Friday, December 12, 2014

Balance, K-1, Easter Island

Mild protests from my lower back aside, today was a success. I have a new appreciation for the amazing power of balance.

Megan, the kids and I watched some things about Easter Island or Rapa Nui over the last couple of weekends. As I was wrestling a relatively small, but to me extremely heavy barrel of kerosene, I thought of one of the theories on how the Rapa Nuians moved stone statues weighing many tons. The theory goes that they stood the big browed purse lipped sentinels up on end, and carved them in such a way that they leaned forward. Using ropes on both sides, a slight forward tipping combined with a side-to-side motion made it possible to move a big stone dude with no oxen, mastodon, hydraulic lift or alien spaceship. Such is the power of balance.

Back to my shop and the barrel dance, I had been worrying for several days about replenishing my dry oil tank. It's December, so I either need fuel or to empty pipes and say goodbye to the spirits of Aunt Belle's place for the winter.

These mundane matters can be much more complicated than one would anticipate. I've learned to think things through. OK, I need to remember to take out a 5/16" wrench to bleed the burners. I need to pump up the tire before I can go get K-1 from Tom. I need to plug in the tire machine before I can blow up the tire. I hope the battery isn't flat.

I anticipated and thought almost all the permutative variables through effectively. Everthing, that is, except for the shrieking.

My return to Matinicus was going very well. Larry gave me a ride up the island after I walked off the ferry. I got a fire going. The fuel tank didn't seem to be leaking. I got the truck down to Tom's and pumped 50 gallons out of one barrel in Tom's shop and into a barrel in Megan's truck. Ducks were in a row so far. I threaded the truck around a stack of traps on one side and buoys, ropes and crates on the other to the pump-off truck stop just outside where my fuel tank is situated. I got everything set to go, feeling cheerful and surprised at the smoothness of it all. Then I hit the pump switch and jumped a foot in the air as the pump let out a fearsome shrieking. The shrieking felt personal to me since I was the only one around. The smell came a few moments later- an unhappy electric smell. I thought I found the problem when I saw that the cap over the fan housing was askew such that it would make the fan blades screech against that cap. Smug I was as I reset the housing cap. I pressed the switch and heard only a hum.

Before these moments, I congratulated myself that I had not gotten stressed by all the wonky Rubik cube details of coming back to the island. After those moments, I cursed the pump, myself and the lack of a hardware store.

Plan B involved a skinny dweeb somehow getting the 400 and change pound barrel of oil off the back of the truck without breaking the tailgate, a leg or the integrity of the barrel. Not so much to ask-it only needed to move about 2 feet vertically. First, I thought: Oh, I should pump the contents of that barrel into another barrel that's not on the truck bed. Then I remembered: Oh, yeah, this process is because the pump does not work. I settled on a makeshift plywood ramp supported by a stack of two traps tapering to one trap. What could go wrong? Actually, nothing. Gravity worked just fine. One of the pieces of plywood broke, but otherwise and after a gut busting push to set the barrel upright again before the cap started seeping, all seemed ok.

I then discovered the Owen family hand truck in the soap lab entryway.

Balance is an astonishing force and yet has no external power source. This obstinate and brutally heavy 55 gallon barrel of oil, when balanced on a hand truck, moved with the ease of carrying a quart of motor oil. What could exert such power? Balance, and a good sturdy metal frame with stout wheels.

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