Thursday, July 31, 2008

Going, Gone

This old barn was slipping badly in April and the owners let it be known that they were going to tear it down. Last week they put it on the ground, and they burned it a few days ago.
The very nice pin oak on the other side of the remains was only about twenty feet from the fire, and it is now 'well done.' They will probably call me to ask for shade tree advice. Oh Well, or words to that effect.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tree Troubles

Every summer I get calls from homeowners with dying trees hoping for an answer and a miracle. More often than not, the problem is due to construction damage to the trees which occurred five to fifteen years before the owners noticed a problem. In this first picture you can see that several inches of soil have been moved. Those few inches were home to a large portion of the root systems for the trees on this home site.
This tree happens to be on the edge of the property, and it was sorely wounded by the earth moving.

Here you can see the dead top of the tree. All you can do now is take it down and replace it with a new tree.

As I inspect trees in these altered sites I see lots of oozy places which are manifestations of various root rots which infected the trees when the wounding occurred. You can also see exit holes from borers which thrive on these compromised trees.

This is a stump of a dead hickory. Click on the photo to enlarge it, then inspect the width of the rings as the tree declined after the home was built. There is no magic treatment for trees sliding down the slippery slope. You have to plan ahead when you build so you don't lose your trees later.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Model Magic

The Boonville, Indiana summer steam and gas engine show was this past weekend, and Susan and I motored over and spent most of the day visiting with exhibitors and taking photos and videos. The highlight of the day was buying some 1920's sheet music for our collection. Dear Wife is great at bargaining and she picked up eight new-to-us songs for $6.00. One of them is a Sophie Tucker song with Sophie's autograph on the cover. Yes, the Red Hot Mama once held it in her hot little hand.

We saw the modeler Jerry Dickson again, and the video above shows some of his treasures. We will post more Boonville highlights in the weeks ahead.

Travel On Gravel

Here is an important skill to have if you drive on gravel as much as we do. Gravel gives you lots of flat tires, usually from old nails that are lurking on the surface. I have found that if I hold my speed under 40 MPH I have fewer flats; over 40, one of the rear tires will take a hit on a weekly basis. That is why I tend to putt along like an old man.

Pull the nail out of the hole with pliers or Vise Grips, use the probe from your plugging kit to make sure the hole is open all the way through. Thread a plug into the applicator tool, push and wiggle the plug into place, pull the applicator out, and air up your tire. You can plug a tire without removing it from the car if you can spot the nail and remove it. You can also plug the tire while it still has air in it, if you notice it getting low as you drive.

Go to a tire shop and have the tire patched properly as soon as possible. Tire plugs are great to get you going again, but they can cause air to go between the layers in your tire, delaminating them. In the slide show above, this tire was worn out, but was needed as a spare until we could get to town for a new pair on the rear axle.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Not My Victrola

You have probably heard Helen Kane perform this song; it is one of her classics. This is a very nice dance band version of the song presented by KSPM01. It will help you get through Monday morning. Be sure to click on the link and read the extensive notes about this record.

The weekend is over...

...and that can only mean one thing. It's back to the old grind.

It's part of a complete breakfast!

Trivia For Ford Fans

Here is a neat gadget that every Ford mechanic needed in his shop in the Good Old Days. I will put the answer in Comments.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Weekend Steam

William Seyb and Dallas Kerr showed this Wood Brothers engine at Midwest Old Threshers forty years ago. William and Dallas are no longer with us, but you can still see this engine operate at Mt. Pleasant every Labor Day weekend.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crankin' It Up

This week's Crank Up is a comedy double of Harry Lauder and Billy Murray. Harry is having a grand time before heading home after an evening with his drinking buddies, and though it sounds like a lot of fun I am afraid I would have to think about my head in the morning. Maybe I 'guess and fear' too much. A Wee Deoch And Doris was recorded on October 18, 1911.

