Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Judge John

Your chance to ask a few questions of a respected judge:
http://www.democrats.gov/askroberts/

Pat

Your chance to tell a respected Christian leader to take a hike:
http://www.democracyforamerica.com/robertson

Friday, August 26, 2005

Mr. Clean

Now here is a good one.
Pat Boone shreds Cindy 'peaceniks'Music legend says U.S. 'sitting duck' for next 9-11 with message of peace
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45958
Pat Boone is the symbol to me of a particular form of ignorance that I see as characteristic of certain American Christians. I've seen more of these people than I've actually met, but I've met a few in person. "Mr. Clean" really does characterize them. But I find it interesting that even in this small article, this topic came up:

Outspoken about his Christian beliefs, Boone explained why he thinks most of his colleagues tend to lean leftward in their political stances.
"Folks in the entertainment business don't want anyone telling 'em what they can or can't do," referring to God.

If I am reading this correctly, Boone is suggesting that the left consists of people who don't like to obey while the right is the obedient.
Actually, that fits pretty well with the book I'm slowly reading, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. But I'll leave that for another day. Pat Boone, in my mind, is a master of the art of actually not thinking. That's my point for today. There are American Christians whom I have met who generally seek recognition from others through their Christianity who simply could never be accused of thinking anything through critically. The men in particular are handsome, somewhat aloof but yet friendly, and very respectable, at least on the surface.
The one trait that seems to best characterize them is that when you talk to them, it is as though you are talking to someone who is blind. It is as though they don't see your face, can't see your eyes. They look through you instead of looking at you. They can't see what you are seeing. They only see what they see. So, just like with Pat Boone, these Christians look at you with a blank smile on their faces, a smile that says, "Don't even bother. My mind is not functioning."
I swear, these people are out there just looking for ways they can tell you that you need to obey everything. I swear! And for many years now, the face of Pat Boone has symbolized for me that kind of Christianity. In my head, I see Pat Boone's face whenever I meet someone like this.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

It's Just A Joke!!

How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?
1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed;
2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed;
3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb;
4. One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs;
5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new light bulb;
6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner: Light Bulb Change Accomplished;
7. One administration insider to resign and write a book documenting in detail how Bush was literally in the dark;
8. One to viciously smear #7;
9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along;
10. And finally one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

Firewood Week

This is firewood week here at our house. We can see and feel the passing of summer so it's time to begin preparing for the long winter. My son Jake and I have been going out on Plum Creek land cleaning up (scavenging) in the yarding areas of an area east of town that was cut last winter. We have a permit for five cords of firewood but have only managed to collect about two so far this week. Tomorrow morning we will go after another half-cord load to finish off the week.
Tomorrow evening my wife and I will go to the opening of the American Folk Festival in Bangor. Bangor has hosted the National Folk Festival (yes, that's where it went for all of you who have been wondering) for the past three years but the seed was planted and this year the American Folk Festival was sprouted, potentially long-term. It's always fun to attend this folk festival because of the variety and the energy of the music and the fair-like atmosphere in the food court. There's a beer tent too on the hillside overlooking the largest of the five performance stages, but I don't take advantage of that. Most of the fans seem to be there strictly to enjoy the music, the dancing, and the food. The festival begins at 6:00 tomorrow evening, begins Saturday at noon, and finishes up on Sunday. The weatherman is promising lots of sunshine with high temps in the low 80s, just right.
My wife's on vacation next week all week so I think I'll put off the second half of firewood week till September. Today we went grocery shopping, went for a swim in the cold waters of Wilson Pond, and went blueberry picking up on our hill. I picked for awhile and then just totally went into munch mode and ate a bunch of berries fresh off the bush. That is so good!
Winter... I cringe...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Different Math

When it comes to reporting about the federal government, the media seems to speak an entirely different language than the rest of us commoners do. According to this one website, the media would appear to use a different kind of math as well, especially when it comes to the cost of the military. So which is it, 19 cents on the dollar or 68?
http://www.tompaine.com/articles/20050610/twothirds_on_defense.php

