Sunday, 22 November 2015


To many who volunteered for service during the war, what they got wasn't exactly what they thought they were getting into. So many entered, expecting to be deployed overseas but instead got assigned to posts in this country, and sometimes even close to home. But most could at least be happy they were put to work here, even if it didn't seem as glamorous. And it was absolutely necessary to have personnel on this side of the pond to help train those who were headed across. Still it could get somewhat monotonous; military work could get that way. Just the same there were times when things could get interesting and the boredom didn't seem to be so bad.

Don enlisted in the air force as soon as he was old enough to volunteer. After training he was assigned to several different air fields in Alberta and Saskatchewan where training of new pilots and crews went on at a feverish pace, but the station that had him the longest was Calgary. And that seemed strange to Don because his home was Lethbridge, just a hop skip and a jump to the south.

To go off in a bit if a tangent here, Don could get the occasional weekend furlough home if a crew happened to be flying down to Kenyon Field at that time. The only requirement was to check out a parachute just in case everyone had to bail out.

It was interesting in that Don had to take the bus back to Calgary and he looked a little silly carrying a parachute onto the bus for the return trip. A few drivers even mentioned that.

Aircraft maintenance was the task Don was given. Being more or less the junior of the squad, he found himself doing nearly every aspect of maintenance that could be imagined. And most of them were jobs that either the more senior of the enlisted men didn't want or physically couldn't fit in the often cramped spaces. Don cleaned the Plexiglas canopies, wiped the grease off the fuselage, checked the air in the tires, and more often than not, was the one assigned to clean the vomit from inside the cockpit, after a new pilot trainee lost the stalls and spins contest.

Every morning at precisely five AM, rain or shine, or snow, or ice, the base was awakened by the lone trumpeter. This guy must have loved his job because he seemed to play continuously, well beyond the usual time it took to wake everyone up. Everyone on the base (even the roosters at the neighboring farms) developed an extreme dislike for this untalented musician and everyone tried to come up with a way to sabotage his morning regimen. Ideas like whizzing in his bugle, or filling it with something more solid were passed around but the man kept such close tabs on that horn that access was impossible; they were sure he showered with it.

A new instructor was assigned to the base. This guy was the real thing; he was a combat veteran who had been up close and personal with the enemy, close enough to see the whites of their eyes. He had spent countless hours in the air defending England from the invading Luftwaffe, and then several posts in France and in North Africa. Finally, after receiving his second or third Ace medal, the Brass decided that he'd had enough combat experience and it was time to pass that knowledge and experience onto others. Thus he got shipped home, and on to Calgary.

It turned out that this Flying Officer's quarters was uncomfortably close to the place where the trumpeter began every day. Consequently the officer wasn't receptive to that damned horn screeching at five in the morning. He complained lots but it didn't get him very far.

Now, the trumpeter had an interest in flying; at least he wanted to know what it was like, to be up in the sky, floating high above the clouds, free as a bird... Well, at least he indicated that to his friends, like another trumpeter, because he likely didn't have any friends. One day, after he had finished annoying the entire base, he was strolling around and happened to see Don, intently checking out a single engine trainer.

'Say, Fisher, do you think you could get me a ride on one of those?'

Don thought about it for a minute. He gave a shrug. 'Sure. Might cost you three cartons of cigarettes.' During the war, cigarettes were often hard to come by. Since the majority of soldiers smoked, cigarettes became better currency than actual money.

'Three cartons? Too much. How about one?'

'Never fly.' If the truth be known, a couple packs of cigarettes would have probably sufficed, but this was a business deal, with an enemy, or at least someone who was about as welcome on the base as a turd in a swimming pool. 'Make it two cartons and I'll see what I can do.'

The deal was made and Don headed into the pilots' corner. The veteran flying officer smiled like the cat that was about to eat the canary. For a carton of cigarettes, he'd give that trumpeter an airplane ride he'd never forget.

Notice that the pilot only got one carton of cigarettes? Well, Don was a businessman. Besides, there was a little pain and suffering on Don's behalf that had to be taken into consideration.

Well, the trumpeter checked out a parachute and met the flying officer at the plane that Don had just finished checking off. They boarded and got belted in then Don engaged the starter which brought the big radial engine to life. With the roar of the engine and the blast of sand in the wake of the propeller they were on their way.

The flight lasted less than an hour, more or less the orientation time of a new student pilot. The Harvard landed and taxied back to the maintenance hangar. The pilot shut the engine down and Don couldn't believe his eyes.

There were cattail shards stuck to the rudder; more shards around the pitot tube (the tiny tube that protrudes out from under a wing or along the forward part of the fuselage) and a couple of pieces of stalk on one wing. But Don couldn't believe the shards that were wedged in between the cylinders of the engine and wrapped around the roots of the propeller. How the pilot managed to get large chunks of cattails jammed in around the engine and prop without severely damaging the propeller or crashing the airplane would be a mystery that would never be solved.

The canopy was slid back, probably as soon as the plane touched down. Once parked, the flying officer didn't waste any time exiting the craft. The passenger was another story, as he required help to climb out. Once on the ground he dropped down to his hands and knees and hurled his insides out again. He eventually managed to get to his feet and stagger off to his quarters where he stayed for the remainder of the day.

'Fisher,' the pilot barked out, 'there's an engine vibration around 1700 revs and a little problem with the trim on the rudder. And, uh, wash the puke out of the cockpit!'

Remember the aforementioned pain and suffering?

The next morning at 5:00 sharp, the trumpeter blew his usual wake-up call. For some reason he didn't seem to get the message but at least he didn't ask for another airplane ride.

Sunday, 8 November 2015


Coincidences happen all the time. For the most part we just smile and say: 'Wasn't that a coincidence?' Two events occur at precisely the same time and we're dumfounded. Of course there's the story about three clergymen, a Catholic priest, a Baptist minister and a Rabbi, who lived on the same street and all bought new cars--at exactly the same time--and got exactly the same make, model and color, all unbeknown to each other. The story goes on about how they individualized them, by the Baptist minister pouring a bucket of water over his car, thus baptizing it; the Catholic Christening his with a vial of Holy Water; and the Rabbi taking a hacksaw and cutting an inch off the end of the tailpipe. Yes, that's getting a little off the storyline but it's still funny.

How about when five of them occur? It might inspire one to go right out there and buy a pile of lottery tickets. This is a true story. Only a couple of names have been changed since the author cannot remember the proper ones.

It was in the late spring, a time when the days were fairly long and the sun was up long before most human members of the animal kingdom were even stirring. Well, 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning anyway. Urban was enjoying a few extra minutes of early morning slumber before having to rise, get dressed and ready to attend church and spend the rest of the day relaxing before enduring another week of punching the time clock. His moments of relaxation were suddenly cut short by the ringing of the telephone.

Urban picked it up, more to keep it from waking his entire household than to actually answer it. Suppressing an oath, he plastered on the best smile he could muster at that audacious time of day and greeted the caller.


