The '57 Lincoln had its oil pan down.
Gus Wilson held a rear main-bearing seal in his hand. It was shot.
So was his weekend, Gus thought, looking up at a hunting scene on the Model
Garage wall calendar. The month read March; the next day's date,
Sunday, was circled in red. There was a promise of early spring in the
Stan Hicks, his assistant, hung up the
telephone, "No luck, boss," he said. "Higgins hasn't got that main
seal in stock and he can't get one until Monday."
"There goes my hunting trip," Gus
"Why not use your own car?"
"You know the agreement I made with
Sam Barton. If I didn't fix his Lincoln in time we'd call off the
hunting and put in Sunday fixing up his basement bowling alley." The phone rang. "Maybe Higgins
found that part," Stan said hopefully as Gus took the call. It was Ed
"My garden tractor won't run, Gus.
And Hogan's out in his plot making the dirt fly. If you don't come
over and fix it he'll beat me on the first mess of green peas and I'll never
hear the last of it." "Okay," Gus said, and hung up the
phone grinning. "Hogan and McBain are at it again. Hold the
fort, Stan, while I'm off to the battle of the green thumbs."
The phone ran again. This time
it was Hogan's voice in a conspiratorial whisper. "Slip over here with
your tool box, Gus. My tractor's broke down but I don't want old Pig
Weed McBain to know it." Gus winked at Stan. "That's
strange, McBain just called and said you were making the dirt fly." Hogan cackled over the phone.
"He just thinks I am. My motor runs okay and I've got it spitting with
the muffler off. But when I throw in the clutch nothing happens."
As he drove out of town Gus mulled
over the situation. He was bound to call on McBain first. But
with the backyard garden plots of the two crotchety old rivals separated by
only a four foot-high hedge, Hogan was sure to see him arrive. And
with both tractors out of commission, he knew he was heading for fireworks.
He wasn't mistaken. He found McBain a thin, wiry man, blue
of eye and reddish of beard, yanking the starter cord of his tractor.
As Gus approached he looked up and snorted, "I'd like to get my hands on the
guy who built this contraption. Durned motor won't turn over."
"That's one of the best little motors
ever built, Ed." Gus took the starter cord and gave it a few futile yanks.
"Best, eh?" McBain cocked an ear
toward Hogan's yard. "Listen to that, Old Spinach Beard couldn't run a
two-bit screwdriver. But his motor runs and mine don't."
Gus removed the gas-tank cap and stuck
a finger into the fuel, "as a matter of fact, your motor and Hogan's are
identical." "Maybe so," McBain said. "I'll
wager that old reprobate snuck over here last night and put emery dust in my
motor. I'll go over there right now and twist his..." "What in time are you doing over
there, Gus Wilson?" It was Arch Hogan, his whiskered chin jutting over
the top of the dividing hedge. Fixing Ed's tractor," Gus said, a
twinkle in his eyes. "Wouldn't be anything wrong with yours, now,
"Course not," Hogan said hastily.
"You can hear it running if you're not deaf. I'd better get back to
it. My, how things are growing this spring, got peas three inches high
"Hogwash!" McBain said. "Pass up
three inches! Why, he's just planting them now. Couldn't work
the ground until this morning - too wet." The old man took off around
the end of the hedgerow, Gus behind him. They came upon Hogan, a silly
grin on his face, leaning on the handles of his racketing but motionless
"By grabby!" roared McBain. "He
isn't going anyplace, either." "Who told you to come peeking around
my hedge, Pig Weed?"
"Your hedge? The plants you put
down didn't grow. Every last plant in that hedge that grew, I
planted." Hogan snorted. "You couldn't
grow warm radishes."
"Whoa!" Gus cut in. "Neither of
you are going to grow radishes or anything else if you don't stop squabbling
and let me look at your tractors. McBain's motor seems to be frozen
up, now let me see what the trouble is with this one."
"McBain must have slipped over last
night and put metal in my gearbox."
"And who sneaked over last night and
put emery dust in my motor?"
"Would have if I'd thought of it,"
Gus, down on his knees, was removing
the differential grease-drain plug from Hogan's gearbox. "Guess it'll
take about a week to get parts from the factory. Then, let's see, a
couple of days to install them. Say about 10 days to get you boys
McBain's rheumy eyes popped. "Ten
days! Why, in 10 days it'll be too late to plant peas, that is, peas
that'll grow right. Hot weather'll catch them before they fill, and
"And then," Hogan put in, "they'll
sort of peter out. They'll make up small and not sweet."
"That's right. Just like those
peas you shipped in from the South last year, Hogan, and made believe you'd
grown 'em yourself."
"Shipped in from the South!"
Hogan took a threatening step forward. "I'll have you know, Pig Weed,
that I beat you fair and square last year. I'm of half a mind to..."
"Stop it!" Gus stepped between
them. "If you two will calm down a minute I'll show you both you can get
your peas in - and today."
"Well," Gus explained, "your tractors
are identical. McBain has a good chassis and gears, while you, Hogan,
have a good motor. Now, if I mount your motor on McBain's rig..."
"Not on your life," Hogan protested.
"Let Pig Weed rustle up his own motor.
Any time I deal with a character
who'll sneak around jimmying folks' gears you'll know it."
"Is that so?" McBain yelled.
"And you can get your own gears. Before I'll deal with a snake in the
grass who sneaks over putting emery dust..."
"Time out," Gus said, holding up a
hand. "I'd say both of you green-thumbed idiots got so excited this
morning you forgot something. I'll bet McBain forgot to mix oil with
the gas for his two-cycle motor.
And you, Hogan probably drained your
gearbox last fall, just like the factory instruction book says, and then
forgot to put grease back in. Now...let me make one good tractor out
of both of these."
Hogan shook his head. "Nothing
"But," McBain said uncertainly, "it
might rain. Hogan, and muddy up the ground again. Ten days is a
Hogan pulled at his whiskers.
"Come to think of it. Pig Weed, maybe I did drain my gearbox last
"Admit it, do you?" McBain said.
"Well now, in that case, maybe I did
forget to mix oil with my gasoline."
Gus held up two fingers in a V sign.
"Well, we won't get anywhere standing
here chewing the fat. Let's shift the motor."
"Let's," said McBain.
"Don't mind if we do," agreed Hogan.
Driving back to the Model Garage, Gus
chuckled aloud to himself, wondering what McBain and Hogan would say if they
knew he could have gotten the parts and installed them in a couple of hours.
But getting the two old gamecocks to work together, he figured, was more
Gus still had his own problem - Sam
Barton's Lincoln with the oil leak that meant no hunting trip. His
eyes strayed wistfully to the hunting scene on the wall calendar as he
thought about the car.
An idea kept nudging him. Then,
suddenly, it clicked. "Identical parts," he said aloud.
In the garage office, he thumbed
through his parts manual, "Ah, here it is, Stan," he said, running a finger
across a page. "The crankshaft rear oil seal of the '57 Lincoln also
fits '57 Fords. And that means vice versa. Get it, Stan?"
"Sure, boss, but this is Saturday and
the Ford dealer..."
"Never mind the dealer. What's
"Why, a '57 Ford..." Then it
dawned on him what Gus meant. "No, not that."
"Yes, that. Get going and switch
those identical parts so I can go crow-shooting tomorrow."
Stan was finishing up when Gus came
out of the office, a shotgun in each hand.
"Here's a gun for you, Stan," he said.
"Come along with us."