The Stihl brothers and their idiot keeper

We’re having gorgeous weather here right now.

This led over the weekend to an unfortunately characteristic comedy of errors in the back-back. My job this spring is to hack away all of the messy brush and saplings from the three sides I couldn’t finish last summer, before everything leafs out and it gets harder to batter my way through the undergrowth. Fine.

But my newish little chainsaw, the Stihl MS 180C shown here, is just enough different from my ancient bigger chainsaw, an old 1970s Stihl Farm Boss, to confuse me, with the result that after a half-hour or so, I could neither turn it off (!) nor get its chain to move. It finally dawned on me to stop the thing by choking it out. Then I puttered. I’m not a good putterer, but I’ve found that talking to myself helps, and I eventually came up with a muttered diagnosis. I think I damaged the clutch and did something unpleasant to the carburetor by revving the engine with the chain brake in the wrong position. (The other chainsaw—the one I actually know how to run—is so old it laughs sneeringly at the idea of having a chain brake. What kind of a wuss do you think it is, anyway?)

 Putting things back together (it worked, but still doesn’t switch off normally and clearly needs service), I managed to get the chain on backwards, a rookie mistake if ever there was one. Looking furtively around to see if anyone had noticed, I flipped things around, reinstalled the bar, and started to tighten things up. But the new machine has a new system for tensioning the chain. It’s a terrific system, but since last fall I’d forgotten how to use it. A quick look for the owner’s manual almost instantly turned up the 30-year-old instructions for the bigger saw, which naturally was of no help whatsoever. The new manual? I’m sure it’s sitting safely in the place I put it so that I’d be able to find it quickly when I needed it. A Google search and a download allowed me to take care of business, and as an extra bonus my office picked up the delicate odor of my oily hands and work clothes and still retains the slowly-fading smell of the backroom of a seedy repair shop. Ah, I love the smell of a two-stroke fuel mixture in the morning.

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