A Summer’s Odyssey Part 11

A Summer's Odyssey
Part 11

By Jennifer Sue
Krista and Kylie work as a team, and Krista learns she has more going for her that she had realized


Part 11
Nana laughed, “That certainly would give those blue-haired old biddies something to cluck about.”

Everyone chuckled, even Rev. Giles who unsuccessfully did his best to keep his professional aplomb.

We discussed a few other possibilities, but none seemed to come close to my suggestion. Rev. Giles, Dr. Sykes, Gram, Nana, Pat, Mrs. Masters, Kylie and I agreed to get together Tuesday evening to plan our strategy.

The picnic began in earnest. Dad and David had set up several saw-horses and screwed 2x10 planks on the top, then covered the planks with plywood. We sat on lawn chairs and some of those cheap sturdy hard plastic chairs. The friendship was great, the food fantastic, the croquet hilarious. Everyone had a wonderful time. Everyone had a good laugh when Dad told how the boys had hosed me down as I’d finished mowing the lawn.

“Can we show everybody how we did it?” LJ asked excitedly.

“Now isn’t the right time.” Mom smiled as she quickly put that idea to rest.

“Jane, I can’t believe you don’t have a power mower to do this lawn,” Nana shook her head. “However did you do it on your own?”

“The riding mower broke down three years ago,” Gram replied. “The power mower conked out last year. I haven’t been able to afford to replace them. When I had to do it, I’d do a little each day. By the time I finished it was time to start over.”

“Do you still have the mowers?” Kylie asked with bright eyes.

“Sure, they’re in the barn,” Gram chuckled. “Some of us don’t throw things out. even when they’re broken.”

“I know that look,” Larry laughed as he mock punched Kylie on the shoulder. “She’s a fantastic mechanic. If she can’t fix an engine, no one can!”

“Really,” Gram said with a hint of surprise.

”I’ve had Kylie fix all my small engine equipment for the last four years,” Pappy declared. “She learned from the best mechanic in Hundred Bay Peninsula.”

“Of course, your dad! He was the best mechanic I’ve ever seen,” Gram praised. “God rest his soul. We’ve got some good mechanics, but none can hold a candle to your father. If he taught you, you have to be good.”

“Except for Larry, Kylie never got along with the other boys,” Mrs. Masters said. “Jim knew Kylie was special, and never pushed to have him try to fit in. But he did insist Kylie develop common sense and self-confidence. Kylie was handing him wrenches when she was three. By six she was able to rebuild lawn mower engines. That old VW Kylie’s driving was sitting in the back lot of our garage for years. When she was ten she asked if she could fix it up. Jim told her if she could get it running, it was hers. I never saw a child put in so much research and work as Kylie did on that old Beetle. Jim was so proud when he heard that engine turn over.”

“It’s the one thing I’ve been able to do better that all the guys at school,” Kylie laughed, “It really upset them that a sissy could fix cars.”

“Yeah,” Larry laughed. “And you never missed an opportunity to rub their noses in it!”

“After the way they always hassled me, why not?” Kylie smiled saucily. “But I did it by giving them advice, and even getting their vehicles running when they broke down.”

“That really ate at them,” Larry laughed. “They were afraid to say too much, because they were afraid you wouldn’t help them.”

“I just wish I had a better place to work,” Kylie sighed. “Since we sold the garage, all dad’s tools and equipment have been jammed in our garage. It’s so full I can’t even get a car inside.”

“Well, if you really love fix engines, I’ll make a deal with you,” Gram said. “My grandfather grew up in the depression and fought in WWII. While he wasn’t the neatest mechanic, he could keep a piece of equipment running. My grandmother said he could jury-rig anything. All his tools, including an old chain hoist, are over in the barn as well as a couple of old vehicles. It needs a good cleaning, but there’s plenty of room in the barn. If you want to use it, it’s yours as long as you fix the mowers and keep my old van running.”

“That sounds great,” Kylie gushed.

“Why don’t we go over and look everything over?” Gram asked. “I’d love to see that stuff running again. I bet people would get a laugh out of seeing that old Duck back in Broad Creek.”

“Duck?” asked Kylie. “Obviously not a ‘quack quack’ duck. What is it? One of those little boats shaped like a duck they have in amusement parks?”

