Monday, July 6, 2009

'Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!'

Today was quiet, nearly silent. The only sound of any consequence was the hum of our tractor outside as our older spawn mowed the lawn. He'd started the chore yesterday, but his labor ended abruptly when the serpentine belt that drives the mower deck snapped.

Actually, the belt got so hot that it melted, stuck to itself and then came apart. It seems to me that the cause of the failure -- plowing through high, wet grass without giving thought to the limits of the equipment -- might've been avoided if the operator had been listening to the machinery rather than his iPod.

But hey, that's just me.

This may sound cruel, but it's true -- the kid has a talent for breaking things that don't belong to him in catastrophic, can't-be-fixed ways. I mean, I'm as tired of tripping to the store with twisted Craftsman tools as the Sears people are of seeing me.

When the belt broke yesterday my wife graciously volunteered to go out to pick up a new one. I gave her the tractor's model number and the width of the cutting deck, and within a half-hour she was back with the part. Well, I said to myself, this is gonna be easy.

I pulled the deck and removed the shrouds and captive pulleys. Guided by a diagram in the owner's manual, I threaded the belt where it was supposed to go -- and came up about a foot short of the PTO shaft.

Wrong part, dammit.

Even though the fussup wasn't Mrs. KintlaLake's fault, this time I went back to the store, short belt in hand. Two head-scratching salespersons took their sweet time coming to the conclusion that they didn't have the right belt in stock, finally handing me a refund of my wife's money and sending me off to chase wild geese elsewhere.

On my way home I stopped at three auto-parts stores, figuring that if I knew the belt's length and width (and I did), maybe one of them could help me out. No luck -- I went 0-for-3.

Back at the house two hours later, I called a farm-supply store ten miles south of here, on the off-chance that they might have my belt -- and to my pleasant surprise, they did. We picked it up on our way into Lancaster last night and I wove it onto the deck this morning.

Piece of cake.

The tractor runs, the mower blades are spinning again and the swearing has stopped -- until the next time...