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tractorI recently had the opportunity to help my aunt rebuild my tractor. Although we split the work—she did most of the grinding and I did most of the engine lifting—you'd have to classify it as her project. The tractor's frame sat in my basement for three years. During those three years, the blown engine and replacement engine rested up in the garage. After that amount of time with no activity, we can safely attribute all the forward momentum to my aunt. Just days after she arrived for a visit, progress resumed.

It wasn't just a simple engine replacement. The old engine was a Kohler 321AQS. The "S" stands for Special oil pan. The pan is shaped like an upside-down hat, and the piston rod has a little fin on the end that dives down into the bowl to pull up oil. On the replacement engine, the oil pan is flat with the bottom of the block. This means that mounting points and height are totally different. In order to fit the new engine in the old tractor, we had to create a new place to mount it and transfer a number of parts from the old engine over to the new one.

We started with the flexible coupling that connects the engine to the tractor's transmission. The new engine was outfitted with a big orange pulley rusted to the flywheel. That's what had stumped me years ago—I couldn't figure out a way to get that part off. Fortunately, my aunt is a machinist. She's not afraid to start cutting into metal. We had that orange thing off in no time, just to find out that the mounting points on the flywheel were slightly different on the new engine (of course). In order to mount the flexible coupling, we had to drill a new hole for the coupling's pin. Again, it's good to have a machinist around.

Once we'd built out the drive side, we could test-fit the engine and determine how to mount it. We figured we'd have to weld in supports, but we actually found a way to fit it in with little more than drilling some new holes in the frame. Everything lined up well. The cowling was a little harder to figure. With lots of subtle differences, we had to refit almost every piece. We also had to move the coil and condenser to the other side, remove the fuel pump (the new engine is gravity-fed), replace the carburetor (pulled from old engine), rewire the stator and the points.

It was a great time. My aunt scraped the old gasket off the carburetor and cut new gaskets while I rewired the electrical system. Then I installed the new gaskets while she ground a new hole in the frame to give access to the oil plug. It's been a while since I worked on something that rewarding and fun.

On (a social book review site), someone named Amy G. recently reviewed my book Lies of the Prophet. Amy said:

Great mix of action, spooky and three kick ass female characters who don't go running off into the forest in high heels and skimpy lingerie! These woman are not the first (or last) to die, instead the story revolves around them and their ability to save the world from the undead - and WORSE!

[Thank you, Amy, whoever you are]

Growing up with my awesome mom and three amazing aunts in my life, I don't know that I really had a choice about how to write the female characters in Lies of the Prophet. I have a pretty good imagination, but it's not that good. The women in Lies had to kick ass and save the world. What else would they do—I forgot to write a broken tractor into that story.