"Good morning, Urban," the caller greeted, "this is Father Patrice. I was wondering if Leona could play the organ in church today?"

Urban put off giving Father Patrice a large piece of his mind. After all Father Patrice was not only one of the best Parish priests they had ever had, he was a good friend. And it was Sunday; no doubt the Father was extremely busy and had a lot of work to do before services began.

"Well, Father, she isn't up yet, but I could ask her. She likes to play but she has a long way to go before she could really be up to your standard."

"I thought she was very good," the priest responded, "when she played at that concert in Augusta last Christmas, I was left speechless--"

Urban was puzzled. Augusta? What the heck was Father Patrice talking about? Leona had never played a concert in her life. She had only taken up the organ after their oldest boy had left for college less than a year ago. "Excuse me, Father, but I must be missing something. Augusta? The only Augusta I've heard about is Augusta, Georgia."

A brief pause. "Of course Augusta, Georgia. I was there before transferring to Atlanta."

"Atlanta? Georgia? Father this is going to really sound silly but this is Lethbridge, Alberta, in Canada.

"That's impossible. I just dialled your number from the parish member's list."

"Father Patrice, unless there has been some kind of time warp this morning, I've never set foot in any part of Georgia since the war."

There was a stony silence on both ends of the line while both men collected their thoughts. Father Patrice finally starting speaking again. "What's your area code?"

"It's '403,'" Urban responded.

Father Patrice let out an embarrassed laugh. "My area code is 770 but the code by your name is '404.' I can't believe it; I dial a three instead of a four, and get a parrishner named Urban, who has a wife named Leona, only they're two time zones away. Well tell me, since I'm paying for this phone call, what's the weather like up there?"

So that's got to be Coincidence Extraordinaire. But it actually happened, over forty years ago. I heard that Urban and Leona actually planned a trip to Atlanta to meet the other Father Patrice, and the other Urban and Leona, who had the same telephone number, save for a one-digit difference in the area code. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Let me begin today's entry with a little bit of educational material from the halls of mechanical training.

A diesel engine burns diesel fuel, which is injected into the combustion chambers under extremely high pressure by the fuel injection system. The injection system is a composed of very precise components that require a steady flow of fuel and that supply of fuel absolutely must be completely free of dirt and other contaminants or the system will fail and the engine will fail to run. To keep the system free of said dirt and contaminants requires a system of filters that can sift out particles as small as three microns, which I am told is smaller than a grain of talcum powder. Of course I've never had occasion to measure a grain of talcum powder so there's always a chance that someone is pulling someone else's leg.

And if that's the case then I was pulling a lot of legs when I taught upgrading courses on fuel systems at the local college...

A tractor operating in a field, is always surrounded by dust, which can enter the fuel tank where it is carried by the fuel supply pump to the precision injection system. Fortunately the designers put the aforementioned filters in between the supply pump and said precision system to prevent damage, and so on and so forth, ad nauseum...

Farmers store fuel in large tanks, anything from five-hundred gallon tanks to vessels with capacities for thousands of gallons. Now this is all well and good but with the heating and cooling of the ambient air, and things like condensation, problems can result within the storage vessel itself. Rust and scale can form on the inside of the tank and this is also a source of contaminant, not only containing water, which is a major enemy of the injection system, but rust particles, which in themselves are abrasive. Now most of the time, the contamination level is well below the level at which fuel is drawn so it remains relatively stable. Unfortunately, when the bulk tank is replenished, it stirs up all the contaminant which can cause some troubles but after a spell of even a few hours, will settle out and the farmer can go back to business as usual. Some farmers will drain and flush out their tanks once or twice a year and, for an additional precaution, they will wait for a few hours after the bulk fuel agent has replenished their tanks before they fuel up their tractors. An added precaution is to also have a filter installed on the bulk tank.

But there are those who might think about it but never seem to get around to it.

JC's place of work was ten miles away from his home town. While he had few problems arriving earlier than usual or staying later than required, once he did get away and manage to close things up for the day, he hoped that maybe business was done and he could indulge in something else for the evening. However, there were occasions when he had to go back out in the field after supper. When spring planting was in full force, or when harvest was in full swing, he never really had much of a social life.

One spring evening, JC showed up at the coffee shop. He was greeted by those usual Coffee Row members already seated and took a seat at the table. Supper was served and the stories flowed. Then the phone rang. 'For you, JC,' Val called out from the kitchen. JC took the phone and began to listen.

'JC, it's Louis. All of my tractors are down; they won't hardly pull themselves. Can you come out?'

'Come out? As in tonight?' That was in reality a dumb question to ask. If Louis wanted JC to come out, it was tonight, or better yet, yesterday, before the problem occurred.

Well, JC had a pretty good idea what was happening, mostly because this wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't likely be the last either. Ol' Slippery, the bulk fuel agent had obviously been out delivering fuel. Louis would've had the fuel tanks of all three of his field tractors down to the stink of a grease rag and consequently would be all lined up waiting for a fresh supply of fuel. Louis and the boys would fill the tanks of the tractors and head back to the field where within an hour or two the filters would start clogging up with debris and by suppertime would hardly pull themselves.

Now, one thing I forgot to mention: When a fuel filter is new, it's at its worst stage; fuel passes easily through the element. However, as debris gets caught up on the element's surface, it begins to accumulate and jam together, each particle packing in tighter and tighter, thus adding to the filter element's capacity to sift out the particles. It finally becomes such a good filter that nothing will pass through, and that's when Louis' boys would realize that something is wrong.

Well, if it was plugged fuel filters (and JC was certain that was the case), then JC would have to drive the ten miles back to the shop and get new ones anyway so he simply headed up there in the first place. He knew the equipment that Louis ran so that was a no-brainer. But it was still annoying to drive up to the shop. JC seldom complained though. There usually was a good visit that went on during the service call, and often finished with a cup of coffee and a nice piece of pie at the house before he would be allowed to head for home.

Louis' place was ten miles the opposite way from town. By the time JC showed up, it was growing dusk. Being skilled at changing filters, JC still had the job(s) done and the tractors running before it was totally dark. He was even able to stop back at the coffee shop for a final cup before calling it a day.

The next day as JC wrote up the umpteenth work order for the previous trip to Louis' place, he pondered the perpetual situation; how could he fix this and not waste so much time? It didn't take long to formulate a plan. JC reached for the phone and began to dial.

'Hey, Darrel' (JC actually called him by his proper name because referring to someone his Dad's age as Slippery sounded a bit derogatory, even if it might have applied to Darrel's business tactics), 'it's JC. How goes the battle?'

'Just fine,' Slippery responded, 'how about you?'

'Can't complain--' That was a lie; no one would listen anyways. 'Say, Darrel, I need you to do me a favor.'

'Anything.' Slippery was always accommodating.

'Next time you deliver fuel out to Louis' place, would you mind giving me a call and letting me know?'

'May I ask why?'

JC told Slippery about the numerous trips to fix the same problems and added that if he knew when Slippery was delivering fuel, he'd simply take a supply of filters home with him, thus saving the trip back up to the shop.