“It’s something my grandfather bought from military surplus after the war ended,” Gram explained. “”It’s a big six wheeled truck/boat hybrid , it’s spelled D U K W, but everyone just called it a duck.”

“You’re kidding,” Ed said excitedly as he sat up in his chair. “Don’t tell me you have a real WWII DUKW? That’s worth a bundle today in any condition!”

“Yeah, the DUKW,” Gram said. “Well, last I saw it, it still looked pretty good.”

“You really have a DUKW in the barn?” Pappy asked with interest. “I remember seeing one tooling about Broad Creek when I was a kid!”

“That was us,” Gram chuckled. “It didn’t go fast, but it’d go in anything! Open water, sand bars, swamps, beaches, fields, roads. You name it, it went there.”

“This I have to see,” Ed said to universal nods of agreement.

“Let’s go,” Gram said as she stood up.

“I’ll stay with the kids,” Pat said.

“So will I,” Laura added, as did Nana.

“They need a bit of work, too,” Gram apologized as Dad and David heaved at the heavy wooden doors.

“We can take care of that easy enough,” Pappy said as he gave them a quick once over.

The windows were dirty and it was hard to see inside, but there were several large tarp covered objects.

“There’s another set of doors on the other side,” Gram said.

Dad and David headed right over and sunlight flooded the space. Ed and Pappy headed over to the biggest tarp and began to tug the dusty covering off.

Clouds of dust filled the barn and everyone was coughing, but we all looked at the olive drab behemoth that had been revealed. Everyone was speechless. It looked like a boat with wheels a big boat with wheels. While we walked around it I found a green metal box between the tandem rear wheels. I pulled it out and saw it had the word AMMO and 50 CAL. stenciled on it in yellow. I opened the box and found an old book inside.

“I think this is the manual or something,” I said as I flipped through it, then began to read aloud. “The designation of DUKW is military nomenclature, the name comes from the model naming terminology used by GMC, the manufacturer. The D indicates a vehicle designed in 1942, the U means utility or amphibious, the K indicates all-wheel drive and the W indicates two powered rear axles. Specifications: Weight 7.5 tons, Length 31 feet, Width 8 feet 2 inches. ZHas no Armor, is powered by a GMC 6-cylinder 270 cid 91  ½ hp gasoline engine, with a power/weight ratio of 14 hp/ton. Each wheel has individual suspension, it’s a 6x6 drive, has an operational range 213 miles on the road or 50 miles on water, with a top land speed of 50 mph, and 6 mph in water. It can safely function in winds up to 60 knots, rain, and heavy surf. The DUKW proved its seaworthiness by crossing the English Channel. The DUKW was built around the cab over engine (COE) six-wheel-drive military truck GMC ACKWX, with the addition of a hollow watertight steel hull between 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick and a propeller. It had a folding canvas top. It has a carrying capacity of 2  ½ tons. A high capacity bilge pump system can keep the DUKW afloat if the hull is breached by holes up to 2" in diameter. The DUKW was the first vehicle to allow the driver to vary the tire pressure from inside the cab. The 18 inch tires could be fully inflated for hard surfaces such as roads, and less inflated for softer surfaces–especially beach sand. This added to the DUKW's great versatility as an amphibious vehicle.”
Ed came over and looked at the manual. “Krista, do you mind if I look at that?”

“It’s all yours,” I said as I gave it to him. “It’s too technical for me.”

“The body looks solid,” Pappy said as he thumped on the hull.

“The tires are dry-rotted,” Kylie commented. “Larry, can you boost me up this built in ladder? I want to look into the engine compartment.”

Larry boosted Kylie up, and she began snooping about. “This is fantastic!” she gushed. “Mrs. O’Brien, did something break, or was it still running and just parked?”

“My grandfather drove it in here after Hurricane Agnes back in June 1972,” Gram said. “It took a real beating. He’d spent 3 days rescuing people and shuttling supplies. The engine was knocking badly and the transmission was slipping. He said he needed to do a complete overhaul, but never managed to get on it.”

“Well, it looks as if he at least got it dry and cleaned,” Kylie said. “Mrs. O’Brien, I’d really love to get this running again!”