Mr. Murray offers some good advice in his Vaudeville presentation, but he has me worried about the poor guy who got his whiskers trapped in the street car cable. Billy recorded this obscure classic on July 15, 1907.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Not My Victrola

'Turn On The Heat' is one of many great songs form the early talkie, 'Sunny Side Up.' FuzzBear posted this version of the song on You Tube, and it is played on his Orthophonic machine. You should look up the movie if you have never seen it. The scene featuring this song is really quite incredible, and the movie is a real 'Upper.'

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You Can Do Better Than This!

I went out behind the barn a few nights ago to try the July E-Postal Target, and with careful aiming I used nearly ninety shots to make my points. A perfect score would be eight shots. I went out back again tonight and used different tactics. I snapped off six rounds as quickly as I could at the area of the target I wanted to hit, checked the target, reloaded, and shot again. I made the points I needed with seventy-two shots, and that is enough improvement that I have sent this one off for scoring.

Now, follow the link above, print your target, and show me up! The deadline to enter is midnight on July 28.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vintage Machinery Surprise

GSC, one of our regular visitors has graciously shared some of his family photos from the Oxnard, California area around 1930. These are great glimpses of farm mechanization. The first photo is a baler at work. GSC speculates that his grandfather cobbled this up from a stationary baler, and I agree that it is probably a 'conversion' baler. Compare it to the ad from a 1921 Thresherman magazine, and you can see that a power source and platforms for the workers have been added. This vintage of baler required that two people be present just to tie the baling wire around each bale. I wish we could see how the hay was picked up to be fed into the machine.

This is GSC's grandfather; he obviously was a talented tinkerer.

In this photo we see four wagons very heavily loaded with sugar beets.

This is a thresher for dry lima beans. Harvesting crops used to require lots of workers with an iron constitution. You worked long days in hot dusty conditions for your pay. Old timers have told me that working on a stationary baler with moldy hay was the very worst job on the farm.
Thank You, GSC for the great photos. Is this land still being farmed, or has it been developed?
Read the comment from GSC for news about this farm land.

Not My Victrola

Here is a great number for lifting your mood on Monday! Click on the link to read KSPM's extensive notes about this record.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Monday Again!

Back to the old grind!

Poets' Corner

fate is unfair

in many places here and
i think that fate
is quite unfair
yon centipede upon
the floor
can boast of tootsies by the score
consider my
distressing fix
my feet are limited
to six
did i a hundred
feet possess
would all that glorious
enable me
to stagger less
when i am
overcome by heat
or if i had
a hundred feet
would i
careering oer the floor
proportionately more
well i suppose
the mind serene
will not tell
destiny its mean
the truly
philosophic mind
will use
such feet as it can find
and follow calmly
fast or slow
the feet it has
where eer they go

From: the lives and times of archy and mehitabel by don marquis, doubleday and doran

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Weekend Workout

We don't have to tinker under the hood nearly as often as we used to now that we all drive fuel injected cars, but we still have to pay attention to symptoms. You can still fix problems on cars today, and it will save lots of money in labor expenses. Our car is a 2000 Chevy Astro, and the first fuel pump began to fail at a little over 50,000 miles. The symptoms are pretty clear when the fuel pump is failing. The car cranks too long when you want to start, and if you turn on the key, let the fuel system pressure up, and then crank, the engine will start and run fine. I think what is happening is the foot valve leaks back when the car is at rest. When the foot valve dies completely the pump will not work, so you need to change the pump, and it is inside your gas tank.

The fuel pump lasted for over 110,000 miles this time, but it was getting progressively worse all week, so today I was under the car. Even though I have done this task three times before, I looked up instructions on the internet to see if there were any good tricks to make it easier. Here are the steps from WikiPedia, with my comments in parentheses.

0. make sure gas is almost empty, easy to handle. (Plan ahead so you have the tank below half and it will be fairly easy to handle. We had ours down to a third, and it was no problem.)

(Work outside on a paved surface. Jack up your car on the driver's side and set it securely on jack stands. Have it up high enough that the gas tank can be slid out from under the car. This will be about as high as you can jack the car with a 1 1/2 ton car jack. Plan your moves so you are not under the car until the jack stands are secure. Don't get crushed; Please.)

