Category Archives: Prattlings

That’s Riveting

We use a spring clip device to attach our PMFC dog tags to foster dog’s collars so it’s easy to remove the tag when we deliver the dog to transport, so we can let the dog keep the collar.  But if I attach the tag to the clip with an S hook, the whole assembly gets to be awfully long and dangly.  This is bothersome to the dog and a tempting target for other dogs when they’re playing.  I lose a lot of tags that way, and they’re kind of pricey.

While cleaning out a drawer in my workshop I came across my old pop rivet tool and decided to try riveting the tag straight to the spring clip (as shown).  The result was about 30% reduction in overall length, and because the aluminum tag is sandwiched tightly between the steel clip and a steel washer, it is less likely to be torn loose during play with another dog.

But I don’t have many rivets of that size left, so I added “pop rivets” to my shopping list for Saturday.

Then I saw the price on the box of the tool I have.  I wonder how old that tool is!  I can’t say I’ve seen a pop riveter in the hardware stores lately.  I wonder if they still make pop rivets.

Curiosity just got the better of me and I searched the Ace Hardware web site (The store I plan to shop at on Saturday) for pop rivets – no result found.  I went into Amazon (because Amazon has EVERYTHING) and did a search for pop rivets.  I got a listing of riveted dog collars, shoes, and bracelets.  No fastenings.  I tried Lowe’s web site and found a snazzier version of the tool I have and an assortment of rivets.  So they’re still available, I’m just limited on my sources.  And a box of 100 rivets alone costs twice what my whole kit cost when I got it.  But I guess that’s just the way things are.  What can ya do?

Totin’ Tools

When I was a child I had a tool box.  It was just a cheap plastic box containing a pair of pliers, a couple of screw drivers and a light-weight hammer.  All real tools passed along by my Dad so I could help “fix things” around the house.  But it was my very own tool box and I was proud of it.  As I grew older, my tool collection expanded and I got a proper metal tool box for them.

When I grew to manhood I set my sights on sailing around the world in a 28 foot long Bristol Channel Cutter, earning my way by doing woodworking and writing about my adventures.  My tool box became an oilskin tool roll, about the size of a duffel bag,  and a knock-down work bench.  I practiced my woodworking by building furniture in the yard using just these hand tools.

But then I became infatuated with a young woman who had no intention of bobbing around the world in a boat.  She wanted a grand home filled with fine furnishings, and carpet, and air conditioning.  So I sold the boat and built a wood shop.

In this shop, tools were neatly laid out in labeled drawers or hung in cabinets.  For many decades that’s how I worked.  I rarely did any “in the field” work, so my tools did not need to be portable.  I upgraded through four different workshops, but never made my tool collection mobile.

When I’d do work around the home or property, I’d put the tools I needed in a box or bag.  And I tended to lay them down where I was and have to look for them when I need that tool again.  At the end of the day I had to take inventory and be sure I’d recovered all my tools before I headed in for the night.

When I retired and closed the wood shop, I kept all my tools.  With more time on my hands, I started doing things for friends and neighbors, and it became clear that tossing what I thought I’d need in a cardboard box when heading off to a job was not going to be sufficient in the long term.  So I bought a good tool chest.  Now my most commonly used tools were portable: hoist the chest into the truck and I’d have most anything I’d need.

When working on something outside, I could tote the chest out there and set it someplace convenient to where I was working.  Still, to juggle multiple tools I ended up poking things into pants pockets or laying them down and having trouble finding them again.

I recently began work on a major upgrade to our dog kennels.  In planning for this job I also applied a measuring eye to the logistics of tool management.  I would likely find myself up on a roof, and running around a construction site doing things.  Snagging tools from my tool chest may not be convenient if I have to go down a ladder to get the tool I need, and moving around with my pockets stuffed with pliers, wrenches, and a hammer would be unwieldy as well.  So I splurged and bought some proper “workman” accessories.

One is this tool pouch.  It hangs on a belt and offers multiple pockets for various pliers type tools or a multi-tip screwdriver as well as loops for a socket wrench, pencil/marker, and a clip for a tape measure.

I must admit it took a while for me to learn to use this … the habit of just laying a tool down when I was done with it for a moment (and needed to use that hand for something else) was ingrained.  But once I retrained myself I am now able to keep my tools at the ready.  As the tasks change I go to the tool chest to swap out the tools in the pouch.

I also bought a holster for my cordless drill that has small storage pockets for various bits and drivers I may be needing.  Using an Insty Bit chuck, bits, and drivers makes swapping one for another really quick.  I also got a couple of nail/screw pouches and a padded work belt to hang them all on.  Unfortunately, only the drill holster really fits on the padded belt, the others need to hang off a standard leather belt.