They both had a good laugh, and Slippery said he'd let JC know.

Three weeks later, JC received a phone call from Slippery. 'I'm delivering fuel to Louis' place.'

'Thanks for the heads-up. I'll be ready.' It was a good warning because after supper, just as JC was having a second cup, the coffee shop phone rang, and the entire scenario would be repeated...

This went on for years. Every time Slippery delivered fuel to Louis' place, he called JC to let him know, and JC would come home prepared. JC actually started keeping a stock of filters at the house, just in case Louis phoned him on a weekend...

Saturday, 29 August 2015


My grandfather was an avid rancher. He may have dabbled in politics, serving on the State Legislature and then for ten years, after he moved to Canada, as MLA for Alberta, but his passion was cattle and horses, and he was very successful. He began down in Southeastern Utah, in the somewhat green valleys of Teasdale. For years his herd would graze the lush meadows then in the fall, Grandpa would drive the herd over the southern mountains to the desert where they spent the winter. With the coming of spring, Grandpa would drive them back to Teasdale and the cycle would start all over again. That is until the spring of 1910 when Grandpa heard of wonderful ranching opportunities to be had north of the International Boundary into Canada.

Grandpa loaded up Grandma, two kids and one baby and headed north to the promised land. Well, sort of promised land. When Grandpa checked things out a couple of years before, a Chinook had blown into the region and it was warmer in southern Alberta than it was in Salt Lake when he boarded the train.

Ranching turned out to be somewhat different than it was in the Four Corners region. Rain could fall all year long and so could the snow, even in July. One could see an eighty degree temperature change in just one day; it could be thirty below in the morning and a Chinook could blow in raising the temperature to fifty above in a very short time. Of course the opposite could also happen too. But one of the most significant changes in ranching between southern Utah and southern Alberta was the need to put up feed for the winter months.

Back in the states, Grandpa had plenty of grass for the cattle during the spring and summer months. The desert actually offered some good forage for the winter but I have to admit that I'm at somewhat of a loss as to where it actually was. Hay production went on but not at the level that Grandpa was soon to find out. Simply put, in Alberta, one could count on spending the summers mowing, raking and stacking hay for the winter. It just went with the territory.

Grandpa was a progressive rancher too. He could see the importance of plowing up the native prairie grass and seeding it to tame grass which yielded a lot more for summer grazing and hay production. Trouble was, there was still some medicinal value to native prairie grass so making hay out of that was important as well.

Now Grandpa found a lot of meadows that yielded some good grass and he (and the older boys) spent a lot of time gathering in the crops but things simply got too busy. The alternative was to possibly buy some native hay from the locals which would benefit everyone.

Grandpa's first operation bordered the Indian Reservation to the east. He actually rented land from the Reserve and used it for feed crops and pasture. But, as mentioned before, the time factor, which turned out not to be that big of a problem after all.

There was a lot of native prairie grass on the reservation and some of the Indians were willing to put it up to sell off to the local ranchers. Grandpa, always eager to get along with them, was willing to do business.

It would start when a couple of guys would ride up to the ranch to tell Grandpa that they were putting up hay and they would deliver it for so much per ton. That was fine with Grandpa. The boys would head back and the next day, they returned with a wagon heaped with 'prairie wool.' They'd pull up on the scale, get weighed, then head over to the stack yard and, using large pitchforks, would unload it in fairly good time.

Grandpa would watch them from time to time. One day he was sure he counted only two of them driving the load but then noticed three of them stacking the hay. Then another day there were four busy pitching off the load. Then, not surprisingly, there were five.

Well, you've got to hand it to the Indians, they knew how to add extra weight to the load without having to actually sell it.

Finally Grandpa got wise. They would pull the wagon onto the scale then Grandpa would grab a pitchfork and start probing the load, not shoving the fork in too far because he wasn't actually trying to stab anyone. 'Who's in there?' he'd demand, and almost always two or more of them would come crawling out of the load.

But it didn't take long before the vendors got a little wiser. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and that there is always a way around an obstacle. The two men pulled the wagon onto the scale and Grandpa probed the load with the fork handle. He got no response so finally concluded that there weren't any stowaways. The two men unloaded the wagon then brought it around to weigh empty to figure out the tare. Grandpa paid for the load and everyone parted company, satisfied.

For a spell.

Grandpa would send the boys to load up some hay and take it to the barn. When the task was done, one of them would inevitably ask about that huge rock that was next to the haystack.

Grandpa was always good natured about the whole episode. He simply joked that he bought a lot of
Indians... and maybe a few rocks...

Monday, 3 August 2015



I've been truly blessed with good friends. A great many of them have been close buddies and confidants for my entire life while some have only been in my life for a short time. Nonetheless, my friends have been precious and it's always a personal struggle when the time comes to say good-bye to even just one. 

While I have known Ron all my life, we never got well acquainted until the seventies, while he was a customer at my place of employment. He was overhauling the engine in his small John Deere tractor and stopped at the shop to drop off the cylinder head for some machine work. He asked a couple of questions which sparked a conversation that practically never ended until his recent passing.

It turned out that he was every bit as passionate about old cars, trucks, tractors, airplanes, trains and ships as I was. He knew the histories of most of the vehicles around the Milk River area, going back to the mid-thirties.  I remember one time when the topic of discussion was 1942 Ford trucks. He told me who in the neighborhood managed to snag a new ’42 model before the war years curtailed civilian production.

‘My dad, and Ralph Beard, each got a Half-Ton, but there were three One-Tonners,’ Ron recalled, ‘GL Stringam, Art Loft, and—I think—John Reese, had those. Walter Ford bought a new Three-Ton—‘ Ron paused for a moment, ‘—I seem to remember that he had to get a permit to buy that truck because it was after the end of February.’

The conversation lasted longer than it should have, bearing in mind that I was still at work and should've been working, but I always made room for conversation with customers, and while it might have affected my personal bottom line come month end, I never regretted it.

Saturday evening, following that initial meeting I decided to deliver the finished cylinder head right to the farm. Now I’d just finished socializing with a bunch of friends and acquaintances in the Warner bar before I headed out but I wasn’t too worried because I thought that we’d just have a little conversation out in the shop and that would be it. I found the shop mostly dark so I just left the head on the bench and made my way over to the house, just to let Ron know that I’d dropped the head off and would be on my way. I was invited right into the house despite some protests from me claiming that I’d spent too many hours in the saloon and wasn’t in any shape for conversation in the house with family around. Ron wouldn’t take no for an answer and I was ushered into the house where we talked until quite late that night.

He talked about Ol’Smokey, a ’35 Ford pickup that his dad had for running around the farm, from wartime to the early fifties. It got its name because, quite naturally, it burned oil like it was going out of style. Ron sort of claimed that truck for his own and entertained plans to fix it right up and drive it. However, while he was on a job operating a bulldozer out east of town, his dad and brother took out the torch and cut the old pickup in two, making a trailer out of the bed and rear axle.

