Mudsock Heights

Mudsock Heights

The View from Mudsock Heights: Hoping that It was Just One of Those Weeks, Not One of Those Months

By Dennis E. Powell | Posted at 10:14 PM

Every so often it seems as if the universe is sending a little message. You never know when it will happen, nor is it easy at first to recognize. In my case, it all began last week when the car started malfunctioning.

It was weird. The engine ran just fine up to 2800 revolutions per minute, whereupon the power died until it was back below 2800. This odd phenomenon manifested itself on a curvy back road where there was no place to pull off. I made it to town, stopped at the bank — car repairs are seldom cheap — and got back into the car. The engine now ran perfectly, though the “check engine” light was still on. Within a few miles, the warning light went out as well. The car has run perfectly ever since, but driving has been tense lest the symptoms return.

Back home, I continued a project I had underway. A gorgeous new banjo I built is of unusual size, so no case is manufactured for it. Having wrecked another banjo by carrying it around unprotected, I wanted to remedy this by lengthening the case of the banjo mandolin that had contributed its pot to the new instrument. The process was long and difficult, but I thought I had achieved a satisfactory result.
I was pretty proud of myself until I nestled the banjo into its new home and tried to close the lid. The case wasn’t tall enough. The peghead of my new banjo is at a sharper angle than that of the original banjo mandolin. If I had thought of this before I glued it all together, I could have compensated, but truth is, it never occurred to me. The misfit is very slight, but a banjo that is a little bit crushed is still a crushed banjo.

So I set it aside, thought I’d cogitate on it and figure out a remedy while doing something else, something simple.

A new banjo neck had arrived, custom-made to fit a little banjo pot I have, resulting in a cute little Vega “pony” five-string instrument. It would be satisfying, I thought, to go ahead and put this thing together. Confidence restored, I could then return to the problem of the case.

By now it should come as no surprise: the new banjo neck didn’t fit. It came close — just close enough that it was problematic seeing where the pieces didn’t come together correctly. In due course I had found the offending mis-shape. Some wood would need to be removed. So it was off to the porch swing with the new neck and my trusty Dremel tool.

I hadn’t removed much of the offending wood when I noticed a strange odor. This was followed by smoke pouring from the Dremel tool.

As I considered this setback I glanced out to see that something is killing the tomato plants. Then I noticed a few gnawed-upon green tomatoes on the porch rail. Then, movement from the tomato patch. A squirrel! I’ve not had a problem with squirrels among the tomatoes before. The innovation was unwelcome. And I still didn’t know what’s killing the tomatoes.

The astrologers among us might well nod gravely — astrologers, in my experience, tend to nod gravely — and say that I should have expected all this, that last week there was a very serious solar eclipse, and there is some conjunction involving Jupiter which, by the way, got whacked last Monday by an asteroid. And I would poo-pooh all of that, whereupon the astrologers would say, “Okay, what’s your explanation?” Got me there.

It does seem sometimes as if the world around us is trying to tell us something, though the message is not usually very clear. Perhaps it’s preventative: if the car had worked perfectly, I might have whacked a deer a half mile down the road, and the malfunction slowed me enough to allow the creature to cross the road. If my banjo case had been a success, I might have been tempted to leave my home with the instrument and play in public and get stoned to death by lovers of good banjo music. I haven’t figured out the reason the Dremel tool tried to catch fire. Maybe that was a random event.

The whole experience has left me wary of doing much of anything. Imagine what could happen if I were to wash a load of laundry!

And lord, as I write this I just finished a cup of coffee to find a half-inch of grounds at the bottom of the cup. So the coffee machine has now blown up, too.

I’ll not let it alter my usual sunny disposition. Still, as I sit on the porch swing and ponder it all, I would not want to be the next squirrel I see in the tomato patch. A man does have his limits.