates in the same health care system as
  the American people.
The American people don’t have a health care system.  We participate in a highly regulated yet open market of health care providers.  Competition in this market keeps the prices down a little and keeps the service quick.  Businesses, in order to attract employees, have through the decades offered more and more compensation in the form of health insurance benefits. 
Costs of health care have risen due to regulations on the nature of the health-care itself (everything sanitary, everything documented, nothing can ever be permitted to go wrong …gets expensive) and to the over-coverages of health insurance in general.  Over-coverage?  Yes.  When a service like a doctor visit is “free” because it’s covered by insurance, people tend to use more of it.  When a service costs you something out of your own pocket, you will be wiser and more conservative with how much you use.  How much wine moves at the wedding reception when it’s an open bar compared to the guests buying their own drinks? 
Insurance is to insure you financially against catastrophic and rare events.  It’s not meant to pay for expensive services every time your child has a runny nose.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
 … Congress doesn’t have to abide by laws?  That they get away with transgressions of the law and are derelict in their responsibility (their oath) to uphold and defend the Constitution is both a moral and a public problem.  This also can be resolved by voting them out. 

Where does the mindset come from that we must do as we’re told by Congress, that they can impose laws on us?  The American government is one of representation and the consent of the governed.  These people are not our leaders and they certainly aren’t our rulers; they are our representatives, our servants, and must be reminded of this, held to this.  If a Congressman or Congresswoman told you to pick up their dry cleaning, I do hope that you would laugh at them and taunt them with a childish “you’re not the boss of me. Pick it up yourself.”
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/31/13. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.
I really wonder what this means.  Does it suggest that all Congressmen/women should be out of a job January 1, 2014? 
Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should
  serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts
  a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people
  (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Don't you think it's time?

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX
  CONGRESS!

If you agree with the
  above, pass it on. If not, just delete.
I chose neither to pass it on nor to delete it.  I chose to read it, think and send it back for further consideration.  I am an individual with a brain, dignity, and liberty, with Catholic moral guidance, and am not a serf of a government or ward of the state.  Our representatives have ignored their responsibilities and over-extended their reach.  The way to keep liberty is simple, it is clear, and it does not require reform.  It requires review and renewal of fundamentals and recognition that mankind, and its governments, are constrained by, as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it, inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You are one of my 20 - Please keep it going, and thanks.
And I encourage you to send this back down the chain so that Americans come to realize that they already have the power to fix Congress.  Vote with your head.  Now click your heals three times, Dorothy.  There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

NOYFB

In addition to being floored that I saw NOYFB as a vanity plate a couple of years ago...

I got a letter from my local bank today informing me that

...recent activity on your account does not meet with federal requirements for that account type.  Federal regulations require us to limit the total number of specific withdrawal (demit) transfers that can be made from a savings account per monthly statement cycle to six (6)... During the most recent statement cycle your transfers totaled 13.  If you think you will regularly process more than six...
Poppycock.  It's a savings account.  I put money in there so that I can move it into place for strategic payments like, say, the four payments of extravagant size and proportion I made to the Federal and State governments for my annual taxes last month.  Who should care how many transactions I make with it?

Do tell me, nanny-staters, that this is somehow for my own protection.

What I choose to do with that portion of my money I'm permitted to keep is NOYFB.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Intimidating

Doctors, teachers, priests, bureaucrats, politicians (the list goes on and on... managers, cashiers, mechanics) are apparently used to the authority that comes with their position.

Through my life I've been eager to please and respectful of authority. Polite.  I've bent to make the transaction easy.

It's true that you can negotiate best when you can walk from a deal.  You can walk from a deal when you're in control and know what you want. and, better yet, know that you can live without the deal.


When authority is complacent, merely counting on respect and ignorance (theirs are the expert opinions we must trust and follow, aren't they?), they are in a position of weakness.  It's amazing to watch their faces when you take control of the situation by weighing their input and politely telling them "No, I'm not going to do that."

It's like a cat with a mouse.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Possessed

The Toadroller family home schools.

Our main connection with the local schools is through our eldest tadpole who plays on the golf and baseball teams. 

It's a bit of an extra-normal experience to swing by the school and drop the boy off.  There they are in the parking lot, the many parents I know, waiting to pick their kids up.  There I am, letting my child go.

I wonder why someone would do that- give their kids away every day (in many cases, from the time the child is a few weeks old) just to go and get them back. 

Do they look at me and wonder why I would do what I do- just bring the kid by for the sports and then spirit them away again, out of their society, their group, their normal, back into mine?

If possession is nine tenths of the law, where do your children spend most of their waking hours?  To whom do they belong?




Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hand Burst






Last night, we stained.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

HamyV update- Veneer we go again

I took the dive about a month ago and started back in on the Hamy V project.  We'd been on hold for about a year as I waited for some kind of inspiration to deal with the veneer that went on poorly.  Inspiration never came, so I was forced to confront the fact that I'd made a mistake and I needed to take a risk to repair it.

Out came the heat-gun, a putty knife, and cautious use of the orbital sander to clear away a side of veneer which came out wavy and buckled.  Crap.

I started again, but this time I put TWO bags of sand on the top to keep it flattened.
 

Come the morning, this round of veneer had buckled as well.

Inspiration decided to finally come around and pay me a visit, asking, "Why are you using sand bags when you have many, many clamps and plenty of wood with which to press this all together?"

I replied in a shy manner, "Because I'm stupid?"

"Exactly.  Now back to your wife's pink heat gun and the putty knife and let's do it right this time."


This weekend, I laid out another sheet of my dwindling supply of sapele veneer and clamped the mother down.


 Lots of clamps.  And a wee crack at the end.  That's life.

I put some small wood filling in minor cracks and openings. 


Inspiration piped up to advise me I could have masked around those areas and reduced the amount of sanding I'd had to do.  I smacked Inspiration upside the head and asked it if it had any more brilliant insights.
"Just one," it said, "you could have tinted the wood filling, combining the grain-filling and crack filling into one process."

Inspiration then ducked.


I mixed up wood filling with some red and black and magenta paint, and a little water, then scraped it into the grain on the veneer.  A few hours later, I sanded the excess off with 220 and a sanding block.

 What we have now is a well sanded, grain-filled veneer top on the body and the peg head.  It is ready for staining (we're going to attempt a ragged on nuclear orange with a bit of a burst to the edges) and follow up spraying of many coats of glossy poly to seal it all in and make it shiny.

From there, a small matter of drilling out the various holes which lie beneath the veneer, fretting, nut placing, wiring and, um, rocking out.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tax the rich!

Of course you tax the rich.  If you tax the poor, they'll revolt. 




New Tires

Car tires are an amazing value.

$80 each for a typical 16" tire will get you a perfectly formed and balanced glob of high tech rubber, steel and carbon that will smoothly serve you for a minimum of 40,000 miles over terrain rough and smooth, temperatures from 0 kelvin to boil-the-water hot, and survive the odd bit of hooliganism* and fun with never a concern for the tire itself.

Hooray for tires!

Getting tires put on your vehicle, however, has gone from "included with the price" to the following laundry list of surcharges and fees, which are offered in various mixed packages to force you to make a quick decision while you're still trying to understand it all:

9.99 balancing
1.00 state recycling tax
2.00 disposal fee
1.50 shop supplies (??)
3.50 valve stem and cap (could I decline the cap?  I want to re-use the ones on the old stems)
-----------------------
17.99 in fees and bits to get the damned things on the car.  Per tire.** 20 percent. 

Bah, humbug.




 * We've been watching too much Top Gear here lately, and a lot of anglophile phrases are slipping into conversation.  "You ideeeeeot!" is common epithet tossed about*** amongst the little toadrollers.
**Oh, I declined the 12.50 per tire road hazard warranty in which they'd fix a flat, once, or give you pro-rated value towards a replacement.  See the paragraph in which I praise the technology and durability of tires.
*** See what I mean?

Friday, January 4, 2013

How do you keep people poor?

A wit on Twitter pondered, "Well, what do you think would be a fair tax on the rich?"

Which is a great question, as the only way to answer that truthfully would be with a percentage.  With income tax percentages ranging from negative (yes, the government gives you money, earned income credits, below a certain level) to the recently established 39.6, fairness has long since left the building.  As you earn more, they take a greater percentage.  So it's already unfair.

There is no honest (or honorable) answer to the question.  But that's not what I'm here to discuss today.

How do you keep people poor?

Well, you prevent them from becoming rich.*  While most people are happy to do this for themselves by living beyond their means, here are some wealth-prevention levers:

  • Take away more of what they earn.   It's hard to save when the money for saving is taken away.  So raise taxes.  Add taxes.  Add fees.
  • Take away what they have.  Today through increased capital gains and death taxes, tomorrow through outright property seizure and means-testing, such as social security benefits, 401k and Roth savings.
  • Social Security is itself a tool for keeping people poor.  It takes money you should save/invest on your own, and gives you back a small portion of it.  What a lousy return on that investment.
  • Devalue what they have.  Inflate the currency to the point that savings and investments, gaining or not, are devalued anyway.
  • Steal from the next generation.  Through spending beyond our means to pay back.
If you hate the rich, you will probably stay poor.  You wouldn't want to be wealthy anyway.