Ron was devastated. I don’t think he ever quite forgave his dad for doing that dastardly deed.

Ron always had an affinity for Cadillacs. His dad bought a ’58 model which is still in the family today. Ron bought a Cadillac for the family car back in 1975, and that’s still in the family as well. Sometime between the late seventies and early eighties Ron happened upon a ’41 Cadillac Model 75 limo down in the Midwest. He brought it home and immediately began a lengthy restoration on it.

I was called in to help out from time to time. Of course things like fixing the brakes and suspension often got interrupted by many stories and numerous pauses for refreshments. It seems to me that there was even a trip (unrelated to the project) to a farm auction in there some place.

His collection of cars (and trucks, and eventually a Rolls Royce) grew and grew until he started to run out of space to put them all. That forced the decision to build an addition onto the east side of the shop and later, to build a separate building. In no time at all those too, were filled.

Ron and Mary always enjoyed company. They must have because it seemed that someone was always out there visiting. Of course I kept up my appearances, which often happened around suppertime.

I recently heard a story about Mary having the kids setting the table for Thanksgiving dinner. Somehow, they ended up with an extra place. ‘Just leave it,’ Mary said, ‘It’s been a while since George stopped in; he just might stop in tonight.’

And George stopped in…

Sometimes I would be at home, watching TV or doing something mundane when I'd get the urge to drive out to the farm and see what Ron was up to. So many times, I'd get as far as the shop and see that the lights were on, which meant that Ron was working on some project. I'd simply stop there and in no time at all, would be involved in whatever the project was. Of course we'd share lots of stories. And that would carry on into the house. 

Ron enjoyed touring with our car club. He participated in the International Antique Auto Meets and local tours, especially the Little International where he would invite anyone within earshot out to his place afterwards for some more visiting and maybe a beverage or two on their way home.

And many of us went, and had a good time.

One of his favorite tours was the John Erickson Whiskey Gap Tour, held around the end of September each year. We’d meet for coffee in Milk River then proceed westward down Highway 501, through Del Bonita and just a few miles west to Whiskey Gap where we’d all stop and have a toast, a visit, then maybe one more (smaller?) toast before continuing on toward Cardston. That tour took place on sunshiny days and even when the weather closed in and dropped some snow on us. That's Ron, on the left, allowing Vic to measure the mix.

Seven years ago Ron lost his beloved Mary to a massive stroke. Even though she left a tremendous void in his life, he was determined to get out of the house and keep up appearances. He remained active and carried on; even restoring the very truck he learned to drive in some seventy years ago.  

Two years ago Ron fell victim to an inoperable brain tumor, which slowly drug him down until he finally lost the battle and left the bounds of this life to join Mary, and the others who had gone before. Even though he tried to beat the odds, he accepted the fact that his tenure on earth was coming to a close and even said so when he confided that he was ready to go home.

Despite the void he left behind, he still passed the torch to a wonderful and deserving family: kids who have established themselves and progressed with families and new adventures of their own. Ron’s life wasn’t wasted; he left a legacy of strong family values and good work ethics, as well as the ability to take time out for friends.

So, as I reflect on days gone by, I’d like to include a personal word of thanks, from one friend who was never forgotten, even during a time when my life got rather turbulent and visits were all but curtailed. True friendship carries on, despite all odds. True friends don’t have to keep in constant touch. Even after a lengthy absence, getting together is simply carrying on and continuing the conversation and good times as if there never was a gap.

I sometimes think I'm driving out east of town. Dusk has fallen as the sun settles to the western horizon. I turn north, up over the hill, and head for that farmstead with its massive shelter belt of evergreens. I turn in and drive up toward the shop, see that the lights are on and know that there is another car, or truck, or tractor that needs some tender love and care. I park my truck and head for that familiar weathered door. I open it knowing that beyond it the conversation will continue as before, when we talk about cars, trucks, families, friends and everything else that has given us so much joy.

Thank you, Ron, for welcoming me into your home; for allowing me to meet your family; for being a true friend. It's been a pleasure. May God bless.

Until we meet again…

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Profound Apologies

TO ALL MY FRIENDS OUT THERE, it's been too long since I've been on this post. Things have become quite hectic in our neck of the woods as of late. My wife and I were the co-chairs for the 54th INTERNATIONAL ANTIQUE AUTO MEET, which our local car club hosted in Pincher Creek, AB just last weekend (July 2nd - 5th). Our little club, based out of Lethbridge, AB, hosts the event every ten years and has been planning this for the past five years and the last few months have been very busy. Fortunately we can pass the torch to Edmonton next year, and they'll be handing off to Saskatoon after that.

Along the way, my family was saddened by the passing of our father who left us after a courageous battle with heart problems on May 28th. I'm happy to say that he beat the odds by eighteen years and made it to the age of 90, while keeping reasonably active and his mind sound. I'm still heavily involved getting his estate settled and moving ahead with life but I'm seeing light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

I've got more stories coming so please be patient. I'll endeavor to either entertain you or give you a good excuse not to read anymore. But I really enjoy writing and telling a story. And I enjoy knowing that I'm closing in on 10,000 hits since my first post. Who knows? Someday I might learn how to write...

Many thanks for your patience,
George M. Stringam

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


This story is an example of the saying: 'Great minds think alike and simple ones seldom differ.' It was a bit disappointing to the likes of JC because someone else actually perpetrated the gag before JC could. So I bring you this story which took place down in the Texas Panhandle. The way this one unfolds is almost a mirror to what JC actually planned. But some people have all the luck.

Some people are blessed with a sense of humor; some people are blessed with a boss who has a sense of humor; some people are blessed with a boss with no sense of humor whatsoever. And some are blessed to be part of a work crew with a sense of humor and a boss who has zero.

I guess you could say that about Frank and his devious band of goof-offs. They were born with a tremendous sense of humor while their boss had absolutely zero. Like--zero, nadda, zilch, zippo. The only time anyone saw the boss smile was when he was able to land an extra thousand in a deal and laugh all the way to his favorite vacation spot.

I don't know how a person could accurately describe the boss. He seemed obsessed with the rich and famous, having a passionate desire to be one of them. One could also say that because of his age, he was going through a mid-life crisis and didn't want to miss a thing. He was trendy and always wanted the latest in styles, be that clothes, vehicles or vacation homes; he had to have the latest in everything.

In addition he tended to regard himself as somewhat of a hard-core tough guy and craved that image. Maybe that's why he bought a new Harley Davidson motorcycle complete with souped up engine, T-shirt assortment, leather chaps and riding jacket, boots, and don't forget those bad-assed sunglasses with the HD logo embossed in gold. When the weather was nice and sunny, he rode his new toy to work and parked it right in front of the front window of the shop so that everyone coming in or going out would be sure to see it. I might add that when he didn't ride his bike, which was actually most of the time, he also parked his Corvette in front, likely to get the same reaction.