But it’s all good.  I may look like a lineman stumping around with 30 pounds of tools and supplies hung around my waist, but I’m really feeling efficient.  And even if it’s just the tool pouch I’m using, it makes these outside projects so much less frustrating because the tool I need is always right where I can find it when I need it.  No more, “Argh!  Where did I put it down THIS time?”

These new dog kennels were a MAJOR undertaking for me.  Having the proper tool accessories (and helpful friends for volunteer labor) was a big help. More Info


Have you ever noticed how sometimes even simple tasks can snowball out of control with complications?  I was taking something to my workshop and I noticed that the right-front tire on my pick-up truck looked low on air pressure.  I made a note to check that when I was done with what I was doing at the time.

When I got to it I took an air pressure gauge out of the truck glove box and checked the tire pressure.  22 pounds: yep, that’s low.  I checked what I could see of the tire to see if I could find any damage or foreign objects embedded in the tire and found nothing obvious.

I have an air compressor.  It’s not a great compressor: it’s probably an antique, although I recently bought a new hose for it because the old one dry rotted and crumbled, but it will fill up a car tire.  Eventually. Continue reading Complications

Canine Street Gangs

Yesterday evening I heard what sounded like a small pack of coyotes moving through the area, yapping and cutting up like a canine street gang making their presence known and threatening to hurt anyone who got in their way.

When I let my dogs out for their bed time potty run I made sure all the floodlights were on and I went out with them carrying a strong flashlight.  I hoped that lights and a human presence would be enough deterrent if, indeed, one or more coyotes were in the immediate area.  My yard is fenced, but most fences mean little to coyotes.

Later, as I was sitting in bed reading, I heard a single blast of what sounded like a shot gun.  Very near by.  Then it got real quiet. I was cautious again this morning, but it sounded like that pack of punks learned a little respect for humanity.

Is This Even Possible?

Is it possible that coyotes are in our area?  We’ve not had them before.

Oh yes!  I know people who have personally told me of their own encounters with coyotes.  These people live along O’Neil Road: just to the north west of us, and in Bridgeport: just to the north east of us.  My neighbor says he saw one walking up our driveway towards the woods one morning a while back.  So, yes: this is a real threat and a grave concern to me.

Dealing With Coyotes

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, this is how to deal with coyotes:

  • Do not feed coyotes!!  When coyotes begin associating humans with food they loose their natural fears and may become dangerous.
  • Eliminate water sources.  These areas attract rodents, birds, and snakes which the coyote will prey upon.
  • Position bird feeders so coyotes can not get to the feed.  Coyotes may also be attracted to birds and small mammals that have been lured in by the feeder.
  • Do not discard edible garbage. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat any table scraps.
  • Secure garbage containers.  Use trash barrels with lids that clamp down tight even when tipped over.
  • Do not place trash cans out the night before scheduled pick-up.  Placing cans out in the morning before pick-up will give coyotes less time to scavenge. They will not have cover of darkness.
  • Do not leave barbecue grill outside and uncovered. The smell of the grill and the contents of the grills drip pan attracts coyotes.
  • Feed pets indoors whenever possible.  Remove any leftovers if feeding outdoors.   Store pet food in areas not accessible to other animals.
  • Clear brush and weeds from around property.  This deprives the coyote’s prey (small mammals and birds) of protective cover and deters coyote from hunting around your property.
  • A fenced yard may deter coyotes.  The fence must be at least 6 feet high.  Preferably the bottom of the fence should extend 6 inches below ground level.
  • Do not leave small children outside alone if coyotes have been frequenting the area.
  • Do not allow pets to run free.  Provide secure housing especially at night.  Small pets (cats, rabbits, small dogs) are favorite prey of coyotes.
  • Discourage coyotes from frequenting your area.  Harass them by throwing rocks, shouting, and making loud noises when one is seen. [shotguns work too!]
  • Learn more here: Coyote Control

Moonie and the Weird Snake

So the Moon Pie was barking at something outside the fence of the play yard. I went to see what the fuss was about.  Figured it had to be some critter or other, and if it was something dangerous I’d better shoo it away from the dogs.

It was a snake.   A weird snake with a HUGE triangular head.

Rattle snake?  I’ve never seen a rattler with those markings.

It wasn’t moving, maybe it’s dead.   It wasn’t coiled, so it shouldn’t strike.

I looked closer.

Ohhhhh …

It’s a grass snake eating a toad.

A toad that doesn’t want to be eaten.

This could take a while.

We went inside and left it to its dinner, while I tended to ours.

