June 7, 2011

When I was a senior in high school, a group of us had gone to a dance in a neighboring town. During the evening, a light rain combined with freezing ground temperatures to coat everything in about a quarter inch of ice. Any sensible fool would have stayed with friends until morning. Being a teenager, I attempted to drive my friends home.

Going slowly, I was able to keep the car moving on the mostly level prairies. Then I hit the roller-coaster valley … down one side and back up the next with a one-lane bridge at the bottom. The road was gravel, but it might as well have been glass.

I put the car in low gear and started down the hill. The rear end decided it wanted to go faster than the front, and soon, we were sliding down the hill sideways. Out my window, I could see a bridge abutment aimed for the door post behind me.

Driving rules on ice are simple. Don’t hit the brakes. However, not hitting the brakes was definitely not doing me any good. I hit the brakes. The car swung around, and I drove through the bridge and up the hill, and the ice was gone that quick.

I was reminded of this the other day as I tried to start my rough-cut mower. The instructions about where the throttle was supposed to be to start were clear. I did everything I should have, but the motor wouldn’t kick over.

I ran the battery down twice, checked the fuel line and performed other maintenance. Then as the battery started to run down for the third time, I moved the throttle nearly to full, and the motor kicked over. Lesson learned: When hobby-farm equipment isn’t working … try something else.

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