*For lessons on becoming rich, please see: Who wants to be a millionaire anyway?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Half Full or Half Empty?

An American, asked to specify his complaints about the evils of progressing bureaucratization, might say something like this:
"Our traditional American system of government was based on the separation of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial powers and on a fair division of jurisdiction between the Union and the States.  The legislators, the most important executives, and many of the judges were chosen by election.  Thus the people, the voters, were supreme.  Moreover, none of the three arms of the government had the right to interfere with the private affairs of the citizens.  The law-abiding citizen was a free man.
"But now, for many years and especially since the appearance of the New Deal, powerful forces are on the point of substituting for this old and well-tried democratic system the tyrannical rule of an irresponsible and arbitrary bureaucracy.  The bureaucrat does not come into office by election of the voters but by appointment of another bureaucrat.  He has arrogated a good deal of the legislative power.  Government commissions and bureaus issue decrees and regulations undertaking the management and direction of every aspect of the citizens' lives.  Not only do they regulate matters which hitherto have been left to the discretion of the individual; they do not shrink from decreeing what is virtually a repeal of duly enacted laws.  By means of this quasi-legislation the bureaus usurp the power to decide many important matters according to their own judgement of the merits of each case, that is, quite arbitrarily. The rulings and judgements of the bureaus are enforced by Federal officials.  The purported judicial review is in fact illusory.  Every day the bureaucrats assume more power; pretty soon they will run the whole country.
"There cannot be any doubt that this bureaucratic system is essentially anti-liberal,* undemocratic, and un-American, that it is contrary to the spirit and to the letter of the Constitution, and that it is a replica of the totalitarian methods of Stalin and Hitler.  It is imbued with a fanatical hostility to free enterprise and private property .  It paralyzes the conduct of business and lowers the productivity of labor.  By heedless spending it squanders the nation's wealth.  It is inefficient and wasteful.  Although it styles what it does planning, it has no definite plans and aims.  It lacks unity and uniformity; the various bureaus and agencies work at cross-purposes.  The outcome is a disintegration of the whole social apparatus of production and distributions.  Poverty and distress are bound to follow."

As much as this is a commentary on our present day situation; a tribute, if you will, to the Obama administration, Congress, and the Judicial branch, the fact is that Ludwig Von Mises wrote this in 1944.

So the glass may be half full: it has always been thus, this struggle of liberty against bureaucracy.  Despite more and more red tape, liberty finds new avenues of expression.

Or the glass may be half empty and draining quickly- Income Tax, the New Deal, Social Security, Welfare, Obamacare, debt, inflation of the currency.

Von Mises continues, pointing out that bureaucracy is a symptom, not the cause; the cause being policies which
...trend toward a substitution of government control for free enterprise.   Powerful political parties and pressure groups are fervently asking for public control of all economic activities, for thorough government planning, and for the nationalization of business.  They aim at full government control of education and at the socialization of the of the medical profession.  There is no sphere of human activity that they would not be prepared to subordinate to regimentation by the authorities.  In their eyes, state control is the panacea for all ills.

It sounds paranoid and unlikely, but what was the contemporary German experience? How was personal liberty in the Soviet Union?  And look at these events in America today: Nationalization of business**- check.  Government control of education and medical profession; check and check.  Sold to government-educated subjects with a two prong attack of subterfuge:  That free enterprise has, in its greed, failed and that the government is here to help even the score. 

What's concerning me is where this will lead and how quickly.  What will America look like in ten, twenty, forty years?  What will my town, your town, the cities look like?  What of personal property; wealth? 


As 2013 dawns, Congress has successfully kicked the can, yet again, by not addressing the core problem, spending, and it's resulting $16,000,000,000,000.00 in debt.  They did cut $106,000,000,000.00 from the military spending, but hey, we were pulling troops anyway.  That's like saying I'm going to save money by not joining the country club this year.  I wasn't going to join anyway.  They did however, fund $60,000,000,000.00 to the fine folk of Long Island who suffered a hurricane and apparently had no insurance,*** so that's pretty much a wash when you throw in some monkey-sex research grants and other wasteful funding.

The can has been kicked.  America the irresponsible.

* Anti-liberal: meaning anti-liberty, as in the definition of classical liberalism, not today's progressive-liberals (environmentalists, union workers, feminists, animal rights activists occupiers.. have I left anyone out?)

