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RD #2 Schoharie, NY 12157

Ladies, that time of year is fast approaching. You know what I am referring to, that dreaded two weekend event known as 'Gas-Up'. It turns loving husbands and caring fathers into callous inhuman creatures who only care about engines and grease. I call that frightening transformation the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome.

You first notice the hibernation phase of the J and H Syndrome. The affected male moves out of the house to the garage and practices ancient voodoo rites on a rusting hunk of iron. He works feverishly to free the engine, using enough tools to equip three auto repair shops. He slaves for hours painting it, using enough paint to give the outside of the house three coats. Don't fret about that, actually 'Pond Bottom Brown' looks better on the engine.

Chances are if you have a son or more, your mad scientist husband will not be happy until they have been anointed with grease, oil, and paint. They like to start boys early. My husband cut his teeth on a 9/16 wrench.

They emerge from the garage long enough to bolt hurried meals, throughout which they converse in a dialect known as 'enginese'. Occasionally, your husband crawls in bed with you and falls into an uneasy slumber. You can tell he's there when you dream you are in a filling station because of the smell. Most men will deny it, but you can hear them whimper in their sleep about fouled plugs, stuck pistons, and sick carburetors.

If they are among the mechanically inclined or just plain lucky ones, they get the engine running eventually. Wives are notified of this memorable event by threatening obscene phone calls from the neighbors at three o'clock in the morning.

Now the J and H syndrome advances to the stage known as 'load'em up and move'em out'. They will grunt and groan, sweat and curse, and push and shove until the engines are loaded onto whatever's available to haul them with. Next comes about eleven miles of chain and rope to secure them properly. About now they realize that you're missing a child and they untie several knots to free him. Everything is retied and now they're ready to roll. Two miles down the road they stop and retie several knots when they notice one engine missing. It is eventually found in a petunia bed with a geranium in the hopper.

What normally takes a 20 minute drive stretches out to a 4 hour drive due to time lost answering questions such as:

'Hey, mister! What is that?

'You means it runs?'

'Hey mister! What is that?'

'Where are you headed?'

'Hey mister! What is that?'

'Which way to the dump?'

'Hey mister! What is that?'

Finally, they arrive at the show grounds and enter the next phase of the J and H Syndrome known as 'unloading and setting up', better known as 'get that blasted thing off my foot!' They position, calculate, lay planks down, and are finally ready to unload. 'Hit and miss engines' are one thing to husbands, but quite another to me. 'Hit and miss' quite accurately describes the unloading procedure. Someone loses his grip on the engine, causing it to hit at least one unloader, and it generally misses no one.

After the ambulance leaves, the bandaged unloading crew sets up the engines in at least a dozen positions until they are satisfied. It's the way they were originally. Rain clouds that would frighten Noah and his Ark hover and they put up a beat-up tarp with a hole in it large enough to throw a cat through. This feat requires three six-packs of beer and 1 hours, finally, they are done and they collaspe in a heap on the ground. About this time, the Grounds Committee shows up and informs them that they are in the middle of the parade route and would they please move everything ten feet to the right. After snarling and plea bargaining in vain, they repeat the entire phase of unloading, only ten feet farther to the right. This does not mellow them.

The next phase of the J and H Syndrome is known simply as 'showtime'. This is the most dangerous period of them all. You must use extreme caution at all times around the affected husband. He angers easily, especially when standing in the pouring rain for three hours pulling in vain on the flywheels of his engine until his arms are ready to fall off, only to be electrocuted when one of his hands come in contact with a mysterious part known in engines, as the 'Mag'. This shocking experience leads to five broken toes on one foot which occurred when he kicked viciously at the engine. Mothers with small children will do well to invest in ear plugs for the tiny tots to keep from learning a colorful vocabulary better suited for sailors and convicts.

It has been my personal observation that although the men don't care what they eat during showtime, they get extremely upset and violent if they run out of beer. Ask the Teamster's Union how much is served at their Christmas party to get an idea how much is required. The smart wife carries an extra six pack in her purse for emergencies.

As long as they have enough beer, you can feed them anything. Try serving a hot dog rolled on a rag with grease. Add a spark plug for garnish and hand it to them on something with a long handle such as a pitch fork or coal shovel. Close contact must be avoided at all costs or you will find yourself grasping a filthy oil can and a jar of grease with orders to fill the oilers and grease cups. They don't mind that you're in the dark about

what they are or that you're wearing white shorts. After all, what was bleach invented for anyway?

Who said that the only difference between the men and the boys was the price of their toys? She must have married an engine nut. You know you're in trouble if your husband actually comes over to you and starts to converse with you in English, not enginese. And if you are addressed by any of the following: baby, honey, darling, love, sweetheart, dear, or anything that is either your name, a term of endearment, and not 'hey, you!', look out! You can kiss your living room furniture good-bye. He just bought another rusting hunk of iron. Valium does not always numb the pain.

The next-to-last phase of the J and H Syndrome is called 'packing up and going home'. This is not quite the same as the 'pack'em up and move'em out' phase because whatever was brought to the show in one trip requires three trips to bring back home. Nobel prize winning scientists are still trying to explain this phenomenon.

All the way home you are treated to such stimulating conversation about points and plugs, pistons and cylinders, how he changed the timing, and saved the day, and did you see that 1896 142 HP upright gizmo engine that so and so had? You mentally wonder if that was that cute engine in the next row with the same shade of blue as Paul Newman's eyes.

Now you're home and unloaded, and lying in bed together. You realize it doesn't matter how miserable the weather was, how rotten his engine ran, how many people were there, or how much beer he drank. He had a ball. You can tell by the amount of grease and oil spots on his teeth.

Life resumes. Your hubby talks to you again. He notices how much the kids have grown, and then the phase of the J and H Syndrome strikes. It's called 'withdrawal' and can be cured only by the next show or a shotgun. I've heard the last phase of the J and H Syndrome is a real killer.