To keep up with his newly acquired biker image he, his wife and a few friends decided to attend HD's 100th birthday celebration in Milwaukee. Of course he and his friends had to preserve their untarnished image and look like real tough bikers when they rode into town. That's probably why he rented a motorhome (that dwarfed the average Greyhound bus), and an enclosed trailer into which they all loaded their bikes, leathers, sunglasses and (did I mention?) bad-assed gloves with the finger tips cut off.

The object of the game would be to drive almost to Milwaukee, set up their portable resort/spa in a posh campground about fifteen miles away then ride into town, formation style, looking like real hardcore bikers, clad in their shiny black leathers (sans bug splatter), sunglasses and bandanas (ditto, sans bug splatter)...

In 100 degree heat no less...

Yes they looked so bad that they could take down any bad-assed club in the world... Maybe they should start with trying to fight their way out of a wet paper sack first?

Oh how well Frank remembered seeing those pedestrians on their Rubberglides in Sturgis some years before that...

Yes, the boss had a bike, and an attitude. And a cellphone. To convey that tough-guy image he downloaded a super tough ringtone into said cellphone. From then on he would be greeted with Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild blaring through the speaker whenever someone phoned him.

After hearing this for a couple of weeks, and especially when the boss let it ring several times before picking up, Frank got more than a little irritated. In fact the entire shop staff was fed up, but none more than Frank or his close friend and co-worker, TJ.

TJ was a self-taught electronics whiz kid. It seemed that he could navigate his way around any device like a computer, engine analyzer or cellphone with enough speed and precision that would make one think that he'd been working on them all his life. It seemed that there was nothing TJ couldn't do with a device that used a bunch of zeros and ones as its code.

Frank and TJ got talking over coffee one morning and decided that morale in the shop was declining and it was about time someone made some effort to reverse that downward spiral. After some careful discussion it was decided that the best thing to do was pull another practical joke.

Now practical jokes were nothing new to this pair of devious villains. They had perpetrated such juvenile acts a couple of times before. There was a time when they took a couple of polyurethane shipping packets, activated them (by popping open A and B and allowing the two substances to mix) and stuck them into a couple of the boss's desk drawers before they had a chance to swell up. The boss came back, attempted to open a drawer only to find that it was hopelessly jammed shut by the now rigid foam pack. It took some effort with a long thin-bladed knife to slice through the substance and thus free the boss's drawers from captivity.

Then there was the time when the back shop needed a laptop computer to load the diagnostic software into so that the mechanics could analyze problems with modern computer-controlled vehicles and repair them. The boss refused to spring for a laptop, citing several reasons although Frank understood it to be more of a power trip; something that happened now and then. Consequently the boys in the back had no choice but to borrow a laptop from another shop across town whenever they needed to do some diagnostics. One busy afternoon the boss was walking through the shop when he noticed an object on one of the portable benches that was pushed back into the shadows. At first glance it looked like a laptop complete with the Windows Stars screen saver. There was even a keyboard. But on second glance the new laptop (with the shop's name embossed on it no less) was nothing more than a pizza box spray-painted black, a photo of a keyboard inside the bottom and what looked like the screen aslo turned out to be nothing more than a photo, tacked to the inside of the lid with clear tape.

'Trying to make me look like an idiot!' the boss spat out before he stormed out of the shop, jumped into his Corvette and lit out of the parking lot like a scared rabbit.

Sense of humor like a rhinocerous! If the truth be known, the boss did a good enough job of looking like an idiot all by himself...

Interestingly enough there was a new real laptop on the bench a couple of days later. The improvised unit disappeared, I'm sure, so that further attempts at mockery would be avoided.

So, like I said, staff morale was sliding downwards and everyone needed something to pick things up and cause a smile or two. One day the boss stormed through the shop, talking on his cellphone. He turned and came back the other way while he finished that call. Almost immediately Steppenwolf called out to let him know that another caller was on the line. Frank and TJ looked at each other and without saying a word knew exactly what they were going to do.

They just had to wait for the opportunity.

It wasn't even a week later that the moment had arrived. The boss had visitors in the form of a high-end client and a supplier and they offered to take him to lunch. They cleared out in a hurry leaving the boss's truck (yes he had a fancy 4 x 4 truck as well) behind. Actually it was parked in the shop, temporarily disabled for installation of yet another fancy electronic device.

While casually strolling through the shop Frank passed by the boss' truck. It was only by chance that he glanced into the truck's interior and noticed the boss' cellphone, barely protruding from a drink compartment in the center console. Interesting to see that, as the boss usually never let it out of his sight. In fact Frank made numerous comments to the theory that the boss likely showered with it. But there it was, sitting in a drink holder, and that was more than Frank could resist.

He called out to TJ who was there in a flash. A glance around the shop to ensure that all the other mechanics were on their lunch break and the latest practical joke was hatched. Actually is was finished almost as soon as it began, as the task took less than a minute, once TJ got past the phone's security. The phone was carefully placed in the same position as it was found, and when lunch was over the mechanics finished up the task just in time to give the boss his truck back.

A walk (more like a trot) through the place and the boss was in his truck headed for the golf course.

Now the next part of this story is at best an educated guess from my sources but there was also some input from some bystanders who witnessed most of what happened. Of course, if you were to ask the boss, he'd more than likely deny that it ever happened at all. But as it was he met his buddies at the golf course and after a few practice shots in the lounge they were on the course Tee-ing off. It was the third hole and the boss was up. He was into his back swing when he felt the telltale buzz at his hip warning him that his phone was about to ring.

'Macho-macho man! I just wanna be a macho man!'  The Village People blasted from the cellphone. This resulted in the entire group dissolving into laughter. Well, I should make a correction here and say everyone but the boss was laughing. The boss completely missed his swing, then, being both rather embarrassed and pissed right off by that quartet's outburst, shouted out an oath, and angrily pitched his cellphone a hundred yards away (or so the witnesses said) into the water hazard. Witnesses were certain that they heard the People still chanting a burbling version of Macho man as the phone sank to the bottom to join the numerous golfballs and cellphones that were already there.

Of course it took some time to live that one down. People would phone the shop and ask to speak to Macho Man. The bold ones even came into the shop asking for Macho Man in person. Even his business partner phoned the shop, person to person, asking for Macho Man.

Life is so tough...

When the boss obtained a new cellphone, it had a meek traditional ringtone. Frank had to resist the temptation both to download an Easy Rider screen saver or a Born To Be Wild ringtone on his own device because that would be close to admitting guilt.

Wouldn't it?

Saturday, 24 January 2015


Before I begin this post I have to warn the more sensitive that it does depict some cruelty to animals. As you will later find out, the so called Victim, didn't have a lot of choice in doing what he did. I do not blame him, nor condemn him for what he did. I do, however, blame the other party, the owner of the animals, which this story is based upon.

