Monday, December 23, 2013

Charlie: Depot Hack Therapy

By Rob Watson

In the eight years Charlie and I have been friends we have worked together on about three Model T restorations.  Mixed in were a few repairs, upgrades, and tuneups to his and other folks jalopies.  The first with which I had helped was an assembled pile of junk seen on a used car lot while passing through a nearby town. A later restoration began as a request by one of Charlie's friends to "tune-up" a depot hack the friend acquired... well, here is that story:

The friend had gone to the entertainment mecca of Branson Missouri. One of his choices of entertainment was to attend an automobile auction there. As the auction moved along, a number of rather nice autos came up for bids and sold. Then, a very attractive Ford model T depot hack was driven onto the auction block. Bidding was slow so the friend decided to throw in a bid. You know, just one bid to move thing along. His one bid won the day, so to speak. He failed to notice, until later, that the car was pushed from the stage.

In attempting the tune-up, it became clear the whole motor/transmission assembly needed a complete overhaul. With financial assistance from the friend, and technical assistance from another friend, The job was accomplished with excellent results. In the process, Charley became enamored with the depot hack idea.

You see, depot hacks are all custom made. Charlie's research showed there are hundreds of them and no two are exactly alike. The primary feature they have in common, other than a model T frame, motor, transmission, and running gear, is they are all made almost entirely of wood... finished, varnished, and polished to a high shine. (They are also the most likely forerunner of the "Woody" station wagons of later years)

The third leg of our triangle (desire, knowledge, means) came in the form of a model T frame, motor, transmission, and running gear, supplied as a gift from the owner of the depot hack described above.
In the following picture, Charlie's future depot hack sits on the trailer as it was delivered.

It is said this "gift" sat in a pasture, fully exposed to the weather for over 50 years, including being fully submerged during at least one flood.

My job has always been that of minor assistant: instances requiring extra agility such as crawling under the car... fetching tools... cleaning parts... sandblasting... Observing Charlie's restoration processes have been an education in the conservation of money and dogged persistence.

Our first task was to recover and restore the engine. Most of the engine parts were rusted to most of the other engine parts. Cutting tourches, big hammers, punches, various forms of lubricants, rust dissolving agents, and patience were the main tools. With some paint and a few replacement parts we got this:

A trip to the lumber store got us two sheets of very nice plywood ($78) for the sides and front of the body. The structural parts of the body were made from refinished wood recovered from a piano ($0) and the sideboards ($0) of a cattle truck. The seats ($0) we rescued from a discarded school bus. Fenders, running boards, and other body parts were "in stock" or traded with the "model T old boys club" ($). Most of the nuts bolts and screws were purchased new ($?) as was the rubber covering for the roof ($?). Below is the result:

The reader should remember that with Charlie, everything exists as a work in progress. There is always room for improvement and he is the one to try it. Below, me, Charlie, and his other able assistant, Jake, take the depot hack to town for coffee.

 Therapy? Charlie's lovely wife will sometimes gently remind him that he is no longer young. I counter with the declaration: "Working on these old pieces of junk is what keeps you alive."

Memories of Christmas Past


I tried to move my Christmas story to the top of my blog but have been unsuccessful. To find it you should click on 2011 on the right if this then on December (if it does not automatically open). The title should appear, then click on that.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Laugh 'Til It Hurts

By Rob Watson

It is possible that you had to be there for these to be funny, but our kittens have on two occasions paralyzed Wife and I in sidesplitting laughter with their antics.

Our kittens are about 5 months old on this first event. Unlike most cats we have had, they seem not to mind traveling, as long as the air conditioner is on. If the air is not on they complain until it is. They know what the small crate is for... to move them from one place to another. Usually, we open the crate and two of them will quickly wander in. The third will not be far behind. They do not distinguish between transfer from house to car, or car to vet, or any other transfer. They get in and go... until...

A few months ago we drove 14 hours from our new home to the old one. We needed to pack up the last of our stuff and haul it to the new place. This was the first time the kittens had ridden in the covered bed of our large pickup. We put them there because it was vastly more room than the cage they usually travel in. They have food, water and a sandbox in either.

On arrival at the old place, we needed to get the kittens into the small cage to transfer them to the old house. When we opened the cage one walked in. I grabbed the second and shoved him into the cage. when we tried to put the third in, one of the others crawled out. Then both tried to get out. We would grab one of the escapees and stuff him back in only to have another one to squeeze out. In. out. In. Out. In. Out. Never more than two in the cage at any one time, until we both began to laugh and lost control. Several minutes later, after we regained self control, we got all three in the cage.

These days, the kittens are 8 month old. The boys are 10 pounds each and the girl is about 8. During their exercise periods  they dash around the living room, alone, or one in pursuit of another. There is no obstacle that cannot be traversed. A leap of four or five feet is common. Floor to recliner to pet tower to another recliner... zoom, zoom. zoom.

We keep our TV tables, each by our respective recliners, each with a place mat for when we eat in front of the TV. One of the boys came dashing across the room, leaped from floor to the arm of my recliner, and followed immediately with a leap of five feet or so, laterally across me and onto the place mat of my TV table. The table top, being polished, offered no resistance to the lateral momentum of the 10 pound cat.

Cat and mat continued to fly together, as if on a magic carpet ride, for another five feet or so until the two landed on the carpeted floor.  Our uncontrolled laughter continued for several minutes. The cat, apparently, embarrassed by the outcome, cut short his exercise and curled up in another chair, eying the two us with a hurt look on his face.

Well, I guess you had to be there.

A Celebration of Christmas

By Rob Watson

Recently, I had cause to attend a religious service celebrating Christmas. It was of such a unique nature that I thought I would share it with others. Of course, it may be old and common to some folks, but it was new to me.

The choir was the Northwestern Chamber Choir. This is a group of 32 college students. They sang all but one interlude acapella. The service began with a choral piece. As the choir sang, the lights were lowered to near complete darkness in the church and the participants processed in and took their places. The pastor, entirely by the light of a single candle, greeted the congregation and read an opening prayer.

The core of the service was nine readings from the Bible. Each reading was related to the Christmas story. After each reading was a choral interlude of one or more religious pieces. During each interlude, two acolytes would come out and light a few candles. By the end of the service 80 candles lighted the front of the church.

The service was held in the Catholic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The main alter is a large and ornate structure made in several tiers, each supporting candelabras of different sizes. There are also side alters to the left and right of the main one. These also were made in tiers, each with candelabras.

The last reading was followed by the congregation joining the choir, singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful"; followed by a final blessing from the pastor. As the participants processed out, the congregation joined the choir in singing "Hark! the Harold Angels Sing".

The choir was excellent. For the size of the group, it made a tremendous sound. If there was electrical assistance, that was done well enough so as not to be detectable.

Before the service began, two men hustled about handing out programs. These listed the readings and the musical pieces in order. Also included were the words to the two songs sung by the congregation. I, of course, sang without that assistance, as the building was still almost completely dark. (congregational participation thinned considerably on the third verse of each song.)

After the service had ended, the lights were turned up, and the audience gave the choir a very well deserved standing ovation.

The readings were:
1. Genesis 3: 8-15
2. Genesis 22: 15-18
3. Isaiah 9: 1, 5, 6
4. Isaiah 11: 1-9
5. Luke 1: 26-33
6. Luke 2: 1-7
7. Luke 2: 8-16
8. Matthew 2: 1-11
9. John 1: 1-14

May the peace and blessing of this holy season be upon all of you of good will!!