1. remove gas fill tube, 2 screws at cas cap and 1 bolt at frame. (Loosen the clamp holding the gas fill tube to the tank and slide the clamp out beyond the emergency brake cable.)

2. loosen 2 strap bolts, have floor jack with 1"X 6" board atop it ready under tank to support lowering about 6 inches from ground. (The tank will be very awkward to balance on top of a jack, and you have a big drop at the end of the process with this method. Make two stacks of 2" lumber scraps; one ahead of the center of the tank, and one behind. Shim this stack up close to the tank and unscrew the strap bolts. They are a good three inches long and will set the tank on your stacks of lumber. Lift one end and remove a board; repeat on the other end; etc.)

(Crawl under the car so you can look over the tank next to the driveshaft. There are three lines from the pump with retainers holding them to metal lines. Tap on them to shake out the dirt, and carefully squeeze the nylon catch, then wiggle the flexible line off of the metal line. The nylon retainers should remain on the metal line. One line does not have a separate retainer; just squeeze it and wiggle the lines apart. The first line you open may have pressure, maybe not if the pump leaked back. Be careful not to get fuel in your eyes.)

(The filler pipe has a hose affair which sticks into the tank several inches. Wrestling this out of the tank is the worst part of the job, and also is your best chance to contaminate the tank with dirt. Putting it back in at the end of the job is easy.)

3. remove 2 wire plugs, one may need to be replaced, new one in box with fuel pump. (The wire plugs are in the middle of the top of the tank, so you will remove them after the tank is down.)

4. remove fuel line, 2 have internal clamps, toss and get new ones, two diferent sizes. old will not work. (You already did this and you can re-use the retainers if your were careful.)

5. lift tank off hanger that are towards passenger side, lower with jack. (Ease the tank out, back end first after you have it on the ground. Watch your wiring in case GM was stingy. I had plenty of slack.)

6. pull out from under truck. leave in plastic protection pan.

7. remove pump , screw driver on snap ring, sides straight up. (I think they are trying to move the retaining ring by beating on it with a screwdriver. This does not work well because there is a heavy rubber ring under it that soaks up any impact. Use two sets of Vise-Grips to walk the retainer around. It is easy and less frustrating.)

(In this photo the Vise-Grip is putting the retaining ring on. Two Vise-Grips will easily walk this ring either way for you.)

(Lift out your old pump and compare it to your new one. Install the new rubber ring on top of the tank, ease in the new pump, and re-install the retaining ring.)
8.install new one. remember o-ring:-)
9.reverse process.

(Do this job in daylight and do not use a trouble light around an open gas tank. I prefer to use an LED flashlight around anything flammable. Keep smokers away.)

Weekend Steam

These old Thresherman magazines are mighty brittle and I fret a bit every time I pull the stack out for one of these posts. This issue has a pretty serious tear, but it still makes a nice picture. I think the engine powering the thresher is a Case, and I wonder what has happened to the operator's platform. Case engines usually had a bunker with a water tank below and coal above. There probably was some kind of mishap that damaged the bunker, but no-one in this scene is available for comment.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Crankin' It Up

We have a special project going on in the True Blue studio. Some of the You Tube fans are clamoring (That may be a slight exaggeration.) for more Harry Lauder records. I found six sides of Harry Lauder tonight, so for the next several weeks we will be posting doubles; a Harry Lauder performance and one of our regular Friday night Crank Ups. Tonight's selections are Roamin' In The Gloamin' and Too Much Mustard, which is a Turkey Trot recorded in 1913. I have no idea how you do the Turkey Trot, but it sounds as if you need happy feet for it to work.

Roamin' In The Gloamin' was recorded in 1911 for 10 inch and 12 inch discs. This one is the four minute 12 inch version which includes an amusing narrative.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


On a cold, wet February night in 2004, I had to go to my office after hours, and Susan rode along. On the side of the road I saw a couple of eyes in the weeds and stopped, backed up and shined the headlights to discover a very wet kitten. I hopped out to pick it up, and it ran, so I had a brief chase in the mud running it down. As we continued to the office, Susan said, "This cat has a broken leg." That was a downer, but Susan tried to make it better by telling me she would take the cat to the vet in the morning so I wouldn't have to kill it.

