Observations OF AN ENGINE WIDOW

By Staff

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.

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