Lean and powerful


I thought retirement would be different. I envisioned lunch dates on sunny days at small cafes. I could see the Old Man and I snuggled together on the couch on rainy or cold days, reading or just talking while sipping hot tea or coffee. I imagined romantic interludes. Not.

If there were any interludes in the two months since he told his professional world goodbye, they have been working ones. I thought all this working business would be over and done. I was so very wrong.

My Old Man retired and winter came to Georgia. He has spent most of his newly liberated time cutting, hauling and splitting firewood. Days and days of hard, manual labor. I really felt sorry for him. I felt sorry for me more when I had to help, but as a native southerner, I’m allergic to the cold and a nice toasty fire in our wood heater is a good thing.

Every time he considers alternative heat sources, a family member, friend or neighbor bemoans their gold-plated fuel bill, and the Old Man walks our property to find his next victim. It’s recycling at its best. At least he’s able to use all those “best management practices” he espoused for 35 years.

He has always been a slim person, but in recent years my cooking and his time spent in front of a computer instead of in the field added a little potbelly to his profile. After weeks of intimate contact with the chainsaw, my Old Man has become a lean, mean sawing machine. I’ve lost eight pounds myself, but nobody noticed.

He has not just spent his time managing the woodpile. Upon his return home full time, our house decided some repairs were necessary. I am amazed at the things that can fall apart without notice. Although this is more work and less fun time, I have reaped the benefits. I have new cabinets in the laundry room, and the earth shook (literally) when we purchased new furniture for our living room.

I must say that having him around has been dandy.

Perhaps one of the hardest chores he has endured has been fulfilling a promise he made to me some months back. For Christmas, he bought me a Plane Power 50 amp alternator, a lovely piece of workmanship. After years of struggling to power Lester with a hit-and-miss generator, my Old Man promised to replace the contrary thing with something that actually works.


When that box arrived, I opened it with glee. It was a beautiful thing to behold, and it was wonderful holding such power in my hands. I envisioned the ability to actually run my transponder on the ground. Typically, I turned it on in the air when I reached cruise speed so I wouldn’t run my battery down. I envisioned cold starts and actually using my nav lights and landing lights. Well maybe not the nav lights. They are so small no one can see them, but I’ve got two big honking landing lights that could rival a 747. I have always wanted to blind someone in the pattern, but I never used them. When I turned them on, things started to sizzle, pop and crackle.

Just looking at the alternator made me feel powerful and rather warm and tingly inside.

Unfortunately for the Old Man, that’s not what he felt. If I had to guess, I’d say he felt frustration and intense discomfort. His pain was not from the installation of the alternator itself. That was relatively easy — well it was after he got that hateful generator off. That old monstrosity held on for dear life, requiring that he remove a mag and nearly the engine to get it gone. Luscombes are not known for their roomy engine compartments.

Installation was easy, but that was just part of the Old Man’s promise to me. He determined some time ago that Lester needed some rewiring under the panel, and it was going to take some time and effort to do so. What a job that turned out to be!

I have a fuse/switch section to the right of my panel where the few electrical devices I have are managed. Henry wanted to remove the spaghetti wiring at that panel and replace the wiring with appropriate gauges and replace the fuses with modern breakers.

Folks, in a tiny Luscombe, that is easier said than done. The poor man unfurled his newly acquired lean, mean sawing machine body in the cockpit and worked for days. We removed the seats and the cargo cover where he could lay somewhat flat. I covered the rudders and floorboard with cushions to make the ordeal less painful, but I couldn’t make the panel area less confining or turn the airplane over where his arms were not constantly up.

All I could do was nod when he cursed, rub his aching arms and feed him.

In the end, it was worth it. At least it was to me. The results were immediate, but Lester wasn’t ready to be signed off just yet. I learned of a new malady that affects those who choose to take the path from old technology to new. It’s called alternator whine and, unfortunately, my radio didn’t whine, it screamed. I nearly decided then and there to rip out all of those annoying electronic devices and go NORDO.

The Old Man checked and double-checked for possible causes. The most prevalent, I understand, is the “ground loop” or improper ground. I guess ground loops are to be avoided all the way around. He didn’t find any, so the next plan of action was to install a filter and Lone Star’s Eliminator. While this may seem like overkill in a Luscombe, it is my hope that I will soon have a strobe/beacon to go with those landing lights. The Eliminator will fix potential problems with my radio and that device, too.

It did work. I have all the power a woman could want and no screaming radio. Now when I’m maneuvering on the ground, I don’t hear comments about my garbled communications. I’m loud and clear. However, I’m not lighting up the pattern, yet. The Old Man has limited me to day VFR until he can look over my landing lights and their wiring. He doesn’t want to fry anything with all that power. I may argue with the man, but I never question the IA.

Retirement may not be as easy as I thought it would be, but we’ve gotten lots of things done. In a couple of months, the Old Man is in fabulous shape for a geezer, and I’ve become über powerful.

I can live with that.

Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. She can be reached at ShortFinal@generalaviationnews.com.


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