It's been many years, but there once was a time when I wasn't afraid to replace an automobile's water pump, a valve cover gasket, or spark plugs, points and distributor cap. (Points & distributor cap? Now I'm REALLY dating myself... Don't get me started on carburetors and typewriters...)
Obviously, today's engines are far too high-tech for someone who is not properly trained to work on them and does not have the often expensive diagnostic equipment and tools. I don't even change my own oil anymore, in part because I believe I am way past the point of having to get sweaty and grimy just trying to save $20 or $25. About the most I do these days is replace a burned out taillight bulb or air filter, pour in some windshield washer fluid or put air in my tires.
Ditto for work around the house. Yes, we've removed wallpaper, and I've done more than my share of painting. I even installed a new electrical outlet for our dryer 10 years ago because the configuration for the new Whirlpool's three prongs (positive, negative, ground) didn't match up to the outlet on the wall, which was probably 30 years old, at least. (I managed to do this without electrocuting myself!)
Anyhoo, during the past 10 days or so I have been a freakin' lumberjack, putting my Homelite electric chainsaw to good use. We just purchased it at Home Depot for a reasonable $50. Wearing my ski goggles and Army Corps of Engineers construction helmet, I look like something out of a Devo video, ca. 1978.
Our birch tree out front had several low-hanging branches due in part to natural growth and sagging, but also severe winds that have gone through here a few times in the middle of the night as part of fast-moving thunderstorms. I made fast work of those branches.
In the back yard we have a dead poplar tree that my wife has wanted gone for several years now, fearing that high winds will topple it onto our one-story ranch home. Back in May when my 20-year-old son was home from college for a few days, he got ambitious and, leaning an aluminum ladder against the tree, cut off several big limbs with a hand saw.
A few days ago I cut off a major limb that is almost a trunk in itself (the main trunk splits into a "Y" about 15 feet up, and that's where I cut it. Our Jack Russell terrier was a spectator inside the sliding glass doors of the living room and barked loudly when she heard the cracking and saw the large limb crash down into the yard (thankfully, AWAY from the electric and Internet lines). It took a while to cut the branches up into logs and pile them at curbside. I put a "FREE FIREWOOD" sign up, and it a took 2 or 3 days, but today someone pulled up, loaded the logs into his trunk, and took off. Fantastic.
This afternoon I climbed the ladder and sawed on one side of the main trunk, then moved the ladder and sawed the other side, leaving enough wood to hold up the top 30 feet or so. I had thrown a rope with a 5-pound barbell attached over a branch and wrapped the rope around the main trunk. Standing at a distance, I rocked the upper tree trunk (pull-rest-pull-rest), and finally heard the creaking, cracking sound, then CRASH! The ugly, dead trunk and branches landed with a thud. I gave myself a hand.
The grandson of the woman next door came out her back door and asked if everything was all right. "We heard a crash and wondered what happened," he said. We chatted briefly about my achievement and the recent storm that raked through the neighborhood. (On Thursday morning about 40 feet of a blue spruce tree got sheared off and blocked the street parallel to ours.)
How much would it have cost to pay a tree service to take down the poplar tree? Who knows, but my guess is in the range of $200 to $400, at least. Can't help but feel some satisfaction at doing the job myself and saving the money.
The Good Lord didn't make me a handyman, so I've screwed up my share of projects and failed miserably to do certain repair jobs, but at least I still have all of my limbs, despite having operated many a power tool.
As a senior in high school, I was trying to change the oil of my first car, a 1970 Chevrolet Biscayne, and drained the transmission fluid. It became apparent when I pressed the gas pedal and the engine revved but the car didn't move. Not to mention the engine was running like crap because I put 4 or 5 quarts of oil in without having drained the old oil, thus fouling the sparkplugs. Stupid, stupid, stupid, but at least no one got hurt.
When we moved into our current house, I tried like the dickens to hook up the water line to the new refrigerator for the water and ice maker. I just couldn't get the fittings to work, and the harder I tried, the more I failed. So I shelled out for a plumber.
Perhaps it's true, as they say, that the journey is every bit as important as the destination. And, of course, we only fail when we quit trying.