When I got home from work the next day we still had a cat, and it was wearing a cast! Susan related that the vet looked it over and said, " I believe I can fix this cat! The poor thing sure took a tumble." Took a tumble? We had to name her Bug after hearing that. She still likes to sit with her broken leg out; kind of like Chester on Gunsmoke.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Flood News

You have seen the flood news from the Midwest, and from what I witnessed on my trip to Iowa, it is worse than even the depressing news organizations can show. Bottomland fields in the Mississippi system aren't going to produce anything this year, and the effects are going to be severe for everyone who has connections to the farm economy.

I clicked on the Mid-Continent Railway Museum link tonight and was saddened to see that this great Wisconsin tourist attraction was devastated by flooding also. Go to their site and click on the Flood Update link to look at photos of the damage; or click here.

They will be up and running soon, and if you plan to visit, there is another pleasant place in the same neighborhood that you will not want to miss.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Strolling The Grounds At The Gas Engine Show

This is the final installment of slides and video from Southern Indiana's Antique and Machinery Club show in June. There are some more shows coming up in Indiana the next two weekends, and if I can catch up on a few chores around home I may go take some more photos. This video runs for seven minutes, so grab a cup of coffee before you hit Play.

Not My Victrola

This number is a great energizer to help you get going on a Monday. Look it up on KSPM01 over at You Tube to read the extensive notes about this record.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Monday Again!

Back to the old grind!

Dirty Rotten Blighters

We are under attack by Japanese beetles in Southern Illinois. They have wiped out our plums and apples, and are also eating cypress, basswood, oak, and pecan leaves. These things even eat elm. I didn't think anything would eat elm.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Weekend Steam

From the collection of Rev. Norbert J. Lucht of Athens, IL, the November 1966 issue of Engineers and Engines Magazine displays a very nice old-timey photo of the Good Old Days. Notice the absence of hard hats, and the abundance of whiskers and overalls. These guys did not spend all day hitching their pants up as they worked.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Crankin' It Up

I was away form the True Blue Studio last week while I was on the road, and I couldn't take the old Brunswick with me, so this week I am giving our fans a double. The first one is a great fox trot from the Roaring Twenties. The Isham Jones Rainbo Orchestra really gets wound up on this number.

Our second selection is the ever popular Great War song "There's A Long, Long Trail". This song was recorded by John McCormack in 1917, and it is still meaningful for those away from home today.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sightseeing Where?

I've been up in Iowa visiting family and I did some looking around and reminiscing while I was there. The Dublin general store was built in 1874, and was used up until 1964. It is leaning north and east, and the foundation rocks have settled in so the siding is down to the ground. There will have to be some major repairs soon if it is to be saved. There is a new tin roof on it, so this old building has friends.
I was surprised to see the old wooden bridge over what used to be the Milwaukee Railroad at Grace Hill. It looks just as good as it did years ago.

The old church at Grace Hill has had a tin roof as long as I can remember, and it has a good foundation. It is still used for a community reunion every year. It is far enough out in the sticks that vandals don't seem to find it.

This old school building east of Grace Hill is losing its roof, so it is a short timer. When I was in high school, the owner used it as a shop where he rebuilt engines. He overhauled a Model T engine for me; that is what he learned on when Model Ts were in common use.

I was surprised to learn from this sign that the Copperhead movement was active in Iowa. A lot of Iowa men fought for the Union. Illinois had lots of Copperheads, but they were concentrated in the southern end of the state.

This old school building is well preserved, and even the shed has been fixed up. The shed was for the teacher to stable her horse, and for storage of firewood or coal.

There are still two outhouses.