“So would I,” Gram sighed. “But while I respect your mechanical abilities, I think this monster might be too much for you to tackle by yourself.”

“Well, I’ve always been a shade tree mechanic,” Ed spoke up. “Kylie, if you feel up to having an old man for an apprentice, I’d be glad to help restore this beauty.”

“You’ve got a deal,” Kylie squealed.

“I've always wanted to drive one of these," Pappy declared.

“So have I," said Ed.

"First, we need to go over every part." Kylie laughed, "I honestly think it'll take all winter. I've got to get this place cleaned up and organized before we do more than look at this. Then I've got to get the lawnmowers running."

"Oh yeah," I exclaimed. "I don't want to mow the lawn with that old reel mower!"

Everyone laughed. While everyone else continued checking out the DUKW, Kylie, Larry, and I walked over to the workbenches and tool cabinets, and began to check out the tools.

Kylie was amazing as she almost reverently touched and examined each tool. "My dad would have loved to see these! He always said modern tools couldn't compare with the solid craftsmanship of old tools."
“You’re welcome to use anything you need,” Gram smiled. “That includes the shop portion of this barn.”

“Kylie, do you think you could teach me how to fix things?” I asked hopefully.

“We’ll give it a try,” she smiled. “As long as no one objects, and you have some natural mechanical aptitude.”

“I’ve never had a chance to learn anything mechanical,” I sighed. “So I guess it wouldn’t work out.”

“Hold on there, young lady.” Dad came over to me. “Having a mechanical aptitude simply means you’re good with your hands, have common sense, are not afraid to get dirty, and are willing to work hard. I’d say that means YOU have a high mechanical aptitude, you simply haven’t had a chance to learn.”

“Mrs. O’Brien, if it’s all right, I’ll come out tomorrow morning, and Krista can help me clean this place up,” Kylie smiled. “Then I’ll have you repair the push power motor while I guide you through it.”

“Is it all right, Gram?” I asked excitedly.

“First off, Miss Kylie Masters, if you’re going to be part of this family, I’ll expect you to call me Gram. Other than that, I have no problem with it,” Gram chuckled. “But I think you should get in the habit of asking you father and mother that type of question.”

‘Oops … sorry Dad,” I blushed. “Gram’s right, I should ask you and Mom … er … Pat. Can I work with Kylie?”

Dad shook his head, grinning broadly. “Krista, you are a wonderful girl!”

“Huh,” I asked unsure what was going on.

“Krista, you referred to Pat as MOM,” Dad said as he swept me into a hug. “We’ve been hoping you and your sisters would. Pat has wanted you to call her Mom from the first day she met you, but she doesn’t want to replace your mother, she wants to be another mother to you. It’s something we didn’t know how to bring up.”

“Oh,” was all I could reply.

“Let’s go ask your second mom what she thinks.” Gram smiled as she wiped tears of joy from her eyes.

Everyone was looking at me, smiling almost as if I’d just won a gold medal or something. “What,” I asked. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that since Pat is adopting us, that would make her our new mom. The twins and I had already discussed this and knew she wasn’t going to try to make us forget our birth mother. They’d been best friends, and Pat has already helped us learn more about our her. We just thought we had to wait until the adoptions were finalized until we could call her Mom. If it’s okay to start calling her Mom now, we’d be happy … and the twins can start calling you Dad too … and Nana and Pappy too!”

“Let’s close these doors and get back to the picnic,” Pappy said. “Nana will be delighted.”

I could see he was pleased too, but was being too macho to say so. I never did understand why guys always have to be so tough and unemotional. As Kristopher, I knew I had to be like that or I’d be teased and hassled unmercifully. Being a girl was just so much easier. There were no dumb macho rules to follow.

When we returned to the picnic, Pappy called the kids together. “Krista, would you like to do the honors?”

“Okay, Pappy,” I giggled. “Linda, Teri, please come here. Pat, Nana, Pappy and Dad, please form a line.” I waited until they’d assumed the positions. It took all my strength to keep from laughing at the confused looks. “Girls, I want you to meet our new Mom, Nana, Pappy, and Dad.”

The girls squealed with delight while Mom and Nana gasped with surprised joy. Then we all joined in a happy hugfest.