Accomplishing A Minor Auto Repair

Our pick-up truck’s check engine light came on and it started running rough at idle a couple of days after we got it home from the purchase.  Also, I started hearing a hissing sound in the dash.  And the air conditioner stopped working.  All at the same time.  To me there was only one answer – and it was one I figured I could fix myself (for a change). On the Chevy S10 and the GMC Sonoma the air direction control uses vacuum to pull bellows driven valves inside the dash to direct air to the feet, dash vents, or windshield. I ordered a new Air Flow Control Unit from a week or so ago and it arrived a few days ago, but it has since been raining or Marie had the truck because her Subaru was in the shop. Today I spent most of the morning replacing the Air Flow Control Unit.
Air Flow Control Unit
Continue reading Accomplishing A Minor Auto Repair

Blondie’s New Ride

Towels and newspaper headed for an animal rescue.

Well, it’s time.  Time to replace my truck.  The 1999 Chevy S10 pick-up I’ve been driving has almost 200,000 miles on it and it’s just time to get something younger.

We were thinking about getting another Subaru: a car, and abandoning the pick-up idea all together.  At first thought, I couldn’t remember much of anything I’ve hauled in the truck since I stopped building furniture for a living.  Now, I mostly haul dogs.  Having an SUV or cross-over with room for a couple of crates inside would solve the problems of hauling a dog (who is too wild to ride inside the cab with me) on real hot days, or bitter cold days, or in the rain.  But then I started to remember:

  • Those times I hauled firewood home for winter heating
  • Those times I hauled trash for Humane Society of Jefferson County
  • Those times I hauled 20-some bags of kibble for Newport Animal Shelter
  • Hauling supplies for Steele Away Home when they moved
  • Hauling away a large live animal trap for Helen
  • … and a few other times of doing favors for friends

No, having a pick-up has proven quite useful on many occasions, and is likely to do so in the future, given new things I’ve gotten into.  Besides, it is rumored that if a mountain man gives up his truck, he ends up eating kale pancakes and playing ice hockey. Continue reading Blondie’s New Ride

Boggled by Language Abuse

language, words, meaningBeing a writer, I take language: the meanings and flow of words, seriously.  Words have power and precise meanings.  Effective communication means using words properly.  Throwing together a mish-mash of terms or making words up by splicing improper suffixes onto a good word breeds confusion.  Even newscasters are trying to sound hyper-intelligent by tossing out big words spliced together using parts of two legitimate words.

But common terms are abused as well.  Just now I was asked if my truck runs on diesel gasoline.  This was not an either-or question, it was a yes-no question.  Diesel fuel and gasoline are two different things.  Using them together caused a train crash in the switch yard of my brain and boggled me for a moment.

An acquaintance often used the word “empowerized”, a melding of empowered and energized to convey vitality and excitement.  But it sent a little shiver up my neck every time I heard it.

A few other language laughables I can think of include:

  • I’ll go convertsate with him
  • I’m so flustrated!
  • That’s supposably a great new product.
  • A CEO philanthropist was referred to as a philanthropreneur by a news anchor.
  • Sorry, I’m not sure where I am.  I need to get orientated.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  And this doesn’t even get into words like irregardless.  Regardless means without regard.  Sticking the “ir” on the front makes it mean “not without regard” which is the opposite of what they’re trying to say.  There are SO many of these in common use today that I could go on all day.  But I’ll spare you that.

Now to be fair, the English language that we have today was made up by sticking bits of words from many other languages together.  And it evolves as each generation rises up and squishes it into their own mold of preferred expression.  So I may have no right at all to complain about younger people making up or twisting words into new meanings.  Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky.  Maybe I should just suckupicate and deal with it.

Keeping Cool On July 4th

We cool our house with a small window air conditioner.  It’s actually rated to cool a single, 10 foot by 10 foot room, but it’s in our 12’ x 15’ bedroom (not counting the Master Bath and Marie’s walk-in closet) and we pull cool air out into the rest of the house with a fan that blows down the hallway toward the kitchen and living room.  One would think that this would not work at all.  But it does!

That one dinky window AC does keep our home comfortable (comfortable for US, maybe not for those accustomed to living in a meat locker) because when we built our house we prioritized strength and insulation over square footage.  Continue reading Keeping Cool On July 4th


Wielding Unfamiliar Tools

I am something of a handyman.  I often make repairs around our house and property.  I am, by no means, an expert at plumbing, electrical, or concrete work but I understand the principles and can usually cobble my way through a repair project.  For small repairs I often employ the familiar tools and various glues, a staple gun, nails, screws, and yes: even duct tape.  But today I needed to make a repair for which none of these would help.  Today I needed to bring into service — a needle and thread!

One of the dogs got overly enthusiastic and tore a hole in the cover of a dog bed.  Discovering that there was “stuff” inside, she proceeded to pull what was inside, out.  Thus she tore the end off one of the fabric tubes full of fiberfill that makes a bolster around the dog bed.  She also pulled a basketball sized wad of fiberfill out.  I caught her at it, gathered the filler and put the bed up until it could be repaired.  Today, I tackle that. Continue reading Wielding Unfamiliar Tools