Wednesday, April 14, 2010

End of the Benz

I got the word, it'd cost too much money to keep the old Mercedes Benz on the road. When state inspection is up in June, the old car gets parked for good.

Eight years ago my wife and I bought this car to experiment on. I'd read about diesels running on waste vegetable oil, and wanted to experiment with one. We found an 81 Mercedes Benz 240D in Maine, took it for a short test drive, then wrote the guy a check.

This vehicle became a test bed for a whole series of experiments. More importantly, it became our main form of transportation. Let me tell you, it takes a special woman to agree to having the family car be one big experiment. In the early days, we were stopped on the side of the road a fair bit. That's the thing with experiments, they don't aways work out as smoothly as one would like.

I knew a few things about diesels, but not nearly enough. The Internet was my teacher about veggie oil conversions. My local mechanic couldn't help me with the veggie, but he knew his diesels -and was real patient about my questions. It pays to establish a relationship with a top notch honest mechanic.

We aren't just losing out car. It was like a second home to us. When you average 50,000 miles a year in a car, it is where you live. My wife used to have a 100 mile round trip commute to work. Sometimes I'd driver her into work, then pick her up at the end of her shit. Those days we'd put 200 miles on. Then there were the years we'd wander the country, rarely spending more than a few days in one place.

The car had a roof rack for my canoes and a trailer hitch for my utility trailer. One year I hauled firewood for three families using the Benz and the trailer. Sure looked odd out there on the dirt roads. Quite a few people knew the vehicle by sight. Of course, the Grateful Dead stickers all over it did make it stand out. Then there was the constant French fry smell from the exhaust. The old car was a great conversation starter.

Now it's come to the end of its days. It still runs pretty darn good for an engine with a half million miles on it. However, everything is worn. There's not one or two things that'll fix it. Even the body has gotten pretty thin all around.

It has become like the Wonderful One Horse Shay:

The Deacon's Masterpiece; or The Wonderful "One-Hoss Shay"
Author: Oliver Wendell Holmes

A Logical Story

Have you heard of the wonderful one-horse shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it--ah but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits,
Have you ever heard of that, I say?

Seventeen hundred and fifty-five,
Georgius Secundus was then alive,
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down
And Braddock's army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on the terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.

Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,
There is always somewhere a weakest spot, -
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace,--lurking still,
Find it somewhere you must and will,--
Above or below, or within or without,--
And that's the reason, beyond a doubt,
That a chaise breaks down, but doesn't wear out.

But the Deacon swore (as Deacons do,
With an "I dew vum," or an "I tell yeou,")
He would build one shay to beat the taown
'n' the keounty 'n' all the kentry raoun';
It should be so built that it couldn' break daown,
"Fur," said the Deacon, "It's mighty plain
Thut the weakes' place mus' Stan' the strain;
'n' the way t' fix it, uz I maintain,
Is only jest
T' make that place uz strong uz the rest."

So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That couldn't be split nor bent nor broke,
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thins;
The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees.
The panels of white-wood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these;
The hubs of logs from the "Settler's ellum,"--

Last of its timber,--they couldn't sell 'em,
Never an axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he "put her through."
"There!" said the Deacon, "naow she'll dew!"

Do! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren--where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day

EIGHTEEN HUNDRED; -it came and found
The Deacon's masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hundred increased by ten;--
"Hahnsum kerridge" they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came;--
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arrive,
And then come fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.

Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it.--You're welcome.--No extra charge.)

FIRST of NOVEMBER,--the Earthquake-day--
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local, as one may say.
There couldn't be,--for the Deacon's art
Had made it so like in every part
That there wasn't a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thins,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floors
And the whipple-tree neither less nor more,
And the back-crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub encore.
And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!

First of November, 'Fifty-five!
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys, get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
"Huddup!" said the parson.--Off went they.
The parson was working his Sunday's text,--
Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed
At what the--Moses--was coming next.

All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet'n'-house on the hill.
First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill,--
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half past nine by the meet'n'-house clock--
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!

What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once,
All at once, and nothing first,
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-boss shay.
Logic is logic. That's all I say.

Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem: The Deacon's Masterpiece; or The Wonderful "One-Hoss Shay"



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