After a few moments I slipped away and brought LJ and Pete over to Gram. “Little brothers, I want you to meet your new Gram.” Again, the hugs and smiles were genuine.

Once things settled down, Pappy, Dad, and David went over to stoke the wood fire in the outdoor barbeque/fireplace to prepare for the next round of food, while Nana and Gram headed into the house to get more buns, burgers, hotdogs and chicken. Kylie and Larry joined the kids in a rambunctious game of tag.

Mom hooked my arm and walked me around the side of the house. “You are really something, daughter of mine,” she whispered. “I hope I can be half the mother to you, Lyndi, and Teri that Carol was.”

“If you’re half the mother to us that you are to LJ and Pete, we’ll be blessed,” I softly sniffed.

“Girl, there is no way you were ever a boy,” Mom shook her head. “You may have a boy’s body, but your soul screams GIRL. The boys are really looking forward to living here with their new sisters. I have no doubts that you’ll be the same fantastic big sister to them as you are for Lyndi and Teri.”

We hugged and cried for quite a bit. When we separated, we saw Dr. Sykes standing at the corner watching us. When she saw we’d seen her, she walked over to us. “Krista, I’ve learned more about you at this picnic then I’d have ever learned in a year’s worth of counseling sessions. You are undeniably feminine in your heart, and like Kylie, you’re not afraid to take on some projects that are normally male. That tells me you’re comfortable in your femininity.”

“I’m just being me,” I blushed in response.

“That’s exactly what she means,” Mom said as she slipped an arm about my shoulder. “As Kristopher, you really had to be miserable.”

“I was,” I chuckled. “Only I was so busy trying to be a tough guy I didn’t realize it. I knew I wasn’t happy, but I never really gave it any thought. When I started being Krista, I didn’t realize how easily I slipped into the role. I was too worried about being discovered. I guess I had a special angel watching over me.”
“You mean your mother, Carol,” Dr. Sykes said. “Kylie told me what happened that night … at first, I thought it was her imagination. But when your Dad confirmed the water puddle and seaweed in the barn … it’s a bit difficult for a scientifically educated person to handle. Not that I don’t have faith, I just had science blinders on.”

“Maybe we should tell Rev Giles,” I suggested as we headed back to rejoin the party.

When we told him about Mom’s ghost saving Kylie, he was delighted. “That’s the key to Sunday’s sermon. People love the supernatural and miracles. We’ll have to pull it all together.”

It was dark when the picnic finally wrapped up. Everyone was happy and exhausted and got a good night’s sleep.
The next morning I was struggling to open the barn doors when I heard the sound of a vehicle coming through the forest. In moments, a VW Beetle puttered into the open. I knew at once it had to be Kylie. The bug was painted purple and decorated with daisies, just like the helmet she'd worn yesterday.

Kylie wore a pair of worn but serviceable sneakers and jeans, as well as a snug dark blue T-shirt that outlined her small bosom. She handed me a large red paisley print bandana to cover my hair. I'd never worn one, and had no idea how to do it.

"Watch me put mine on and you try to copy me." Kylie chuckled as she shook out a large blue paisley print bandana. After folding it in half, corner to corner, she placed the middle of the folded side at her forehead with the double point facing towards her back. Taking the folded corners, she pulled them over her ears and under her hair, tying the ends into a small bow at the back of her neck.

It wasn't difficult and my first attempt, while not neat, was successful.

With her help, we opened both sets of doors. As we began uncovering equipment, we found an old 48 inch 8 bladed industrial fan on wheels. After checking the power cord for cracks and bare spots, we set it up to draw air from the barn. We found rags, buckets and ladders. The best discovery was a big industrial shop vacuum. It had two 1 hp motors on a heavy round lid that fit atop a 55 gallon steel drum, two sections of four inch diameter, ten foot long hose, connectors, and attachments. Kylie reached into the tote she'd brought in from her bug and got an aerosol can of electric motor cleaner. I watched intently as she sprayed the motors and spun the fans by hand. They squealed a bit, but moved easily. Then she sprayed them with an aerosol electric motor lubricant. Before plugging the motors into an outlet, she carefully examined the power cords for any cracks or bare spots. She was a wonderful teacher, as she explained not only what she was doing, but also why. When we plugged the motors in, they roared to life. The suction created was so intense that when I placed the hose against the top of a work bench, it sucked itself so tight, even working together, we couldn’t remove it! The intense whir of the straining motors reached a pitch that hurt our ears. We finally turned the thing off.