Monday, August 22, 2005

Civil War

Juan Cole's blog which I read when I wish to be informed about Iraq and the Middle East in general, had a few words to say this morning about the Iraq War. I can't say as I support his views on this, but he knows the region a lot better than I do. The thing is, this is sounding so much like what we heard as the reasons to stay in Vietnam back in the 60s and 70s. What makes it so true now when it wasn't then? Why would the people of Iraq, all of whom are deprived of real power, choose to fight a genocidal civil war instead of either splitting up or settling for peace under a central government? Why would they choose to mass murder themselves instead?
But anyway, here is the link to Juan Cole's "Informed Comment" blog:
http://www.juancole.com/2005/08/ten-things-congress-could-demand-from.html
A couple of things in the introduction stood out to me:
"All it would take would be for Sunni Arab guerrillas to assassinate Grand Ayatollah Sistani. And, boom. If there is a civil war now that kills a million people, with ethnic cleansing and millions of displaced persons, it will be our fault, or at least the fault of the 75% of Americans who supported the war."
I know, I know, you don't care. I've hear it a million times. But if that did happen, it would be pretty difficult to say that the Americans who did and do support the war were not the enablers.
Then he went on to say:
"And as I have argued before, an Iraq civil war will likely become a regional war, drawing in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. If a regional guerrilla war breaks out among Kurds, Turks, Shiites and Sunni Arabs, the guerrillas could well apply the technique of oil pipeline sabotage to Iran and Saudi Arabia, just as they do now to the Kirkuk pipeline in Iraq. If 20% of the world's petroleum production were taken off-line by such sabotage, the poor of the world would be badly hurt, and the whole world would risk another Great Depression."
I sense that Cole might have written this in response to Howard Dean's stance where it is the responsibility of the White House, not the Senate minority, to have a plan for withdrawal. Cole outlines his plan for troop withdrawal here.
One step in particular that catches my eye...
"9) Congress must rewrite the laws governing US reconstruction aid to Iraq so as to take out provisions that Iraqis must where possible use US companies or materiel. All of the reconstruction money should go directly to Iraqi firms, so as to help jump-start the economy."
I couldn't agree more on that one. Don't jump start the US economy by sending Americans off to their deaths halfway around the world, risking civil and regional war. If we want peace and stability in Iraq, get their economy up and running.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Mercenaries

Call a spade a spade...
So they don't like the name "mercenary." They don't even like to be called "private armies." How quickly we forget that Rumsfeld has been talking about privatizing the army for years. This 12-page online New York Times article published August 14, 2005, written by Daniel Bergner, gives a first-hand account of the work of the new wave of privatized defense operations now going on in Iraq.
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/14/magazine/14PRIVATI.html
And they teach you in school that Globalization is just something that is happening, not something that is being made to happen...

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Lowering Our Sights

Here is an interesting article in the Washington Post dated today:
"U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq"
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/13/AR2005081300853.html
Contrast that article with the President's Saturday radio speech:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/08/20050813.html
So the question is, what's going on? The Washington Post is a conservative propaganda machine, even a co-sponsor of the September 11 pro-war rally being put on by the Pentagon. So why such a big contrast between their Sunday article and Bush's Saturday propaganda speech?
Bearing in mind that the President's public addresses usually are significantly Orwellian, could it be that this latest news of lowered expectations really was the original plan? Might this new set of circumstances actually be the ones most favorable for the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld agenda? We no longer expect the Iraqi people to become wealthy with their oil reserves. We are transitioning to mercenaries in Iraq for the defense of corporate American oil interests. That means that Americans, not the Iraqi people, will profit from Iraq's oil. Isn't this what "Globalization" means? Why is this not consistent with the Bush agenda?

