I’ve talked a lot about automobile mechanics like my friend Joe, the Apostle of Automobile Engines. The folks in Lake County depend on their truck and tractor engines and motorized tools more than most. In the big city, you can always call someone to do a job. Here, in Lake County, and especially in Witter Springs, people are independent. They would rather depend on themselves than a stranger to do a chore. When they have to go to someone their choices for a mechanic are few and far between. When you find a good mechanic you hang on to him like white on rice.
This tale is about a man who also fixes engines but not the kind that fixes automobile engines like Joe. My friend, JP, fixes small engines. They run weed eaters, cultivators, chain saws, lawn mowers and the like. JP is the saint of small engines.
Everyone calls him JP. I never knew what the initials stood for. JP is older than God and even older than me. Every time I saw him he had something new that was going wrong with his tired old carcass. JP wasn’t the type to complain. It was just that he moved in such obvious pain or discomfort that I am compelled to ask him what was wrong.
JP always moved slow and careful whatever he did. He had thick arthritic hands and he had a bad ticker. But when I brought my sick weed eater machine to him he became a new man. He would feel this and touch that like a fine surgeon. He pulled the throttle lever like he was doing a brain operation. JP choked the motor with an expression on his tired face like he was searching for the mother lode. His digits became the skilled appendages of a connoisseur about to shape the Kohinoor diamond.
I dropped my tired old weed whacker on JP’s outdoor work table that sits under his oak tree. JP studied the situation for a while; hefting it, pulling the starter pulley, and giving it the once-over with his all-seeing eye.
Finally he said, “Leave it and come back this afternoon.”
When I returned after lunch he lifted my weed eater with the sureness and the strength of a young weight lifter. He pulled the starter handle and smiled with the benign grin of a saint granting absolution as my now-healthy weed eater hummed its merry song.
“Thanks JP. How much do I owe you?” I asked.
“Three dollars ought to do it. I had to replace the thingamajig and the carflastus but it’ll run like new.”
I pulled out my wallet and started to count the worn greenbacks.
He always stopped me.
“Three bucks is enough.”
My conscience wouldn’t allow it.
“Like hell it is, JP. What you fixed, in town would have cost me $62.50 an hour at the engine repair shop. I know you must have worked on it for at least an hour or more.”
That’s the way JP is. Maybe it’s the air or the water of Witter Springs. Most everyone in Witter Springs is like that.
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