** You know, GM?  And a 2012 campaign promise (threat? desire?) from Obama that he wants to do this to more industries.  I think his word was "for."  I believe him.  He does want to.

*** Yes, please socialize the losses!  But not in a free market way- make everyone pay!  Worse than the Chicago thuggery shakedown of BP to the tune of $20,000,000,000.00

Monday, December 10, 2012

Con$ent of the Governed

Part of what makes America exceptional is the concept that the government exists with our consent; it is tolerated.  "You're not the boss of me; I'm the boss of you, but I'll consent to these (regretfully necessary yet preferably minimal) laws of society and consistent rules of the game."

In short, the government works for us, they do not rule over us as do tyrants in their various forms.  Can you imagine Obama telling you to go get his dry cleaning?  I would hope every American voter would laugh and say "pick up your own damn laundry," or, at the least, be enterprising and charge for the service.  Free enterprise.

That said, who works for who? 

When I look at my tax bill, it's very, very, very clear that I'm employing a government.  I'm writing them  fabulous paychecks.  I'm employing them to the point where I wonder, since apparently I can't fire them as I would any other free-market service I choose to do without, ...am I not really working for them?

What else to conclude when my non-negotiable cost of con$ent is:

Federal income taxes..................... 20% of income
State income taxes..........................8% of income
Social Security................................13% (you know, the 6.5 I pay and the 6.5 my employer pays)
Medicare........................................2% of income
Property taxes ................................2% annual on "value" of property
Sales taxes .....................................5% on non-food purchases
Local Registrations and fees............1% on cars, dogs, building permits, etc.
Hidden taxes (gasoline, hotel, etc)....2% estimated per annual income, probably higher.
Capital gains tax .............................15% on income my retained, non retirement-plan income earns me

It would appear that I work for the benefit of the government. 

If I can't fire them, is it possible to quit?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Of volunteers and Vice Presidents

Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan made the mistake of washing some dishes in a soup kitchen the other day.

This led to quite the kerfuffle about photo-ops, clean and dirty dishes, and sanctimonious affronts taken by politicos who portray themselves to be a-political.




 

They're all missing the obvious; the root cause.  There is simply not enough regulation of volunteers and volunteerism.  Do you see the problems this has caused? 

Now if there were a certification program for volunteers, where you could train and effectively certify them in their rights and responsibilities as volunteers, as well as what they are and are not authorized to do, then this whole situation would never have happened. 

With Certified Volunteers (CVs), there would have been no un-authorized volunteers carelessly granting Vice Presidential candidates access to soup kitchens*, coordinated through campaign aides**; there would have been no repeating of second hand and jealous opinions from other volunteers by the volunteer head of a charitable organization, making him look like a publicity seeking political opportunist.***

Certification is the way to go.  Dirty dishes get cleaned, no questions asked, with CV VPCs.****

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I have a sneaking suspicion that volunteers are being taken advantage of by greedy heads of charitable organizations who are only looking to lower costs and raise profits.***** Shouldn’t organizations which exploit free labor at least offer a guarantee of future employment, health-care coverage and counseling services for those volunteers who give so much of their own time and talent?  Surely the volunteer time should be documented and accounted for as income at tax time.  If they weren't willing to pay the cost for the goods and services they provided, why should the American people have to fund the difference?  We cannot let these organizations get away with slave-labor!  What age are we living in?

If, in fact, the soup kitchen had simply used those to whom it had provided soup for clean up, they could have killed two birds with one stone.******  If you give those who eat at the soup kitchen a job cleaning up their own dishes, they won’t need to come to the soup kitchen anymore. 

Problem solved!

* To volunteer
** Who are often volunteers
*** Which is what he is
**** Certified Volunteer Vice Presidential Candidates
***** What is with this pervasive and insistent quest for profit?  Why can't things just operate at a loss forever, like Congress intends?
****** I know, killing birds isn't nice, and certainly inexcusable in the search for profits.  Or oil for that matter.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Roy

Over on the Prescott Road, the sign reads "Roy's Small Engine Repair."

I've passed it by for years, riding my bike or ferrying Henry over to his friend Nate's house, thinking each time past, "I should really get Bert's* snow blower over to him and have him fix it," but I've always failed to slow and jot down the phone number, instead posting the task on my mental to-do list and letting it sink to the bottom, forgotten.

I took this week off.  I needed to, really.  My boss insisted and she was right.  It's not been a vacation, though I did get in a round of golf in the Maine October rain; it's been a chance to get things done.  Creating my list for the week, I penciled in "Roy's Small Engine Repair" though mostly out of wishful thinking.  On my way home from the veterinarian with our matronly Australian Sheppard Caddie, politics on the radio got me entranced too close to home and so I took the long way, past "Roy's Small Engine Repair."