By then Lyndi popped in to tell us to clean up and come over to the house, as lunch was almost ready. We found Pat, LJ, and Pete there too. We set to the meal with gusto. Upon finishing, Gram told us to get back to work, that the youngsters could clean up the meal. This brought moans from the boys, until the girls told them with all four working together, they could get done quickly and go outside to play.

About 4:30 a growing rumbling thunder announced Larry's approach. He drove the snarly Harley right inside the barn before gunning the engine. Fortunately Kylie and I had both covered our ears in anticipation of his signature shut down. The walls actually shook to the reverberations. Pappy pulled up outside in his F-350. As he and Dave exited, a third truck pulled and Rick and Harry emerged from an F-250.

They all came over and began checking the big doors. As they moved from the front doors to the rear, Larry gave Kylie a quick hug. The employees good naturedly razzed Larry a bit, saying they now understood why he'd been so happy the last few days.

Kylie and I went back to cleaning. We were maneuvering a ladder into place to get to the dirty windows when Pappy stopped us. "You two are NOT going to even attempt to clean those windows until we've had a chance to check them. The glazing putty is probably so brittle and loose the panes will fall out if you put any pressure on them. We'll take them down to re-glaze and paint them.

While he was talking to us Rick and Harry went out to the flatbed trailer behind the F-250 to unload the Bobcat. They removed the scoop and put on a set of forks. Then Rick drove it to the center of the first door, laid the forks on the ground. As the others provided guidance and lifted the heavy door, Rick slowly slid the forks under the door. Once they were all the way under, he tilted the forks and lifted. The others balanced the door on the forks and once the pressure was relieved at the hinges, they removed hinges. They patched and strengthened the hinge mounting locations, then attached new hinges. When they were done, the doors were so well balanced they could be moved with one pinky!

Kylie and I were amazed the job went so quickly. Of course we understood that most pros make difficult jobs look easy. After they’d fixed the last door, they removed the windows, hanging plastic over the openings, as it would take at least two days re-glaze and paint them. Pappy said he'd have his electrician check and upgrade the electricity in the barn when he was out doing other jobs in our homestead renovations. He also said he'd have the plumbing checked, and add a hot water heater, powder room, and shower.

Except for Larry, the guys packed up and left, taking the windows with them. Larry started moving the things that were too heavy for us so we could clean those areas. A few minutes after the others left, Dad pulled up in his truck.

"Damn, you've practically finished," Dad said as he looked about the clean barn. "I'll talk to Pappy about giving us his painters for a few days. They'll give the inside and outside new coats of paint."

Kylie and Larry joined us for a late supper. As usual, Gram's cooking was superb. Again the kids had to clean up, now a daily shared chore. While the kids worked, the rest of us adjourned to the porch to sit and relax.

Part of me was delighted to be off the clean-up detail, and to be thought mature enough to sit and relax with the adults. Another part of me still wanted to be a carefree kid, but I knew I could never go back to that lifestyle. Through no fault of my own I'd grown up too fast.

That night I tossed and turned, thinking about how my life had changed. I was happy being a girl, yet before the odyssey I’d always been afraid of seeming feminine. As I thought, I realized I’d never been able to play as a carefree child. Even as a toddler I’d helped mom with the twins. Their needs always came before mine. Mom never had to force me to look after the girls, and I now understood doing so had simply been part my natural nurturing urges. I knew I was never going to go back to living as a boy, yet I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up the symbol of my boyhood. Why did life have to be so confusing?
Tuesday morning I greeted Kylie and we quickly finished cleaning our work area. After a short break at 10 am, we dug out the 18 inch wide gasoline motor powered push mower. After placing it on the work bench, Kylie had me remove the spark plug, explaining this would allow the motor to be easily turned since the open hole relieved back pressure in the piston. Next she laid it on its side and turned the blade to see if there were any metallic noises which would indicate something broken. There were no undue sounds, so she told me to remove the cutting blade.

"How?" I asked as I looked at her.