It's no wonder this sign is on the door;


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Birthday Range Report

Mom began her birthday celebration by getting certified to use the county shooting range. This required only a brief course to learn the rules of range safety and etiquette. We gathered several types of .22 ammo to try in her new Walther P22 and went out to punch paper. She had some old Federal bulk pack ammo that did not make the action function reliably, and we found that CCI Stingers would sometimes fail to fire; I am guessing the nickel plating makes the case a bit too tough for this little pistol. She also had some old Remington Thunderbolts that worked very well, and we found that CCI Mini Mags and Velocitors never failed. How did the 77 year old Birthday Girl like her pistol? She didn't want to stop shooting! Check out the video; she had a blast!

Decision Time

Here is a Norway maple that developed a double-stem trunk and a multi-stem top many years ago. The double stem formed a bad joint with included bark, resulting in the tree splitting to the ground. The current owner of this tree has attempted to make it better by tying the two sides together with a chain. Cabling a tree can extend the useful life if it is done right, but the method pictured places pressure on the cambium which will kill it, causing dieback and rot in the stems meant to be saved. Cables need to be anchored with lag bolts designed for this application, or bolts with a washer and nut on the back side of the stem. Cabling should be done only by those with arborist training.
This tree also has a girdling root, and it is choking the stem of the tree, which is evidenced by the fungus beginning to show at the base of the trunk. This was caused by poor planting technique. Potted and burlapped trees need to be inspected before they go in the ground, and all circling roots must either be straightened or cut. I prefer to cut them because it makes the work go much faster.

If you look closely you will see we have some tips dying in the top of the crown. This tree truly is a goner, and it is time to replace it with a new tree. The sad part of this case is that proper planting, and a couple of snips with a pruner thirty years ago would have made this into a sound shade tree. The good news is that there is plenty of room to drop this tree if the owner finds someone who knows how to do directional falling.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Let's Look Inside

 Francis Lee Morgan was born at Makanda, IL in 1872. The photo in this post was taken inside the shop, and the little girl (Orpha, my dad's mother) in the lower left was born in 1906, so I am guessing these pictures were snapped around 1910. There is a New Way hit and miss gas engine for powering the lineshaft system near the right side of the picture. I always enjoy looking at old photos like this, and I am always surprised by the details that I didn't notice before.

Monday Again!

Back to the old grind!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pass It On; Pass It Back!

My parents started my firearm education early. As kids we had cap guns, and were taught early on that we were never to point even a toy gun at one another. Dad had us shooting his .22 at about age 8, and he bought an Ithaca Model 49 single shot for us when I was 10. When I got out on my own I began collecting guns I liked, but never got into semi-auto pistols. I started our son shooting when he was just a little tyke, and he learned how to shoot muzzleloading rifles, revolvers, rimfire and centerfire rifles, plus handloading at home. He has paid me back by learning the skills needed to operate semi-auto pistols. When he comes home he brings his Springfield 1911, and he has taught me all the drills and skills you need for the 1911.

Dad passed away two years ago, so Mom is living alone now. She has been concerned because the .38 snubbie she keeps handy in her home is difficult for her to operate, and the recoil is a bit much for her arthritic hands. I did some research on line about small semi-autos that might work as a replacement for her .38, then I took her shopping. She looked at several models and settled on a Walther P22. This little gun gets good reviews and is easy for her to operate.

It is a small gun, but in her little hand it appears full size! She is already able to run through the function and operating drills, and will hit the range this week to break it in. She is as happy as a kid with a new toy.
When we finished the shopping for her new pistol we looked at the Air Soft guns. I have a nephew turning 8 years old in a few days who is showing interest in guns already. I looked at several models and settled on this one to get him started. I will be dropping in on him today and expect to see some smiles.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Weekend Steam

The featured engine this week is from the pages of Engineers and Engines Magazine, Nov-Dec, 1968. Ray Strappazon provided this nice threshing scene of Vic Heitman's (Manhattan, IL) Port Huron engine and Ray Kestel's Advance Rumely threshing machine.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July Parade!

The music is great, but when the cameraman starts to move you should close your eyes if you are prone to motion-sickness. Have a fantastic Fourth!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Iowans make their annual journey to Missouri.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

True Colors

My best pictures happen when I hand off the camera to someone else. Susan took all of these, and she provided the flowers, too.