JC wasn't a pet lover. If the truth be known he rather loathed and despised them, especially dogs. But that was just him. True, he could appreciate those who loved the furry/hairy creatures and who looked to them for extra companionship; just don't bring them to his house. That was frustrating in itself; it's surprising that pet owners cannot understand why everyone doesn't love pets. And they're so insulted when you tell them that you don't allow pets in your house. More than once JC found the neighbor's dog in the trash bin, cans overturned and trash scattered everywhere; more than once he had to deal with urine stains on the wheels of his vehicles; and more than once he had to clean up his yard after some cur left a doggie mine or two on his lawn to inadvertently step in. On summer evenings, while attempting to entertain guests in his backyard, he could get extremely irritable at the neighborhood dogs trying to outbark each other, and thus force everyone to shout in order to be heard. Many a summer's evening one could see him on the back deck, relaxing on a lounger, cold beverage in his hand, pocket rocket at the ready, along with a can of pea gravel. Over the years he became quite a marksman at nailing the obnoxious perpetrators who seem to enjoy ruining the peace and quiet.

There was an occasion when one of his neighbors had one of those long-haired yap machines; the ones that you can only tell the front from the rear either by the dingleberries hanging from the rear, or where the barking noise was coming from. This creature would run around its yard every night and bark itself hoarse. Since those neighbors were on the east side of JC's place, their shades were always drawn, thus blinding them to JC's nasty method of retaliation.

That sissy-dog would rush into the backyard, barking its brains out, and JC would be on his deck, pocket slingshot at the ready, and fire off a round into its hip (preferably), or its side. It would yelp, then bark louder, to which it would receive another round. It usually took about three direct hits to get the point across. Eventually it would race out into the yard, then, upon seeing the evil vigilante (JC), would let out one surprised yelp, then race back over to the opposite side of the house, thus avoiding another painful encounter. JC recalled overhearing the owner talking to her husband one evening. 'I was trying to give Precious (Are you kidding me? Who would name a dog that?) a bath and both of her sides and hips are just covered with welts; I'm going to have to take her to the vet.'

No worries these days; hats off to the inventor of the electronic bark stopper... And the pocket slingshot...

Wilbur was a rather feisty gentleman. An accomplished boxer, he didn't take any guff from anyone. Aside from his somewhat obnoxious behavior, he was honest and fair. He didn't ask for trouble but then, he sure didn't back down if trouble arose. He'd made a career as one of the county road maintainer operators. For over thirty years he operated that grader, maintaining the roads, and during the winter, would even plow out your yard. He was good at what he did, and always got the job done no matter the weather.

He lived in town, in a relatively quiet neighborhood. When he got home from work, he would have supper, pop open a beer and watch the boxing match on TV, or else go out and work in the garden. He and his wife were empty-nesters and they rather enjoyed the relative peace and quiet. Then one day, Ralph, the guy across the street, got three German Shepherd dogs. Nice looking, well marked animals, all three of them, but the one thing that Ralph didn't seem to understand was they were rather high-strung, not unlike the majority of the breed. Well, Ralph either read some place, or watched a program on TV that gave instructions on how to train your dog to become an attack dog, a protector of your property and family, and maybe even the neighborhood. For all I know he read it in a Stag magazine, or on the wall in the washroom at the local Chinaman's café/teen hangout. Anyways, he got those three pups and proceeded to train them to be attack dogs.

Well, first of all, he didn't even have proper accommodations for them. To have dogs, especially ones that could be potentially dangerous, the owner absolutely must have a secure kennel. It protects the dogs as well as the neighbors. Apparently Ralph didn't realize that and figured that the three foot fence around his yard was sufficient. He would come home from work, train the dogs to attack then head inside, open a beer and veg out in front of the TV, leaving the young dogs--now grown to adult size--to their own devices in the backyard.

Like anyone or anything else that has learned new skills, people and dogs need to practice what they're taught. Fortunately Ralph used a full-grown sized mannequin and that luckily spared the neighborhood children from the risk of being attacked. Another fortunate thing was that the mannequin was clad in an old ragged pair of gray striped coveralls so that excluded most of the neighborhood adults. The downside of that was Wilbur wore gray striped coveralls so you can see where I'm headed with this story.

Wilbur would come home at the end of a long hard day, pull his pickup into the driveway and proceed to get out and head inside. Unfortunately he would barely be out of his truck when those three rather vicious attack dogs-in-training would converge upon him, biting and tearing at his arms, legs and whatever else they could clamp onto. Wilbur would holler and fend them off as best he could, sometimes managing to latch onto a stick or something that could be used as a weapon. Because of his lack-of-fear attitude, Wilbur could always defeat them and the beaten perpetrators would retreat back across the street where they would conduct an after-action report, regroup and get ready for tomorrow when Wilbur would come home again.

Of course Wilbur, stick at the ready would march across the street, pound on Ralph's door, and jerk Ralph out of his reverie. A dazed and confused (and often intoxicated) Ralph would squint in the early evening sun and listen to Wilbur curse and swear and utter threat after threat about what he'd do if Ralph didn't lock those damned sons-of-bitches up. 'If those sons-a-bitches come after me one more time, I'm gonna come out of that truck with my rifle and kill those bastards dead!'

'Sure-sure,' Ralph would respond, then close the door and head back to his TV set and beer. Knowing that Ralph actually doing something positive was about as probable as winning the lottery twice in a row with the same set of numbers, Wilbur and his wife also complained to the local authorities.

The weeks went by and spring turned into summer, and summer turned into real summer and things got hotter than the proverbial firecracker. It seemed that Wilbur's threats were finally taken seriously. But then, one stifling day Wilbur came home. He slid wearily out of his truck, reached for his lunch pail and thermos and turned around.

The dogs had come in total silence. Before Wilbur knew what was going on, the first dog was already airborne. Instinctively Wilbur put up his arm to fend it off; which is not a good thing to do in a dog attack. Maybe put up your arm if you've got something like a thick newspaper wrapped around it. But due to the heat of the day Wilbur's sleeves were rolled up leaving only his bare arm which the dog clamped down on hard.

Luckily, Wilbur had his beating stick and thumped the dog's head pretty good; it yelped and let go, but not before drawing blood. Before driving over to the hospital to get stitched up (and a tetanus shot), Wilbur stormed over to Ralph's house, and really came unglued, telling Ralph under no uncertain terms that if he ever saw those dogs on his property again, he was going to take serious action.

A week went by and all was calm but halfway through the following week, Wilbur drove into his driveway. He opened the door of his pickup and those vicious canines were rushing across the street. Wilbur slammed the door just as the dogs gathered around, snarling and pawing at the side window. It took five minutes before they finally determined that Wilbur was going to stay in his truck so the unwelcome trio gave up and started back across the street.

Upon hearing the latch mechanism and the squeak of the hinges they turned around to see Wilbur launch himself out of the cab. What they didn't realize or understand was that Wilbur had a rifle in his hands. Wilbur shot the first one out of the air; it landed, dead and harmless at Wilbur's feet. The second one hesitated for a second them came charging; it too fell victim to a .30 caliber round. The third one sniffed at his fallen comrades, whimpered and appeared confused until Wilbur moved.
It suddenly snarled and barked, and darted from side to side between the two carcasses. Maybe Wilbur should've called it a day but he was so fed up that he decided that he'd eliminate the threat once and for all. He took aim and squeezed the trigger.

