Ted Kalvitis - Far Muse

No Sale

Occasionally, I sell a gun at the North River Mills shop from the hood of the Old Black Truck. Prior to Bruce Miller’s passing around 1987, North River Mills Grocery kept a vast selection of used guns for sale, thus I feel that in some way I’m keeping the venue active in this regard.

These sales usually involve guns that I’ve bought in a non-firing condition and repaired. Motivation for selling them can range from the financial corners that I seem to keep painting myself into to some guns being so valuable that they worry me.

A few guns that I show aren’t for sale at all, but are on display to inspire conversations with the occasional passerby.

Another category are guns that just don’t fit the program and thus don’t pique my interest, which is early 20th- and late 19th-Century sporting arms.

These oddballs also generate very little response from buyers. Get them out of here. Such was the rifle that I had on display one recent weekend — cheap.

Of course, much of the day was thus spent with pseudo gun buyers. Some of these guys might haggle over a hundred-year-old shotgun, expressing plans to saw off the barrel and turn the stock into a pistol-grip. Right.

A quick look at the flesh between their thumbs and forefingers usually tells me if they’ve ever actually fired a so-called “closet gun.” In these instances, I often feel relieved if there’s a no-sale.

Most, though, walk me through the entire sale process, which concludes with something like “Well, I don’t have the money right now but I definitely want the gun …”

I could save time by applying the phrase “Show me the money” at the very outset but I like to see where these little adventures might lead.

“Can you accept a credit card?” (That I can’t in this primitive setting is obvious) “Nope.” “Dang.” The prospective buyer then leaves to “find an ATM,” but never returns. Transaction over — no sale. Back to work on the Cub.

The farm that the Cub’s owners bought near Front Royal had suffered considerable neglect over the years. It was a pleasure and an honor on my part to have a hand in bringing it back to some degree of function and beauty.

The barn, built in 1917, was still roofed well enough, but the interior really needed a good cleaning. The floor was inches deep in decades-old hay residue; the usual cobwebs and rotting baler twine adorned the walls and oak timbers.

This is where the Cub was parked, with its 30-year-old wiring and often still hot from mowing, openly inviting a fire. (tractor sheds, people. If the barn should burn, the tractor won’t be lost — if the tractor should catch fire, the barn won’t be lost.)

Don’t even get me started about folks parking old tractors in attached garages with a bedroom overhead.) I’m nearing the goal of pushing the tractor outside, blocking it up and removing the wheels. A good scrubbing or possibly pressure washing is to follow then a coat of paint over all.

Each part has already been painted individually, this coat will “pull it all together.”

Painting isn’t really the objective but as each piece is cleaned, fixed, lubricated and generally fussed over, the opportunity to paint the part as well is just too obvious to pass up.

I started to mount the instrument panel, which had been stripped of its switches and gauges for cleaning, painting and rewiring.

It soon became apparent that assembling and wiring the panel could be accomplished much easier prior to installation. As I inspected the ammeter, the insulation that isolates the wiring from the mounting bracket crumbled and fell to the floor.

If this had happened in the barn with the ammeter still mounted and current running through it, part of the tractor’s wiring would have caught fire (somewhere through the ages, the fuse had been bypassed) from the short circuit.

Some rubber o-rings seemed to partially suffice, leaving the flat insulating backing in question. Pawing through the nether reaches of a toolbox reserved for seldom-used tools and supplies produced a rubberized gasket material of the perfect thickness.

It’s amazing what useful stuff we can accumulate over the years.

The ammeter as well as the light and ignition switches were tested and found to be functional. A quick look at a cell-phone photo of Pete Carper’s restored Cub instrument panel ensured that everything is going into the proper positions.

The replacement wiring going into this tractor is the exact replica of the original harness (IH/Farmall #354252R91) right down to the cloth and rubber insulation and original color coding (available from The Brillman Company, (540) 477-4112, www.brillman.com).

I felt a twinge of excitement as I began to assemble the new wiring against the new paint. Maybe painting is the objective after all — just a little. Still we can’t get in a hurry or cut corners with wiring.

I inspected the main battery cable (IH/Farmall# 351956R91) which is not included with the harness. (On a Cub, this cable is 7 feet long.) Again, crumbling insulation exposed the live copper wire core dangerously close to metal mounting brackets and retainers.

“Tape it up?” I thought briefly. No, that’s how barns catch fire, so back to Brillman’s. The metal brackets and clips were removed for painting.

I don’t remember why I happened to acquire the poorly sporterized 6.5 Carcano rifle that I was trying to unload (bad pun) today. Maybe it was just to see if I could get 2 shots off as quickly as Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly did with a nearly identical gun on Nov. 22, 1963. I couldn’t.

No sale today, but this rifle won’t be with me much longer.

First published June 27, 2018. o

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