Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

21 February 2008

Our Fire (ahem) Engine

Every industry has its own jargon and lingo, eh? Did you know that there's a difference between a fire truck and a fire engine? Evidently any four year-old would but I did not. A fire engine is typically a tanker truck with the intended purpose of putting fires out. A fire truck is typically the equipment hauler (e.g. ladders, etc.) that is used for entry into a burning building and the rescue of its occupants.

Now, firefighting technology has advanced greatly over the years, and things are not as simple as in 1968 when our fire engine was built. (Earlier reports had us thinking that this truck was from the 1950's but we found a data plate that revealed its true date of manufacture. It's not as old as I am, it just looks it.)

We did get a proper mechanic to come look at the truck, which you'll recall that Paul and I were not able to get started. Mr. real mechanic pulled the drain plug on the carburetor, drained out all of the bad gas, ran some good gas through it and immediately had the engine running. Made me feel like an idiot, because: a) I suspected that's what was wrong; and b) I could have done exactly that had I been so inclined. Which I was not.

Which is strange, because I usually like working on stuff and dont' mind getting my hands dirty. But the prospect of tackling the fire engine engine just seemed too daunting. I mean, what if it hadn't been something simple like bad gas in the carb? Then I would've been up the proverbial creek without a manual. And although I like canoeing, that's not a place I prefer to be.

Another company came and took the truck to their shop to work on the brakes and give it a general cleanup. Couple of days later they returned it to our office, not quite as good as new but close enough. The mechanic showed me how to get the pump working and water to come out of the hoses under pressure. Yeah, like I'll remember. To be safe, I had him also show someone who would. Interestingly, our pumper can use its own 1,000 gallon supply of water, or it can hook up to a city hydrant. It can also draw from a lake, river or pool, or hook to another tanker truck as a source. Very versatile.

Bossman was making noises about me driving it up to the hunting camp. I strongly demurred. Back in elementary school, when asked to draw pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up, some kids drew fire trucks. I drew airplanes.

This is a truck from another era - a bad era. For one thing, it's HUGE. The steering wheel is as big around as the tires on my mountain bike. There is a power steering pump on the engine, but the wheel still takes two strong arms to turn. Which is okay, because the clutch takes two feet to depress. The "throw" on the shifter is so long (I kid you not) that the lever actually hits the dash when pushed forward, and hits the seat when pulled back. The brakes provide only mild retardation of speed. A person would have to be mildly retarded to drive it on public roads. The guys who actually drove these things to fires back in the day must have been cavemen, or pumped up on enough steroids to make Roger Clemens look like a one-time user.

Okay, so we've got our fire engine. I'm sure our camp residents will feel somewhat safer...unless they see me driving it toward their burning house. As a fireman, I make a pretty decent pilot.


Redlefty said...

Maybe you can just ram it into a burning house, bringing along a gust of wind and spreading debris over a wide area that keeps from feeding the flames?

ProPilots said...

Bob, What a great looking fire truck. Looks like there may be some fun found in that thing somewhere.
I look forward to looking at your blog.


Gene said...

Awesome blog post. The firetruck looks nice. Maybe you guys can drive it in a "Parade". Looks like it needs a paint job though.

Bob Barbanes said...

Michael, ramming a house -intentionally or not- is a distinct possibility if I'm driving.

ProPilots, welcome! There's lots of fun to be found in a fire engine - as long as you don't have to actually drive it.

Gene, the first annual White Oak Creek Mardi Gras parade (still deciding on which year to hold it) will sadly only be a one-block affair. In fact, it might be the only stationary "parade" in Marty Graw history. (And the paint merely needs a little buffing. I'm sure our camp foreman is just lovin' the prospect of doing that- not.)

Anonymous said...

I had a *Tonka Truck* that was the spittin' image of your fire engine when I was a kid. Never once did any of us kids choose it from the fleet of Tonka Toys as a *Fire Engine*. Always the *Fire Truck*.

Learned sumthin' new here.

Hey, I don't think you mentioned if you blew the siren.


Guanaja Sharon said...

Well, all I can say is "boys and their toys!" I guess if your boss gets tired of it you can ship it down to the island - just one of the things necessary to get an "international" airport here!

Anonymous said...

Shame on you Bob. You didn't mention the siren. That old truck has the Stradivarius of sirens; an old fashioned spinning electric motor driven one. If you keep your foot on the switch long enough to let the siren build up to full speed, it takes it at least a full minute to moan and wind down after you release the switch. Sirens sounded like that when I was a boy some 60 years back. Memories man!

Capt. Schmoe said...

I know this is a late comment, but she's a beauty. The very first engine that I received formal training on was very similar to this one.

You had to be sure when you were in low because it was real close to reverse. More than a few guys mistakenly backed up when they wanted to go forward. Bad form.

It had to do with the amount of linkage from the transmission to the shifter. A bit of a bitch at first but not too bad once mastered.

534 cu in gas engine with a manual 5 speed. It didn't get much better than that.

Thanks for the post.