Episode 33 From Hubbard, Wisconsin: Dave Takes Joy in spring

Comment: Recent readers may not know that occasionally I depart from personal/political commentary and write about one of my favorite characters from my fictional town of Hubbard, Wisconsin. Sadly, I’ve neglected Hubbard and its residents, as the last letter from Hubbard was written on January 12, 2008. If you want to catch up, just click on “Hubbard, Wisconsin” under the “Categories” heading in the left toolbar; there you will find all 33 episodes.

Dave Takes Joy in Spring

Even though it is May 15th, the temperature in Hubbard, Wisconsin has lingered in the high fifties with brisk winds. It doesn’t yet feel like summer, which explains why the faded blue sweatshirt remains hanging on the rusty hook on Dave’s back porch. Up in northern Wisconsin it actually snowed an inch on Thursday which makes it even harder for Dave to accept the concept of global warming. It’s been a darned long winter. Friday was a day for Dave to celebrate the rights of spring, which in Wisconsin means that it’s time to put away the winter contraptions and get out the summer stuff.

First on Dave’s list were the snow blowers. There’s the 20 year-old, rusty 4-horse single stage blower that Dave takes to Chicago each winter, only to be hauled back to Hubbard for maintenance after the last snow falls in the windy city. Then there’s the fancy, almost new two-stage, 12-horse Simplicity blower which works overtime in Hubbard’s harsh winters. Dave tuned up both blowers and filled their crank cases with new 5W-30 oil. Fuel stabilizer was added to the gasoline to insure that both blowers will start next December when they rightfully re-assert their claim as the most important pieces of mechanized equipment on the face of the earth. Dave puts a little piece of masking tape on the handle of each blower, writing on the tape that the oil was changed and fuel stabilized on May 15, 2009. In past seasons, when Dave has not placed a note on the blowers, he has forgotten whether he did it or not. Forgetfulness is a hazard when you become 40 years older than your oldest snow blower!

Then it was down to the shed to check out the 17-foot Alumicraft fishing boat and the two Polaris jet-skis. It is often said that the happiest two days in the life of a boat owner is the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it. Dave is reminded of this as he tries to start the jet-skis. Neither one of them makes a sound when the start button is pushed, despite the fact that the guys in the marina installed some chargers that were supposed to keep the batteries ready all winter. The batteries probably froze solid during the winter, even though the chargers were plugged in. That means a couple of new batteries again this year. Looks like It is time for Dave to have a “come to Jesus meeting” with the friendly guy down at the marina. Fortunately, the old 35 horse mariner attached to the Alumicraft kicks right over. If only Dave were a better fisherman!

Now it is time to go back into the garage and make sure the other three “summer” tools are working properly. The Stihl gas-powered hedge trimmer kicks right off. This machine will cut your arm off if you’re not careful, but it can make quick work of a hedge. Dave didn’t even know they made gas-powered hedge trimmers until he saw some Mexican landscapers carving up hedges in Chicago. By the time he had driven back to Hubbard Dave just knew he had to get one of those “kick-ass” machines. He hasn’t been disappointed.

The mulching mower wouldn’t start. After pulling the starter cord back umpteen times, not a pop came from the supposedly fancy 4-cyle, overhead cam Honda engine. Dave took the mower over to Jimbo’s place. Jimbo is one of those quiet, unassuming guys that works out of his garage. If it has a small gasoline engine attached to it, Jimbo can fix it. In Dave’s mind Jimbo is a genius and Jimbo’s outspoken dislike of government at the federal, state and local levels gives Dave another reason to like him. The bad news was that Jimbo had so many mowers backlogged that he couldn’t look at Dave’s mower for three weeks. After some nagging from Dave, Jimbo smacked the Honda carburetor with a small hammer. This “un-stuck” the carburetor needle and the thing kicked right over. Jimbo wouldn’t take any money because it took only a second to “tap” on the carburetor. Dave reprimanded Jimbo for not taking the money, telling him that “It isn’t banging on the engine that counts; it’s knowing where to smack it.”

At the end of the day, Dave went back to the garage to find the Stihl weed wacker. This is a commercial unit costing around $500, and Dave has had it for years. It is his pride and joy! After searching the garage for about 20 minutes, Dave couldn’t find it. He went to the shed, to the rental garage unit next door, and even down to the basement looking for the darned thing. He looked everywhere but his underwear drawer! His precious weed wacker had disappeared! Dave thought: “Who would break into the garage and take my weed wacker? Did I loan it to anyone? Ah, what the heck, even if I did loan it to someone, I wouldn’t remember who borrowed it.” After stewing about his “stolen” weed wacker and losing a few hours sleep, Dave was resigned to the fact that it was gone forever. The next morning he found it in the garage, propped up in front of a window where he had left it last fall. He must have walked by it 5 times and never seen it. “Ah, the world is good! I’ve got my weed wacker back!” said Dave.

Spring is a wonderful time of year. For many, spring joy is a hike in the woods to hunt for morel mushrooms or to gaze at wildflowers. For Dave, it’s a fresh oil stain on his overalls and the wonderful, distinctive smell of gasoline on his hands. It’s the fresh scab on his knuckle that split when his wrench slipped off the oil drain plug. It’s the leaky hose that he will fix on Tuesday and the awnings that will go on the windows next week. Alas, spring joy is in the eye of the beholder!

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