New Bike

No, no ,no... I can't afford to buy a new bike. I built a new bike. Well, nothing in it is new, but let's just say I haven't seen a bike like this yet out there on the road and when I have asked the bike peddlers in bike shops about the design, I have gotten some funny looks. Actually, I remember one guy who just turned his back and went off to find another customer to service.
So while I was waiting for my beans to bake - baking beans on a hot day, imagine! - I did a project that I have been thinking about doing for years. But let me give some background first.
I have been riding bicycles since the 1950s. My first bike was a sturdy little thing with 20 inch balloon tires, a single speed similar to the BMX bikes, but before those had appeared on the scene. I rode it for several years and it was an integral part of my summertime. We lived near the Greenville airport and nearly every landing airplane was visible from the fields around my house, so whenever I heard or saw a plane, if I wasn't doing something else, or even if I was, I would hop on my little bike and try to get to the airport in time to see the plane land or watch it taxi in. My brother and I had made a little trail through the ditch to connect our road with one end of one of the airport runways. Sometimes we would go out there and cruise the runways or do circles inside the letters of the "GREENVILLE" that was painted on the north end of one.
My brother had a full-size balloon tire single-speed bike. I think, actually, that he learned to ride on that bike instead of on a smaller one like mine. Then one year our dad bought him a very nice "English bike," a Raleigh, I believe, with 26 inch wheels but narrow tires, handlebar mounted brakes for both the front and rear wheels - a change from the pedal-activated rear brake of the balloon-tire bikes - and a 3-speed shift mechanism built inside the rear hub with a shifter mounted on the handlebars. Shortly after, Dad found another one for me. Mine wasn't as pristine as my brother's Raleigh. I think mine was a JC Higgins and it had been used a lot more than my brother's but it was a rugged bike and served me well for many years.
In the process of using these English bikes, both my brother and I became bicycle mechanics. I even got to the point where I could disassemble, clean, lubricate, and reassemble the 3-speed hub and get it to work like new. Our bike years lasted well into our motorbike years. He had a Whizzer motorized heavy duty balloon-tire bicycle. I had a little scooter powered by a lawnmower engine. But eventually we got cars and the bikes faded into memories of our childhood.
My brother never got back into bicycling. He stayed with cars. For awhile, he had a love affair with Buicks, like the '55 Century that he put the '57 transmission into. That made quite a hotrod even if the transmission never worked quite right. Then he had an infatuation with the '56 models of Buicks. He even took a '56 Buick Super, hacked off the back and mounted a wooden rack body on it, and gave it to our parents to use as a pickup. I used that more than anyone else, but I still remember our mom driving it.
I was reintroduced to bicycling when I was in the Air Force. A friend of mine when I was in tech school in Illinois let me use his new 10-speed one day. I rode it several miles around the perimeter of the base and fell in love with 10-speeds. But I didn't get my first 10-speed until after I was out of the service. I was working at Squaw Mountain Ski Area and it was summer and I went to visit a friend in southern Maine for the weekend. I stopped at a bike shop in Waterville on the way down and bought a very sweet 10-speed brand new right off the showroom floor. The very next day, I ran it into a ditch when I took a sharp corner too fast for my untrained guts. When I got out of the hospital, once I was out of traction and back on my feet, the first thing I did was to rebuild that bike and get back on the road. My neck is OK now, but the bike was stolen from our front porch about 10 years after my accident, complete with the child seat where my oldest son got his first taste of bicycling.
By then, though, I had my second 10-speed, a French made Motobecane Grand Record made from lightweight "double-butted" Reynolds 531 alloy tubing and fitted with Campagnolo derailleurs. It was pretty much state of the art for a production bike of that vintage, around 1977, and it was fast. But I wound up not riding it a whole lot because it was too big for me, too long of a stretch, so I actually still have the bike today and it is still in pretty good condition. My son is using it this summer. Yes he has had newer bikes, but this is one that he hasn't yet trashed beyond repair. I say that with a snicker that only a father (or a son) can understand.
Since the Motobecane, I have had a few mountain bikes and my wife had a hybrid road bike that used some mountain bike components but had ram's horn handlebars with non-SIS bar-end shifters and 27 inch rims. My favorite mountain bike was an "Offroad" with Shimano Deore components and "Biopace" front sprockets. It belonged to a well-known bike shop owner in the Bangor area, but I bought it used from one of his shops. I put a lot of miles on that bike, but again, it turned out to be too much of a stretch for me and hurt my neck, yes from that original injury, so eventually I gave it to my teen-age son who trashed it in no time at all. Considering it's original value and quality, I stashed the remains under the shed.
My wife had a similar bike. We always called it "The Pink Panasonic" because it was painted hot pink and yes, the brand was Panasonic. It also was fitted with Deore components and Biopace sprockets. Since she almost NEVER used that bike and since she and I both forbid our sons from using it, it remained in excellent condition over the years. The boys did borrow the knobby tires from it, but a few years ago I revived it with a set of wide road tires, 26x1.90 in size. The Panasonic frame was too heavy, but the bike was great fun to ride with those tires and was not only stable on dirt but fast and smooth on pavement. Yet, nobody rode that bike.
So, for the past few years I have had in my shed the lightweight frame of a well-equipped old mountain bike, the remains of a hybrid 15-speed with rams-horn handlebars, and a pristine hot pink Panasonic that nobody would ride. Being a long-time fan of road bikes, I have had a dream for the past few years of confiscating both of my wife's bikes and using my Offroad frame and building something new, something I haven't found in a bike shop. Yesterday I did just that.
I took the road bike handlebars off my wife's old hybrid Univega and fitted them to my Offroad mountain bike frame. Then I robbed the road tires and wheels from the pristine Pink Panasonic. I used the original Offroad derailleurs and crank set, but fitted handlebar-tip shifters from the old Univega. It took all day, but before the beans were baked, I had myself a "new" bicycle and it is fun to ride! The only thing I have left to do is to fine tune all the adjustments and wrap the handlebars.
On the road again.......

