Dogs that Threaten the Very Fabric of America (Whatever That Means)

I brought over #3 Denius dog, Lottie, for a little play date with Tuna. At first we were all having a great time, rolling around on the floor and biting each other and spitting out fur and whatnot. Well, okay, mostly I watched, but it was still a pretty good time.

But then I noticed the “play” took an ugly turn, and that the dogs were occasionally getting on each other in a more amorous way, if you know what I mean. Now these are both female dogs, so naturally my first response was, “Lesbians”. What on earth was I allowing to go on under my roof? So I told them they had to stop it, but they just looked at me and wagged their tails, which I took to be defiance. I told them they had to do their funny business with male dogs only, but then I realized – there are no male dogs between the two households. So then I thought maybe they weren’t really lesbians, but they were just partaking of love of convenience, like female prisoners sometimes will. And, wouldn’t you know, there are some similarities between prisoners and dogs – they are usually confined, only interact with members of the same sex, get walked a couple times per day. So maybe the dogs were forced into homosexuality by circumstance, which wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, but still wrong.

But THEN I couldn’t help but notice that Tuna is a small brown dog from Puerto Rico, and Lottie is a white dog from, I don’t know, Illinois, maybe. Actually, she is mostly white with a few tan spots, which is sort of like white people, since we might have brown hair, or tan in the summer, or have freckles, or whatnot. Anyway, the upshot is that not only were they engaging in homosexual love, they were also an interracial couple! Yes! Tuna is obviously Hispanic, and Lottie is a cracker! So I started thinking about what to do about that, since it’s sinful, though I’ve never read in the Bible that it’s sinful, but some people on TV say it is, so I suppose it must be true.

But THEN it occurred to me that Tuna is a rescue dog from Puerto Rico – in other words, a refugee! Now, I’m getting really worried by this point, as our governor, the Honorable Bruce Rauner (R), said that Illinois won’t be taking any refugees, because they might be baddies, and we’re afraid, and I’m sure he said a whole bunch of other stuff, but I sort of stopped listening around then. But refugees are bad, I got that point. So I’m thinking that maybe I have to hide Tuna or I might go to jail, or maybe I should turn her in for a refund, or something.

And THEN it occurred to me that when we got Tuna, she wouldn’t respond to English commands. As she was from Puerto Rico, I figured she must speak Spanish, or maybe dog-Spanish, if there is such a thing. Now that was a couple of years ago, but I thought maybe she still spoke some of that dog-Spanish, so I scolder her, saying, “This is America – English only!” See, we speak only English here because it’s the best language. I’m not sure why this is. I always thought the point of language was to communicate some idea, like, “hey, I found some edible roots over here”, or, “hey, there’s a leopard, looks like he’s about to jump on your back”, so you can do something sensible in response, like go get the roots or step to the side, and I’m pretty sure you can get these points across in other languages. But, someone on TV said English was the best, so I suppose it’s true.

So, I scolded Tuna for being in a lesbian interracial relationship as a dog-Spanish refugee. And she rolled over onto her back so I could rub her belly. She really likes belly rubs. And THEN I remembered that I’m a Bleedin’ Heart Liberal ®. So I gave Tuna and Lottie cookies. Good dogs!

The Family Organ – Brief History

It occurs to me that documenting a little history of the organ might be good, though my knowledge is very limited. Sadly, the people who knew the most about how it came into the family have passed now, but my Uncle Harold told me what little I know about it when I decided to give the restoration a try a few years ago. I’m hopeful that other family members can add some details.

The organ was made by the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, VT. The company made mostly reed organs, but also some pipe and electronic organs, for over 100 years until 1960 (or so). And, of course, it made portable organs for home and the military (field organs). These organs might commonly have been used by army chaplains with units in the field. Much more on the Estey Organ Company can be found at the Estey Organ Museum web site.

The particular organ I’m working on was purchased new for my grandmother by my Uncle Harold in Oklahoma City in around 1940. The serial number confirms the date of manufacture at between 1935-1940. Here is a picture of our organ’s paper label, with a couple of reeds thrown in as a bonus:

Esteys Organ Label
Esteys Organ Label

According to my uncle, my grandmother “rocked the house” when she played on it. Unfortunately, I never got to hear her play. It’s a small organ, so she must have really put a thumpin’ on it to rock the house.

I remember playing on the organ (well – playing around on it, not actually producing a recognizable tune) at my uncle’s house on S. W. 32nd Street in the late 1960’s, and assume that it was playable for some years after that.

However, in later years it was clearly deteriorating – some reeds would not sound anymore, and one of the leather air vent covers on the bellows had been tacked into place instead of held taut by a wire spring as it should have been. The mystery of the non-functional reeds was perhaps solved when I started cleaning the reeds and found that cellophane, most likely from a cigarette wrapper, and other debris had been sucked into the reed chambers. By the way, this discovery was part of my learning process – I had always assumed that the bellows blew air through the reeds, but that is incorrect. The bellows suck air out of an air chamber below the reeds, creating a bit of a vacuum, which in turn sucks air (and anything else in the neighborhood, like cigarette wrappers) through the reeds. Learning how the organ functions is one of the very enjoyable side-benefits of working on it!

Apparently in 1980, give or take, the organ was moved out to a shed in the back yard where mice, termites, and other vermin took their turn playing on it. They were unkind performers! 

Fortunately the reeds and the reed housing appear to be sound, and the bellows aren’t too bad, or there would have been no saving it. And I’m still not sure that it IS salvageable, but my confidence increases with each small, successful step in putting it back together!