Unfortunately the dog spun around at that very second, the round ripping through its spine just ahead of its tail. The dog yelped and collapsed on the ground, finally making its way across the street, its front paws dragging its paralyzed hind legs behind him, and leaving a bloody streak as a grim reminder.

Of course it wasn't very long before the local deputation was summoned, the second in command being the one who was dispatched. He pulled up behind Wilbur's pickup, got out, glanced at the two dead dogs, and the bloody streak that led across the street to Ralph's house then turned and glared at Wilbur who was seated on the truck seat, facing out, the rifle across his lap. Before the officer could utter a word, Wilbur took his rifle, barrel down in a safe position and began to operate the action and eject the rounds.

'There's a third one over at Ralph's,' Wilbur began. 'I talked to that son-of-a-bitch; and I talked to him; and I talked to him again! I went over to his place and asked him nicely; I pleaded with him, then I went over there and yelled at him--more than once--and told him that I was going to take action if he didn't keep those bastards under control!' He showed his right forearm with the stitched up bite marks then he indicated the first dog. 'That son-of-a-bitch bit me, and I had to get a tetanus shot. I told Ralph that if he didn't keep his dogs under control I'd take care of it myself!'

'Why didn't you call us?' Officer asked, still incredulous at the scene in front of him. Wilbur finished ejecting the bullets then left the breech open and ensured the rifle was empty and offered the weapon to Officer Leith. 'I've left at least a dozen messages on your goddamned phone, and my wife has left at least a dozen more! Someone was too damned busy...'

Leith ignored Wilbur's rifle. He took a couple steps backward and glanced across the street before facing Wilbur again. 'I'll go talk to him; and I'll have to deal with the third one anyways...' He pointed a finger at Wilbur. 'Don't you ever discharge a firearm within town limits again!' And with that, he turned and headed across the street.

Wilbur wasn't charged with anything although Ralph and his wife have threatened to sue him more than once. As the years passed by the story was largely forgotten; relegated to the vast pages of coffee row lore. At any rate Wilbur's neighborhood was once again safe and quiet.

The problem with dangerous dogs isn't over. About ten years ago one of JC's co-workers was helping his ten year old son deliver newspapers. They walked up to a house on the boy's route and without warning a pit bull jumped right through a screen door and attacked the boy. The boy's father got between the dog and the boy thus taking the brunt of the attack. The result was the man spending many weeks in the hospital getting his torn arms and neck put back together and then having to find some other kind of work because he could no longer function as a mechanic. He still suffers ill effects from that attack. The dog was destroyed but its owners packed up a few belongings and left town, leaving everything else they owned inside the house.

Police are still looking for them.

A dog is usually only as dangerous as its owner(s) allow it to be. Most dogs are a combination of unconditional love and loyalty. It is unfortunate that a few irresponsible owners make it bad for all dog owners.

Sunday, 4 January 2015



The biggest Achilles Heel of any service department is that dreaded 'W' word. Most new cars, trucks and farm equipment are covered by warranty, full coverage for (usually) a year, then specific components (basic engine and powertrain) for the next period. The trouble with most customers was that all they heard or read was the 2 or 3 years; they didn't bother to think that the warranty was limited after that. JC got so sick of the forbidden W that he bristled every time he heard it. A customer would phone and make arrangements to bring a pickup or a tractor in to get some work done. The work would be done in an efficient, timely manner then when JC was presenting the customer with the bill, he'd get a response: 'Oh no, that's under warranty!'  Now, the vast majority of customers were pretty good about repairs but that small minority could be extremely trying because to them, the warranty should never end. JC once attended a customer satisfaction workshop. The first question asked by the instructor was: 'What do your customers expect?' There were a lot of laughs around the room then first response was: 'Twenty years warranty.'

I sometimes blame large companies because they would come out with comprehensive campaign changes that would encompass half of the tractor and the factory would include any parts that failed because of the faulty parts that were to be changed in the first place. During one such campaign change JC filed warranty claims for upwards of $20,000.00. That gave some people the attitude that all the tractors--even those not covered by the campaign--should be covered by warranty indefinitely. They would expect normal wear and tear items, such as lights, switches, air-conditioning components and hydraulic couplers to be repaired/replaced without charge. When JC was confronted with that and he refused then the angry customer would traipse into the boss's office and tell him what jerk JC was for refusing a legitimate (?) request for warranty. Still, JC would hold his ground, explaining for the fiftieth time that the warranty did not apply to the faulty component and the factory would flatly refuse the claim. Of course some customers would have the audacity to suggest that the job be put onto someone's machine that was still under the first year of warranty. And then there were the totally fraudulent.

Willy bought a tractor new back when the series came out. He used it over the years, maintained it as it needed to be and then, long after its Best Before Date, traded it in for a new model. Now Willy didn't seem the type to expect a lot because he had previously owned a tractor, the warranty of which, expired long ago. But he bought the new unit at a time when the shop was filled to the rafters with larger tractors undergoing the aforementioned comprehensive campaign change. For the first year there were few problems; a cab relay here and a leaky hydraulic coupler there. Willy just used his tractor and enjoyed the extra features it offered.

Well, the first season was over and the second one began. Willy went to work but when the heat of the day hit, he soon realized that the air-conditioner wasn't working. And with those new super quiet tractor cabs one could not stand it when the A/C quit. JC handled the job himself as it was on his way home and he could bring what he needed. The problem was nothing more than a bad seal at the evaporator connection that had caused all the Freon to leak out. Willy was happy and back to work. JC went back to the shop and did up a bill for the call and sent it to Willy.

JC had always thought of Willy as a super conservative individual and a reasonably good customer; consequently he sure wasn't expecting the barrage of nasty words that Willy unloaded at him when the bill arrived. JC was quite offended if the truth be known. He tried to explain that Willy's full coverage warranty had expired at the end of the last season; this was six months later. He might as well had been talking to a post because Willy wasn't backing down; he had two years of warranty and flatly refused to pay the bill. And since his tractor was at the farm and not at the shop where JC could simply drop the door and keep the tractor inside until the bill was cleared, he had little choice but to deal with it another way.

One of the service manager's roles, in addition to attending to customer's needs and the shop's business, is that of Peace Maker. When confronted with an irascible customer, the service manager was to try to calm him down and take control of the situation, even when JC's attitude about keeping the peace was: 'Peace on you!' JC simply credited the bill and put it into what he referred to as a Revenge File, a place where all contested workorders were kept. there would come the time when Willy would need some more major work done--out of warranty. An extra gear or shifter fork would find its way onto the new workorder and it would eventually be settled. Not entirely legal but morally acceptable--the bottom line: Willy was responsible.

