Sunday, November 30, 2008

This One's A Shocker...

I do hope this story does not shock you as much as it did me.

In 1964, my wife and I bought a small two bedroom house located at 1065 Harriot Street, in Beaumont.

That purchase was a key element in this story because it marked the day I became a “Fixer-Upper.” The house was small and old but very durable having been built in the 1930s by Mr. Gibson, who lived next door.

The only real problem with the house was that it had no air-conditioning. We really didn’t miss this because we were not accustomed to having such niceties anyway. That is, until the summer of 1964. This was a really hot one.

One afternoon during that summer I was browsing through the Beaumont Enterprise and noticed an advertisement that Sears was having a sale on 220 volt window air-conditioning units. I told my wife, “Lets go to Sears and get one of those window units. We can mount it in the kitchen window and the air also will flow into our bedroom.” So off to Sears we went with credit card in hand.

Some nice men delivered the unit and installed it in the kitchen window. The electrical outlet near that window already was wired with a 220 volt circuit.

That air-conditioner felt so good that we decided to purchase another one for the living room so that the front half of the house could be cooled. The kitchen unit did a great job of cooling the rear half.

So off to Sears we went once again and purchased another window air unit. The nice men delivered it and installed it in the living room window. That window outlet also had been wired for 220 volts. However, there was a problem. The plug on the air unit did not match up with the wall outlet. The men told me that all I needed to do was to purchase another outlet box that had the correct receptacle to match the plug on the unit. As the men departed they said, “Be sure to turn off the electricity when you work on that box.”

The first thing I did after purchasing the new socket was to turn off the electricity on the 220 volt circuit. Or so I thought. Since the rear window unit was running in the kitchen not far from the fuse box, all I had to do was unscrew fuses till the kitchen unit quit running. Once the kitchen unit quit I knew that I had killed the 220 volt power.

Now to the front room. I removed the socket plate from the wall then reached into the box and unscrewed the 220 volt wires that were attached to the plug receptacle. Following that successful operation, I prepared to install the new socket. I decided to straighten out the wires a little so that I could have more room to work with them.

As I reached in to straighten the wires, I realized that suddenly I was sitting on the floor. I had been in a squatting position. Also, my right hand that had been tugging at the wires somehow was behind me. Then my vision went from color to black and white. A sharp headache ensued right in the middle of my forehead. I thought, “This is weird.”

That was the day I learned that each 220 volt circuit has its very own fuse/breaker source. I had turned off the kitchen unit circuitry, but the living room 220 circuit still was alive and raring to go. And go it did..

One suggestion for long life is, “always hire a professional to repair electrical problems around the house.”.

Even if you are a “Fixer-Upper.”

Winston Hamby

Sunday, November 16, 2008

When Is A Lemon Not A Lemon ...?

Have you ever bought a lemon? I do not mean that little yellow acid fruit that people use to corrupt a perfectly good glass of iced tea. No, I am referring to a lemon automobile. The dictionary defines a lemon automobile as, “ … one that is unsatisfactory or defective.”

I have been fortunate in never having paid out hard-earned money for one of those below-par jalopies. Perhaps I have gotten hold of a couple of sour grape cars in my lifetime. But no lemons. I define a sour grape car as one that is several notches better off than a lemon car. In other words, a car that is not a lemon but one that you complain about constantly for no good reason. Sometimes a person just needs someone or something to blame for a bad day. Sour grape cars are good at playing that role.

On the other hand have you ever owned a car that performed much better than you expected? I have and bragging rights accompany the ownership of such a vehicle.

In 1996, I bought a brand new Ford Taurus sedan and gave it to my wife. She drove that Ford all around Houston until 2003. Then I bought her a brand new Nissan Maxima. She appreciated the Maxima so much that she gave the Taurus to me. I still am driving that car even though in dog years, it is older than I am.

We have driven that Taurus more than 172,000 miles but never have taken it outside of the Houston area. The brakes are original. The engine and transmission are original. The air-conditioner never has been serviced and still blows cold air during the hot summertime. The only features on that car that have called it quits are the windshield washer and the heater.

