Good News and Bad News

Patrick shows off his pride and joy, a 1966 Mustang.



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Another One of Those Days


I’ve written before about those days we all have now and then when things just don’t go right.  You know, when you get home and tell your spouse, “This has been one of THOSE days.”

Yesterday was one of those days.


It started out as a relaxing Sunday morning.  Cold.  Some might say frigid.  Annie made breakfast and Patrick came up to eat with us.

Patrick is a pretty normal 19 year old college boy, but he treats my 91 year old mom with the love and respect she deserves.  He usually takes her to church on Sundays which is pretty much the high point of her week.  Patrick wanted to take the ’66 Mustang to church to give the car some miles as it has been sitting for a few weeks while he saved the money to buy new tires for her.  The ’66 is cold natured so Annie suggested that she and I should pick up my mom to save time.

As we left our house, my bride reminded me that I had left one of my tool kits in the van after our trip to Louisiana and Oklahoma the week before.

Be patient, I’m getting to the story.


After church, as I helped Mom into our van, she commented how cold she was (She’s ALWAYS cold, but she seemed particularly chilled as she boarded the vehicle.) and said she was anxious to get home and into the heat.  I wanted to treat myself to a soda with our lunch so I asked Patrick if he would buy me one on his way to Mom’s house.  We’d pick up lunch and meet him in a few minutes.

OK, NOW I’m to the crux of the story.


My phone rang.  It was Patrick.

“I’ve got bad news, Dad,” he sounded frustrated.  I’m at Casey’s.  When I came out after buying your soda I turned the key to start the ‘Stang.  It sounds like metal on metal.”

“I’ll drop your mom and Gran off and be there in a minute.  Sounds like it’s your starter.  Maybe the solenoid is stuck or something.”

By the time I got to Casey’s, he and I had both tossed out my initial thought about the solenoid.

I suggested, “I’ll take you home to change out of our church clothes and we’ll come back to work on it.  It sounds like maybe your starter has come loose.  Have you worked on it lately?”

Silly question.  He’s a car guy.  Motor oil in his blood.  He’s ALWAYS working on one of his cars.

Rather than climb in with me, my grease monkey son dropped onto his back on the chilly pavement and looked underneath his baby blue dream car.  I heard an un-Sunday-like grunt and comment, “Well, one of them is loose.”

Before I could tell him I had my tools in the van, he added, “The bad news is, the other one is missing.”


He jumped in the van and we drove across the street to O’Reilly Auto Parts.  The two young men behind the counter seemed happy to see us.  They were probably happy to see anybody as we were the only ones in the store on that cold Sunday morning.  We told them what we needed.

One of the men motioned us to follow and said, “That bolt is pretty standard so we should have one ri-i-i-i-ight here…but we don’t.”  He grunted and thought for a second.  “I think I know one that will work for you though.”  He handed Patrick a package containing a pair of the fasteners.


It was back to Casey’s and onto the ice-cold pavement for my youngest.  “Well, the good news is it’s the right diameter and threading.”  He hesitated a second before continuing, “The bad news is it’s about an inch too long.”

We just needed the starter to work long enough to crank the vehicle so that we could get it home before the impending rain.

Yeah, that.  Rain and a frigid pavement are not a good combination for working on a car…just in case you didn’t know that.


“Got any washers?” I asked.

“No.” He rolled over and looked at my tools.  “I know you’re not going to like this, but I think one of your sockets will space it enough to work.”

“You’re right; I don’t like it,” I said.  “But it won’t be under a lot of stress and you just need to get the car started so we can get it home before the rain hits.”

He grabbed some likely prospects out of my tool box and rolled back under the car.  A moment later he said, “Well, the good news is one of them is the perfect length.”  A moment later, “The bad news is it’s the 9/16ths, the same socket I need to tighten the bolt.”

My turn to grunt, “Surely there’s another one that will work.”

He rolled over and grabbed some others.  A moment later, “Yes!  The 14 millimeter metric socket works!”

In a moment he had the starter tightened on and rolled out from under it.  A turn of the ignition key proved the effectiveness of our non-standard approach to auto repair.

Just in case, I followed him home.


As we got out of the two vehicles I observed, “Well, that may be the first time in history that a metric tool was used to repair a classic American musclecar.”

He smiled, “Don’t tell anybody.  I’ll never live it down.”

It was too late, on the way home I’d already called two of his brothers.

Hey, it’s what dads do.



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(above) My Craftsman tools proved their value again.  The 14mm socket held the starter on so that Patrick could get home.


(above and below) I just had to show off my Photoshop skill right after Patrick bought the ’66.  Get it?  Grease monkey?

6 Comments on "Good News and Bad News"

  1. Thanks for the chuckle.

  2. That was a great improvisation! Nice job guys!!

  3. Robert Matthews | January 17, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Reply

    And now the whole world knows.

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