I saw him walking towards his vegetable stand, which was populated with pumpkins and peppers.  I pulled into the driveway.

"You must be Roy."

"I am."

"My name's Dennis and I have a small engine in need of repair.  Can you help me?"

Questions, diagnostics, theories.  "Whereabouts you live?"

"Over on the Worthing Road.**  The big orange house."

"The one on the left?"

"Yep, you can't miss it."

"Give me an hour.  I'll look at it- it's probably the carburetor like you say.  I'll take it off, bring it back here and clean it.  We won't have to haul the the snow blower around"

---




Sure enough, an hour later he pulled into the drive, down below to the garage where the snow blower sat alongside my power generator, also in need of some attention.

There's something strong, American, about a man who knows what he's doing.

Roy brought forth a combination of knowledge, patience, wisdom, and experience, that I've gained from important men in my life.

I can name them.

He was Bert, my father in law, not just in his appreciation for quality in his assesment of Bert's Snow Blower- "This is a good one.  Must have cost twelve, thirteen hundred dollars in its day.  Over here, see this?" - but in his working mannerisms.  He even muttered an "Oh boys, oh boys," Bert's working-on-a-problem exhalation, and brightened up with a cheery "Yes, I would" to my wife's offer of hot tea.*** 

He was my father (and I was once again me, age ten as I held a light for him, and tried to show that I knew what I was talking about as I explained the problems and pointed out the parts of the engine.  I always could hold a light.  That's workshop apprentice day one) as he futzed and twiddled and could eyeball a bolt size for his wrench and had the right tools with him and just all around knew what to do with a small engine.

 He was my Uncle Jim and Mr. Osinksi, steel (as opposed to green) thumbed engine wizards who could make anything run, and knew where to look first, what to turn second, and what to hold third.  When he returned (an hour later, as promised) with the cleaned out carb ("Lotta gunk in there.  How long since this thing ran?") and it started on the third pull ( he, seventy if a day, and stronger and more spry than my forty-four years, supplied that third pull after my first two feeble yanks), he listened to it cough and whine.  "That's a valve not seating," he said, adjusting choke, throttle, and float by ear as the exhaust spat flames past his flannel shirt. "Get some high test in her and let her run for a while.  If that doesn't clean it off, we'll do a valve grind.

He was every mechanic to whom I've brought one of my internal combustion contraptions (cars, mowers, pressure washers), but he was kind enough and sure enough to say out loud what all the others have thought; making me feel okay and not as guilty as I should have felt.  In short, he was Father Shaeffer, who married Mrs. Toadroller and me, at confession, handing out a penance: "You're maintenance is lacking." Truth.

He was my uncle Mark, eldest of seven, with bear paws for hands, meaty things that could turn a nut without a wrench, firm but not a bench vice, confident, genuine, when you shook hands. His handshake meant something.  It was a contract.

He was Arthur Soper after a fashion, a kind man with an appreciative heart.  "How'd you come to pick this color orange for the house?"  "You have six kids?  You do the home schooling?"  "You've got your hands full."  "You must go to church."  To my wife he said, in the most open and complimentary way, "I told him I wasn't going to say this, but you look fantastic.  I can't believe you have six children." and, more than once, "You're nice people."
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Roy repeated the list of things I should do,"High test.  Need a new spark plug- that one's no good.  1/4 inch bolts for that generator; that shield shouldn't be loose like that; it shouldn't shake and rattle," and mentioned his wife, Margaret, and how he'd done things on his own and take only the jobs he wants, because he doesn't work for anyone; can't.  "You're nice people."

In the middle of all the goings on, as if it were nothing, he let this out of the bag:

"I've got cancer."

"Oh.  ...Wow.  I'm sorry to hear that.  When did you find out?"

"Today."
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Roy, thanks for sharing part of today, of all days, with us.  You are strong, an example. Nice people.





*My father in law, whose snow blower came my way and which has sat in my garage, waiting, Maine winter in, Maine winter out, for seven years.

** I've learned of Maine, over time, that the roads, especially those named after residents and their descendents, are referred to as 'the,' as in The Worthing Road; The Prescott Road. I know the Worthings and Prescotts the roads are named after; second generations (and beyond) live on them.  Would that residents refer to The Ruffing Road someday, leading down an unpaved path, through a guarding copes of trees, opening onto a field, grass really, with a main house and sundry out buildings, on the west side of a lake.

*** Canadian tea.  King Cole.  Served hot, in a bone china cup.  "That's good tea!"