"Look at it and figure it out," Kylie smiled at me. "I want to see if you can do it."

I checked it out and there only appeared to be one nut in the center of the blade attaching the blade to the engine crankshaft. Reaching into my great great grandfather's tool box I found several large wrenches that appeared close to the correct size. I tried one, too small, so I put it and any smaller ones back in the tool chest. The next one I tried was the right size. As I tried to loosen the nut, the blade turned and I was unable to break the nut loose.

Kylie just smiled, " You're on the right track."

I tried a bit more with no success, I simply could not hold the blade and turn the nut. Then an idea hit me. Squatting down to peer under the work bench I selected a grease stained block of wood. Slipping the wood into the side discharge opening, I turned the blade until it jammed against the wood, locking it in place. I was then able to use both hands on the wrench. It was a struggle, but with a loud CRACK, the nut turned, almost sending me backwards to my butt.

Kylie giggled, "Happens to me all the time. You were lucky, most times you skin a knuckle when it lets loose."

"You could have warned me," I pouted, then giggled too.

Soon the blade was off. Kylie had me put the washers and nuts back on the shaft without tightening them, explaining we wouldn't lose them and it kept them in the order the were used. Next, I drained the thick, black oil. Kylie had me put a very lightweight oil inside, and pull the rope to spin the motor several times. When I drained that oil out, it was much thicker and black, so it had obviously done the job of cleaning the gunk out of the engine. She had me repeat the procedure twice more until the oil came out fairly clean.

Next she had me drain the gas tank, then spray a cleaner fluid inside to rinse out any accumulated dirt, and there was quite a bit of filth. Then she had me remove the air filer and clean that. The last thing she had me do was to remove the carburetor. The inside was stained, and junk blocked several holes. She had me make a rough drawing of where each part went and then had me lay the parts out in order. With a smelly aerosol can of carburetor cleaner she had me spray all the pieces.

While they soaked, she explained how to use a file to sharpen the cutting edge of the blade, and to balance it so both sides weighed the same. When the sharpening was completed, we again sprayed the carburetor parts. The built up stains came right off. After wiping the pieces with a clean rag, she had me reassemble the carburetor and attach it to the engine. I then reconnected all the cables and tubes, adjusted the pin valve in the bottom of the bowl, and made sure the butterfly choke moved easily.

Next she had me clean the built up carbon off the spark plug and showed me how to set the gap. Then it went back in the engine. Next, I filled the crankcase with oil. Then we flipped it on it's side so I could reattach the blade. Once that was done, we lifted the mower and placed it back on the floor. Kylie picked up a galvanized steel one gallon pitcher with graduated quart markings, a pouring spout, easy grip handle, and spill proof top. Although dinged and dented, it didn't appear to have any holes. We went outside to Gram's 500 gallon gasoline tank. Most farms have similar fuel tanks to meet their needs. It sat 30 feet from the barn atop a six feet high sturdy steel frame. Since it was so high, a pump wasn't needed, the hose simply used gravity to get the fuel from the tank into whatever you were filling. We put two quarts of gas in the pitcher and used it to re-fill the mower's gas tank. Taking the mower outside, Kylie had me open the needle valve until the carburetor bowl filled with gas. Then she had me set the throttle on full, and close the choke. Then I began to pull the rope. I was surprised how much harder it was to pull than when I'd done it earlier with the spark plug out. Now I understood compression. On the sixth pull, the engine sputtered and coughed, emitting a big cloud of smoke from the exhaust. On the next pull it sputtered and coughed more. Sputtering again on the next pull, Kylie told me to open the choke. As I did the engine seemed to roar to life for a few seconds before dying down. Kylie told me to put the choke full on, but then to back it off slightly until the engine ran smooth. The motor settled down into a steady drone after I did that.

The roaring engine drew Gram, Mom, and the kids to come to see what was going on. We waved at them and I began to mow some of the high grass about the barn. Kylie had explained that as the engine warmed up, the choke had to be fully opened, and you did that by paying attention to the way the motor sounded. After about five minutes, I shut the mower off.

We cleaned the clippings from the bottom side of the mower, and put it in the shed beside the reel mower. After washing up, we headed into the house for lunch.

"Kylie, you are a whiz to get that going so quickly," Gram praised.