Friday, August 12, 2005

No Such Thing

You know what? It just dawned on me moments ago...
If there is no such thing as "truth," that is, if truth is relative to each of us, then there is no such thing as a lie.
I don't happen to believe that because I've been lied to a few too many times, but explain the relativity of truth if indeed it is possible to lie? What is the standard to know a lie from the truth if there is no such thing as the truth?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Religion in Schools

"Personally, I believe in Intelligent Design. I don't think that surprises any of the regulars here. I think there is an intelligent being, who I call God, that created this earth." I am taking this quote from Mike in his August 9 posting in this blog:
http://thedeepfreeze.blogspot.com/
I can always count on good old Mike to give me the real conservative viewpoint and he certainly didn't fail me here. In this simple quote, Mike equates the debate about "Intelligent Design," which is being taught in some Texas public schools, not only with God but with the belief that God is a "being."
The notion that there is intelligence in the universe is something that has been taught in public schools for a long time, even after the evolution thing appeared on the scene. Science accepts the laws of mathematics, the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry. Science accepts that life is governed by these laws of nature. Yet nature isn't a "being." Religion enters the scene when we make the assumption that in order for there to be intelligence, there has to be a "being," someone doing the intelligent thinking.
That's where this quote from Mike shines. The debate about "Intelligent Design" isn't about the laws of nature which guide life, it is about this "being" which creationists call "God." It is about religion and it is using science as its "foot in the door."
If the debate about "Intelligent Design" didn't involve the need for an intelligent being, a creator, or if the debate considered the possibility that there was a creator from another planet - a super race, if you will - then it might be worth including in a science curriculum. But the creationist perspective, the Christian perspective, is what is most likely to be taught, the religious notion that God is a being who created the universe out of nothing but space about 6,000 years ago and that we all should believe the Bible. That is not science. That is religion.
So Mike unintentionally made the debate clear. It isn't whether science should recognize intelligence. It is whether schools should teach religion. Mike even infers that in his comment in response to his wife's comment about whether religions other than Christianity should also be taught in public schools. You two guys are great. Thanks for the insight!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Trickle-Down Intelligence

I happened to see the beginning few minutes of tonight's CBS News. They were covering the story that Pennsylvania's Republican Representative Curt Weldon claims that a Defense Intelligence team had tracked Mohammed Atta into the US before 9/11 but were advised not to notify the FBI about it. Here is a June 19, 2005 article about this story:
http://www.timesherald.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=14720231&BRD=1672&PAG=461&dept_id=33380&rfi=6
CBS showed video of both a 9/11 commissioner and Rumsfeld claiming they did not know about this until this story broke. Considering that the story broke when Weldon published his book, one might wonder why it wasn't till now that Rumsfeld found out, but hey, who's splitting hairs about that, right? The real question is that if Defense Intelligence knew about this, why didn't word get up to Rumsfeld till now?
I have a new theory about this that I am calling "Trickle-Down Intelligence." Back in the Reagan era we had Trickle-Down Economics where the wealthy got tax breaks that in theory gave them the money they needed to invest in the economy leading to employment for the less than wealthy Americans.
My theory of Trickle-Down Intelligence is a little different.
It seems that in the case of 9/11 and then in the case of Iraq, sound intelligence is common at some mid-levels of the intelligence network, but instead of being pushed up to the top, it only seems to trickle down to the lower levels. Good intelligence doesn't rise to the top. In fact, if this story is to be believed, in the nearly four years since the morning of 9/11, nobody ever told Donald Rumsfeld that Pentagon intelligence knew about Atta's entry into the US and his connection to al-Qaida two years before the attack. Rumsfeld was left believing that US intelligence simply didn't have a clue.
The faithful might have no problem believing Rumsfeld's sorry excuses, but I find it hard to believe that nobody ever tried to tell him about this. The only way I can believe it is with my new theory, but this theory leaves me wondering just what the top of the intelligence chain is doing with their time if not listening to good intelligence. Then again, isn't that what the Bolton debate and the Wilson debate and all the other debates about manipulation of intelligence are all talking about?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