Productive Use of Time and Repairing the Irreparable – A Bread Machine

It will not come as a surprise to most that when you have been “between jobs” for a while you start to look for ways to productively occupy your time not spent job hunting, and to cut costs. You might, for example, start writing a blog about things that cross your mind but that nobody has actually expressed a desire in knowing. On the other hand, isn’t that why people like Facebook?

About a month or two ago I hauled our bread maker out of storage in the garage, brushed away the dust and other unidentifiable particulate matter from the protective bag (pretty sure I saw layers of Native American artifacts and fossils in there), and set about trying to figure out how to put it to good use. I reasoned that not only would making bread save us a little bit of money (or a lot of money if I could convince Marcia that we needed to go on the “all bread, all the time” diet) and be a productive, if minor, use of spare time, but it would also be a healthier alternative to store-bought bread.

Note: Healthier is probably true, but only partially. Looking at the bag of whole wheat flour in my pantry, I see there is exactly one ingredient: whole wheat. Encouraged, I look at the ingredients in the bag of enriched, unbleached, general purpose flour, and find many of the mysterious ingredients that one finds in store-bought bread. Also, since I don’t buy bread flour, I have to add gluten when making bread, so my bread certainly wouldn’t be healthier for people with gluten issues. Still, my bread is 50% whole grain and lacking in some unpronounceable chemicals, so I feel better about it.

Our bread maker was given to us by my Mom about, oh, let’s say 8 years ago. She had purchased it new, used it to some greater or lesser degree, who knows, and then tired of it. We’re always up for taking stuff the family no longer wants (see my postings on the family organ!), so we were thrilled when she offered it to us. We accepted it gratefully, and then stuck it in a bag in the garage, where it began to accumulate age and dust, waiting for its moment of rediscovery.

It only looks innocent.
It only looks innocent.

The main point is that this bread maker is more, much more, than 10 years old. In small kitchen appliance terms, this thing isn’t even new enough to be be considered a dinosaur; it’s more like some ancient protozoan. Archaeologists will no doubt one day break open a rock and find my model bread maker inside.

Small kitchen appliance makers don’t intend for their products to be used for very long – indeed, some have little expectation that they’ll be used at all – and consequently don’t put a lot of thought into what happens if they break. They actively discourage users from investigating the guts of their machines, and don’t provide more than the most pedestrian of repair parts in any case. In the case of my bread machine, West Bend offers only the kneading paddles. For newer machines, one can also get the “accessory” kit, which seems to consist of a measuring cup, or some such. Pah! In fairness, most people aren’t interested in doing much with their machines in any case.

Occasionally, though, some person will not only put an appliance to actual use, but will expect it to work FOREVER, no matter breakage may occur. Only if your house burns to the ground and takes the appliance with it will certain individuals give up trying to keep it going, and even then such an individual may call the manufacturer to inquire whether every separate component can be procured so as to make reconstruction possible. Let us agree to call these individuals “idiots”. And let us further agree that, very often, I am one.

So, of course, after a couple of months of making reasonably good bread, one of the shafts that holds a kneading paddle falls off of the bread pan. And, of course, I go insane.

Not being a complete idiot (partial is bad enough), my first act was to call the manufacturer to check the availability of the smallest part that would fix the problem – the bread pan. The agent tried to interest me in the aforementioned kneading paddles, which aren’t even technically PART of the bread pan. I hung up, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

People like me have been greatly assisted by this new-fangled Internet thing, and I found a site that provides small parts for various kitchen appliances, bread machines included. The Internet is an amazing resource, and I am always deeply gratified when it connects me to some invaluable vendor that I would otherwise have no hope of finding, especially as I live out in the sticks. Chicago might be home to several such vendors, but that’s big-city high-faluting adventuring that does not appeal to country mice.

The parts vendor had a number of parts that fit my machine, but did not offer clues as to whether the parts would fix the problem. It would have been difficult for the vendor to offer such assurances, as I had no idea what the cause of the shaft falling out might be. So, I started taking apart the seals that make the bread pan watertight around the shafts, and which also cover the parts that keep the shafts in place, so as to get a good look at what went wrong.

This seems like an obvious thing to do, but it really isn’t. One quickly arrives at a crossroads when one starts taking machines apart. In one directly lies the path of machine repair and resultant joy. In the other direction lies breakage of parts that weren’t previously broken, necessitating more repairs, more parts, more costs, and more probability that the whole mess will just wind up in the city dump. However, if you are looking at either digging deeper or giving up, then there isn’t a lot of risk in digging deeper. You can always give up later.

Several things happened in removing the remaining shaft and seals from the bread pan:

  1. Sure enough, I broke one of the seals while taking things apart. Fortunately I had already planned to replace the seals (they don’t tend to seal well ever again after dis-assembly), so this wasn’t a big deal.
  2. I didn’t really want to know what was hiding under the seals, at least if I ever want to eat bread that comes out of that machine again. “Gunk” is too kind of a word, so we’ll go with “shit” for the stuff that I found hiding in my bread pan. Fortunately the shit was removable.
  3. The source of the problem is a worn e-clip. Firstly, I didn’t even know those little things were called “e-clips”, but now I do (learn something new every day!). Secondly, these aren’t one of the parts available from the on-line vendor. On the bright side, e-clips are fairly common hardware, so a simple trip to the hardware store might solve the problem. Sometimes manufacturers use specialized versions of common parts, which would be a stone drag here, but optimism is high!