The washer is in working order but the rubber hose leading from the cleanser reservoir to the windshield has rotted away. I’ve been planning to have this hose replaced but keep on saying, “ … first thing next week.”

I bought two small heaters that are designed to plug into the cigarette lighter. I use a spilt socket and can run both heaters simultaneously. So in the cold of winter, I mount one of the heaters on my dash to keep the windshield defrosted. I place the second heater down on the floorboard between my feet. With this arrangement I have been able to forego the expensive repair of replacing the heater core.

The old Taurus used to have a very unique characteristic. I did a lot of freeway driving in and around Houston. When I drove 60 to 65 MPH into the wind, the Ford began a loud humming sound. At first, this was annoying but then I started playing around with the sound. As I drove faster, the whistling increased in pitch. Conversely, as I slowed down, the pitch lowered. I discovered that I could sing duets with the car. Our best song was the old church hymn entitled, “Oh Happy Day.” When my wife was riding with me, we sang trios. I suspect that any driver following behind me wondered why I would speed up to 70 MPH only to slow down to 50 MPH then back to 70.

For some reason the old car doesn’t sing anymore and I miss that. Maybe it grew too old and lost its voice. Who knows? Anyway, the radio still works and that keeps me going.

I know that someday, maybe sooner than later, the old Taurus will pull to the side of the road and breathe its last. But until that day, it’s …

Just like the Mississippi River, the old Ford just, “ … keeps rollin’ along.”

Winston Hamby

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mums The Word (In My Case) ...

A dear friend wrote me the other day. We were classmates at South Park High School in Beaumont back in the early 1950s. He prefers that I not use his real name so just call him “Rusty.” That is because he had rusty red hair in those early days. Now-a-days, he is seen as balding and gray. But I stop short of calling him old because he is a bit younger than I am. Anyway, he mentioned several incidents that took place during our high school days at SPHS.

One thing Rusty asked is why I haven’t written anything about the presidential campaign and the upcoming elections? I had to be honest with Rusty and I’ll share that honesty with you.

Plenty has been written and is being written by learned political columnists from all over the country and the world concerning our forthcoming elections. There is no need for me to put forth my two-cents’ worth. However, I am most grateful to know that I have the freedom to write about the elections should I so elect.

You should know that I am proud to be an American. I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of the United States of America and I love our country with all my being. I am patriotic. I stand to honor our flag and I place my hand over my heart when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I even know the words to the Star Spangled Banner.

However, in the midst of all this patriotism, I find myself growing wearier by the day of campaigns and elections. At the same time, I appreciate the freedoms of campaigning and casting my votes as I choose.

But I am weary of the monstrosities that many have made out of the constitutional processes that we gratuitously call “politics.” So many individuals and groups have made this a game of power, money, and greed that I have elected to stand aside or above the melee where there still may be a bit of fresh air. In other words, as I explained to Rusty, I do not have the power to perform miracles. So I have chosen to sidestep all the political stampeding of this election year. Thus no political column from this old Beaumont boy. There are some things we can do though.

Be sure to vote and consider prayerfully those for whom you vote. My prayer is that our votes go to heal the ills of our country. And speaking of our prayers, they need to accompany our every decision that we will be making this week.

Let your votes be to the glory of God. Remember that our nation was founded upon a belief in Him. Anything that is less than a God-fearing nation is a step downward.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the enactment placing “In God We Trust” on our currency and also the one inserting the phrase, “One Nation Under God” into our Pledge to the flag. Since those days, there seems to have been a gradual shift to take God out of things, i.e. prayer out of the schools, the Ten Commandments from the school house walls, the Holy Bible from the court house lawns, etc.

Yes, man has made a monstrosity out of our political process but God can make us healthy once again. We can stand tall as a nation of peace, integrity and prosperity. This writer cannot expostulate on which candidate to favor. However, I can suggest to you how to vote. May God be lifted up when you go to the polls.

The foregoing is how I explained to Rusty why I haven’t written anything about the presidential campaign or the elections.

Winston Hamby