No Prophet

I'm no prophet, but with public support for Bush's war in Iraq tanking, I'm thinking something big has got to happen. I suppose as long as he still has the support of Congress, and it appears that he pretty much does, probably that's all that's necessary to continue with this agenda, but how low can the polls continue sagging before Congress begins to get the message?
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8849936/site/newsweek/
Sometimes I momentarily tune in to Public Radio. Today I happened to catch a trivia bit on "What Do You Know" that there are no horses on Bush's Texas ranch. Imagine that... But a day or two back I heard a guy, an American professor or something like that, who was apparently connected to the CPA government in Iraq and is on the Hoover Institution saying that it was only in the past few days that he had realized that the Bush Administration's agenda includes permanent military bases in Iraq from which the US can further it's military interests to promote US hegemony in that part of the world. Wow, huh? Like this is late breaking news?
Remember when so many yards had yellow ribbons out on display out near the road, maybe on a tree or on the mailbox or on telephone poles? Then after many many months they all got faded out by the sun and the rain when the troops didn't come home the way we were expecting they would? Then almost two years ago those magnetic yellow "Support the Troops" plastic magnets started showing up on the backs of all those patriotic American cars and trucks and SUVs, remember? Those things don't seem to fade, do they? They're easy to find, pretty cheap to buy, and easy to put on. But it has always puzzled me that some folks think it is possible to support the troops when you don't support what the troops are doing. It always seemed to say to me, "Support the Troops and Support George's War."
There are millions of young chicken hawks who preach support but would never in a million years volunteer to fight in Iraq...
Cowards, every one of them.
There are lard-ass talk show hosts preaching hatred to a willing audience of people who seem to find it impossible to come up with original thoughts of their own so they waste countless hours every week listening to these preachers, and then, if they do speak out, mimic the current conservative talking points as though they were the first people ever to think of them. Of course, as soon as the talking points change, the hatred-spewing hosts and their flocks all seem to change their minds at the same time.
There are the right-wing Christians bickering amongst themselves, the norm for right-wing Christians in my experience with them.
But eventually the fading tide of support for this war will actually force politics to deal with changing public opinion, unless we have another 9/11 type of event. Again, I'm no prophet, but the terrorists have pretty much always acted (as if) on cue whenever the Bush people needed some public support. What will it be this time? Any guesses?