Thanks, but Krista is the one who got it running," Kylie smiled.

"Krista," Lyndi exclaimed. "But she doesn't know how to do that stuff!"

"She does now," Kylie smiled. "I talked her through it, but she did all the work."

I blushed and shrugged my shoulders in response to their congratulations.

After lunch, we dug out the lawn tractor. Kylie helped me remove the triple blade mower attachment. Then I removed the spark plug and drained the oil. The tractor had an electric starter, but the battery was long dead, so to spin the engine in order to rinse the crankcase, I wrapped a rope around the pulley at the front of the engine and pulled that way. I knew with the spark pugs in, this would have been impossible, but it worked good enough to get the job done. Then I drained the gas tank and rinsed that, cleaned the spark plug, put it back in, and finally refilled the oil and gas.

While I worked on the lawn tractor, Kylie went over the big air compressor with an eighty gallon tank, checking it out from top to bottom, changing the oil, checking the belts, and lastly, checking the connections and fittings. She turned on the power and flipped the switch and it ran, giving us compressed air.

Since we were only ten feet apart, she was able to keep an eye on me and answer all my questions. I was amazed that despite the differences in size and manufacturers, the tasks were similar and I didn't need too much advice. I guess that's what Dad meant when he said he was sure I had a good mechanical aptitude, even though I'd never had any experience.

Late in the afternoon we heard the snarly Harley pull up to the open barn doors. Larry gunned it three times, but only to half throttle. We looked at him questioningly. "Gram told me I was disturbing the blue herons." He sheepishly grinned as we laughed.

The kids all came over to get a good look at the Harley. Larry let them all have a turn sitting on the seat, but refused to give them a ride.

Kylie found the old battery charger, and after looking it over, plugged it in and showed me how to use a voltage meter to check the output in voltage and amps, cautioning me to be sure I knew whether the power being checked was AC or DC, so we had the right settings. After verifying all was okay, she had me connect the cables to the battery. It took about 30 seconds before the engine caught. Fortunately, I was able to adjust the choke and throttle to keep it running. Once running, we removed the charger cables and the engine kept running with the electricity it self-produced.

After showing me how to use the brake, clutch and gear shift, she told me to drive it around a bit. I was excited that she trusted me to drive it on my own, and was not about to argue, so I pushed in the clutch, shifted into first gear, and slowly released the clutch. The tractor lurched a bit, but I soon got the hang of shifting, steering, and most importantly, braking.

When Dad arrived, he found me driving about the yard with Pete seated between my legs as he steered. Of course, that happened only after Gram and Mom had given us the okay. Dad walked over to Lyndi, Teri, and LJ, and discovered they'd already had turns.

After Pete got off, Dad followed me back to the barn where Larry guided me as I drove over the mower blade assembly. He and dad made short work of getting it properly reinstalled.

"Looks like you did it, Kylie," Dad smiled. "I assume the hand mower is running too?"

"Yes it is," Kylie replied. "But I didn't fix them. Krista did a good job, don't you think?"

"Krista fixed both? And you told me you didn't know anything about mechanics," Dad smiled.

"I didn't," I answered. "But Kylie is an excellent teacher, and it looks like you were right that I have a good mechanical aptitude."

"I'll say," chuckled Kylie. "She did the actual work while I guided her on the push lawn mower repair. I worked on the air-compressor while she did the tractor. All I did was keep an eye on her and answer her questions, which were quite few. She's a natural."

"I think she can do almost anything once she puts her mind to it," Dad beamed. "You'd better clean up before our guests arrive for your strategy session."

Dad headed over to the house while we tidied up. "You may as well go over to the house, Krista," Larry said when we'd finished. "Kylie and I will shut the doors."

I was about half way to the house when I realized I had a pliers in my back pocket so I turned around to put it away in the tool chest. As I came into the barn I stopped short. Kylie and Larry stood by the open back doors with arms entwined about each other and their lips locked. Mixed emotions ran through me. I was embarrassed for intruding and happy that they were obviously in love. But most disturbing was that I felt cheated and jealous that I didn't have a hunky guy to hold and kiss me. Silently I slipped in and put the pliers on top of the tool chest and left the lovers alone.

To Be Continued...

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