Later that year, Willy phoned JC and complained about fuel leaking around the fuel tank sending unit. JC told him that he couldn't send anyone out but since Willy was just down the road, why not just drive the tractor in and they'd fix it in the shop? Willy was there within half an hour and luckily the fuel level was low enough to remove the sending unit without having to drain off some of the fuel. A quick check revealed a flaw in the solder. It could've been soldered but a new unit only cost $44.00 and JC told him that; he didn't tell Willy that he'd install it for free. Willy said: 'You might as well replace it; it's under warranty anyways.'

'Afraid not,' JC countered, 'you're almost finished your second year (he didn't bother to dredge up the A/C problem).

'Well, just solder up the hole then.' JC soldered the hole shut, reinstalled the unit and billed Willy for $40.00 labor. Willy paid it, thinking that he got a bargain. I might add that later that year, Willy ran into some problems with the two-speed rear axle of his 3-ton truck. Some 'extra' parts cleared up the A/C dispute.


The thing about Willy, and many others like him, is that he was up front and open about his attitude; it wasn't all that hard to take. And most times, it doesn't hurt to ask. But there are (fortunately) a relatively small number of those who think that warranty is an entitlement, and they'll stop at nothing to get what they've convinced themselves that they're entitled to. The following story is about one individual to whom everything was legal as long as he didn't get caught. Trouble was: his own arrogance was his own undoing, especially when he thought he was smarter than JC.

If a person wants to indulge in a world of deception and fraud, he should at least maintain an aura of honesty. That way, the party about to be compromised isn't aware that such unlawful tendencies exist. That was Sig's undoing. He was rather loose-tongued about his fraudulent acts. Disconnecting the speedometers in his trucks was one thing; he also liked to hook the electric drill to the speedo cable and wind it in reverse to roll the odometer back. Of course he had to be careful with the latter as an overheated drill almost burned his truck to the ground. When Sig bought a new pickup at JC's place of employment, JC had an idea of what might happen.

Back then warranty was 12 Month/12,000 miles. The customer could buy an additional warranty, which was actually an insurance policy with a deductible but that was so much hassle that most customers decided it wasn't worth the trouble. Sig looked at it but decided against it, much to the pleasure of JC and all who might have to get involved. Sig brought his pickup in for some small repairs which didn't amount to much at all. A faulty fuel tank selector switch, and a diode trio in the alternator which were readily approved by the manufacturer. JC noted the mileage as 9800 on the warranty claim and all was well.

Two months later, the truck came in to get a leak at the transmission repaired. JC looked at the odometer and saw that it was 9400. He also saw that the truck no longer had the original tires. JC never said a word, he just had the leak fixed, noted the mileage at 10,800 and processed the claim. He also checked the speedometer connection at the transmission and saw that the cable was fouled up with road dust. He cleaned the cable, lubed it up and secured it to the transmission connection. With the truck still up on the hoist, he cleaned up the outside of the connection with ether, dried it thoroughly then took out a tube of sealing lacquer and placed a bead across the connection. If the connection was ever broken, the bead of lacquer would shatter thus telling whoever was working on the truck that it had been tampered with.

JC never saw Sig again until the initial year of ownership was almost over. Sig showed up one day with a lot of mechanical noise coming out of the engine as well as some popping back through the intake. JC determined it to be with the valve train (it turned out to be a flattened camshaft). JC also looked at the tires and determined that it had gone through another set (Sig lived about thirty miles from any place and the distance to JC's shop was more like fifty). A check of the odometer showed just over 10,000 miles. Before any work commenced, JC put the truck on the hoist and checked the speedometer connection; the lacquer was broken. Sig was busted!

JC told Sig that his warranty was void and that the shop would perform the necessary repairs but at Sig's expense. That didn't ride well with Sig. In fact the pits and dents on the metal siding of the shop, left there from the gravel spray of Sig's spinning wheels as he roared out of there, are still in plain sight. JC was going to highlight them along with a sign identifying the culprit.

Sig headed to another town about 40 miles away. But warranty was turned down there as well. Sig obviously didn't think that JC had phoned the zone office and officially voided the warranty. Anyways, since the shop wouldn't perform the warranty, Sig decided to do something else; he'd simply trade the truck for a new one. He even brought his dad with him to buy another truck at the same time.

Problem was: he didn't think that service departments between dealerships talked to each other.

JC got a call from the second dealership regarding the truck and the reason the warranty was voided. JC explained the situation to him and how he caught Sig with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. Brian, the other service manager, told JC that Sig and his dad were dealing on a pair of new pickups. JC cautioned him on what was likely to happen. Brian held up the servicing of the new trucks while he dispatched an employee to drive down to JC's place for a couple of tubes of sealing lacquer.

JC didn't hear anything regarding Sig for the better part of two years. Neither Sig nor his dad hung onto the new trucks for very long so JC had an idea that they had attempted to extend the warranty on their new units and got caught.

Well, JC was now at a new place of business and was checking out a problem at a local tractor dealership when he overheard one of the sales reps talking to the bookkeeper. Sig's name was mentioned in this great wonderful deal that was transpiring. When JC heard that he burst out laughing; it got the bookkeeper's attention and JC was quizzed.

It turned out that Sig was renting a couple of new large tractors for the season and the dealership was getting them ready. JC told him about his experiences with the fraudulent ass. 'Mike, that guy will unplug the hourmeters,' JC cautioned him. 'I'll bet a thousand bucks that he'll find a way to do it.'

Mike, (the bookkeeper) summoned the owner of the dealership and had JC explain what was likely to happen. JC added: 'Back the engine oil filters off half a turn and carve the date and hours onto them, and retighten them, then put a bead of sealing lacquer on the engine drain plugs; there's no way Sig is going to service those engines if he intends to return the tractors at the end of the season. If the lacquer seal is broken, then I'm wrong, to a point.

The dealership procured a couple of reliable (read expensive) vibration-detecting hourmeters and secured them to the top of each tractor's transmission then sent the tractors out.

October rolled around and Sig returned the tractors. He had things figured out that he'd be charged a couple thousand dollars and all would be well. To ensure that he was on the up and up, he had one of the farm flunkies wash and detail those tractors to look like they had barely left the dealership.

The tractors were unloaded and run into the shop. Sig headed into Mike's office to settle up, and that's when he saw the two vibrometers sitting on the desk. He sat down and opened his official farm checkbook and began writing.

'Now you take the readings off the hourmeters on the dash panels and it shows about $2,000.00 you owe us,' Mike began. He then held up the vibrometers. 'But these tell us something a lot different,' Mike continued. 'We mounted these on top of the transmissions and they tell us you owe us $14,000.00 apiece.' Mike paused to let the news sink in before he moved in for the kill.

'Now you cut a check for $28,000.00, plus the bill for servicing the tractors--you didn't change oil for service the hydraulics either--and you get your ass out of here, and never come back. Try to fight us and I'm calling the police.'

Sig didn't say a word. He cut a check for just under $30,000.00 and headed for the door.

The years went by and JC heard very little from Sig. He bumped into him at a major machinery exhibition a couple of years ago. Sig wasn't impressed when JC referred to him as Sigmond Fraud, and even introduced him as such to a couple of friends. But everyone wonders who Fraud is going to try to take next.