Friday, August 05, 2005

As Is

I bought a used car about three weeks ago from a man who said he is a deputy sheriff and the head of the bus department for a school system not far from here. I had never met the man before, but I trusted him when he said he had used the car every day up until recently and there was nothing seriously wrong with it. It seems to me that there should be some trustworthy souls left on earth and with this man's responsibilities, it seemed to me that he should be one of them. I paid top dollar for the car considering it was a private deal and he sold it "as is."
The car wasn't registered so I couldn't test drive it, but I overlooked a few key items in my zeal to get a good deal on a relatively low mileage used car. One was the heavily worn rubber on the clutch pedal. After I started driving the car, I realized that the clutch chatters, the pedal feels tiny bit softer than it should, and twice now with little provocation, the clutch has smelled hot, a sure sign of a badly worn clutch.
The second sign was two new tires on the front and two badly worn ones on the rear. After I started driving the car I realized that the rears were even unsafe to drive on and made strange road noises.
The third warning sign was that the driver's "automatic shoulder belt" was jammed in its track halfway between engaged and disengaged. Driving a car this way was illegal despite the fact that this man is a deputy sheriff. He told me he didn't know if the problem was serious or not but that it might be as simple as a door switch. I didn't notice at the time, but both the dome light and the ignition switch chime worked on the other tree doors but not on the driver's door.
He did tell me that the engine had been changed since he bought the car, but there was some confusion about how long it had been since that was done and also about how long ago he and his wife had bought the car. He assured me that the replacement engine had fewer miles on it than the one that failed shortly after he bought the car.
I bought the car, a 1996 Escort with 83,000 miles on it, for $2,000 and the seller marked the bill of sale "Vehicle sold as is." I gave him $200 to hold it till I could raise the cash (he wanted to give me one day to do that but I asked for 5). I got the money, then got the title, registered and insured it, and drove it home.
I began with the automatic seat belt by testing the door switch. It worked fine. Then I bought a repair manual and took apart the track for the seat belt. The first thing I found was that the wire for the whole assembly was unplugged in the door post behind the plastic trim. A small access door made that a simple thing to do. But plugging it back in didn't solve the problem so I kept digging and removed the whole assembly. I found that the drive cable was pinched in the track and when I pounded the cable back in place and hooked it all back up, everything was back to normal. But...
1. The seller, a deputy sheriff, sold me the car in a condition where it was illegal to drive.
2. He acted as though he knew nothing about what was wrong with it.
3. Someone had disconnected the plug after the cable jammed in its track.
After that, I thought I should check the spark plugs since the engine seemed a little bit rough at times. I couldn't believe what I found. The car had Motorcraft Platinum spark plugs that had been in the car so long they had burned open to a gap probably twice as large as the original .055. The odometer was just over 83,000 miles and this seller assured me that the engine had fewer total miles on it than that. OK. But why weren't the spark plugs EVER changed and just how many miles does it take to wear Motorcraft Platinum plugs this much?
The first trip we took in the car, I realized it was unsafe to use the rear tires any more, so we bought two new tires at Sears, "H" speed rated to match the two new ones that were already on the car. That quieted things down and really helped the steering, but it was evident that the wheel alignment was way off so I made an appointment for an alignment at a reputable shop this week. When I went in for the alignment, though, I was told that the right rear strut was leaking and that the right rear was sitting lower than the left, an indication of a probable broken spring although the mechanic didn't find a break in it. The estimate was outrageous so I just brought the car back home. But on the way home, I stopped at this seller's home and had a talk with him. I told him about the strut situation and the $680.00 estimate I got from the shop. I told him about the chattering clutch. He told me he had no idea about the strut situation, but that the clutch was new and he couldn't believe it was worn out. He did tell me, though, that the clutch was replaced before the engine so I was hoping I might find that there was a new clutch bolted to a broken engine in some mechanic's back yard. I found out who had done the work for him and had him call the garage and let them know I would be coming over to ask a few questions.
Here's what I found out...
1. He had owned the car for well over two years and had put about 22,000 miles on it. That is significantly more use than he seemed to be saying when he was selling me the car.
2. The engine went soon after he bought the car. The crankshaft had broken in half. The clutch repair happened a year or so later and the mechanic had noticed clutch chatter the past couple of times he had driven the car, a sign that someone was rough on the clutch. I'm guessing that the engine flywheel is warped from overheating from slipping the clutch too much. This man's wife was in a bad accident about a year ago and had a hard time even walking for awhile, but apparently she continued to drive this car.
3. Nobody seemed to know anything about the rear struts, but they aren't too expensive to repair and broken springs are common on the rear of a Ford Escort. It shouldn't cost me $680.00 to repair.
So I did some pricing and then took the car home and removed the rear struts. Here's what I found...
1. Someone had removed the struts at least one time before. There was evidence of this on the nuts on the left side of the car.
2. The right rear strut was indeed leaking, but instead of there being a broken spring, there was a brand new spring on it. Apparently the new spring didn't sit quite as high as the old original had even though it still had the labels on it clearly identifying it as a Ford part. I called the Ford garage in our area and their records showed the sale of a single spring in January of this year. My guess is that I am the proud owner of that spring even though the car's owner didn't seem to have any idea that it had been replaced!
OK, I confess, I overlooked a lot of clear warning signs when I bought the car, but I trusted the man I bought it from. I trusted that he was telling me the truth. Clearly, though, it was ignorant of me to place trust in a stranger even if he was a deputy sheriff and worked at a job in which he must have had knowledge of mechanics.
My guess is that this man is a Republican... Probably his wife is too... My guess is that Karl Rove and George Bush are role models for this pair. But that's just a wild guess, isn't it?

Late Update...
A correction: I found two new springs on the rear, not just one. For that, I thank whoever did it, but jeeze, why springs and not struts while you're in there?
I replaced the struts today and test drove the car. Things are looking pretty good. It still needs alignment but at a total cost of around $225, not $680. That I can handle. I do love driving this car and I love the feeling when I gas it up and put $15.00 worth in the tank!!
Now for the clutch.....