Now ‘Lis­ter’ to me

The Tatura Guardian - - News -

We were try­ing to start an old Lis­ter-Pet­ter sta­tion­ary mo­tor that I had picked up at a re­cent clear­ing sale.

It was a bar­gain, if only we could get it to run. I was as­sured by the owner that ‘‘It was run­ning the last time I used it’’. Of course it was. Ev­ery­thing works un­til it doesn’t. But my op­ti­mism and my de­sire to hear that dis­tinc­tive sound of an old sta­tion­ary mo­tor tick­ing away con­vinced me that this pur­chase was worth the gam­ble.

I had done all the mun­dane things — cleaned the fuel tank, fuel lines, sprayed it with WD40, fit­ted the crank-han­dle, turned the mo­tor over and swept out all the cob­webs and wasp nests from the small cargo con­tainer in which it was housed.

Now it was time to get some­one with the knowl­edge and knowhow to get it go­ing.

There was a time when the peo­ple with knowl­edge about how things worked were the tribal el­ders.

They were the keep­ers of the an­cient knowl­edge and the young gave them due re­spect for their wis­dom.

These days with com­put­ers and smart­phones the ta­bles have been turned and if you want some help with your lat­est TV, phone or com­puter you are likely to be call­ing in your 10-year-old grand­child.

But not with an old Lis­ter. Grand­chil­dren are of no help and the man­u­als have long been con­signed to the re­cy­cle bin.

This prob­lem re­quired an old head. So I called my old friend John, a re­tired en­gi­neer and al­round wise man.

Yes, he knew the Lis­ter-Pet­ter mo­tor well. He had one once — and hated it.

This was not a promis­ing start, but he of­fered to come around and look at it with me. John was a great source of knowl­edge. He knew what usu­ally went wrong, knew what lay be­hind this or that cover, and spoke from many years of ex­pe­ri­ence.

Soon we were re­mov­ing this cover, dis­con­nect­ing that pipe, cranking the mo­tor over, spray­ing WD40 lib­er­ally on any part that moved and even more so on those parts that wouldn’t.

We had some suc­cess. Fuel started to flow though the thin cop­per tubes and, af­ter some con­tin­ued cranking, reached the mo­tor.

We re-as­sem­bled all the bits we had re­moved and de­cided it was time to give the mo­tor a good crank and see if it would run.

To help things along we re­moved the air­cleaner and gave it a squirt of Aerostart straight into the cylin­der.

As I started to crank, John warned me of the dan­ger of the crank han­dle fail­ing to re­lease and be­com­ing a ro­tat­ing lethal weapon in the en­closed space. Not to be de­terred I cranked it over. Not a kick. I cranked it harder and faster. We threw the de­com­pres­sion lever. We sprayed more Aerostart. Noth­ing. Be­fore long my arm was sore and I was tired from this novel ac­tiv­ity. It was time for a rest. We re­tired to a pic­nic ta­ble and made a cup of cof­fee.

We talked, shared our con­cern for friends fac­ing on­go­ing health is­sues, and re­flected on how long life can seem and how short it can seem de­pend­ing upon one’s per­spec­tive. We spoke about our own sense of mor­tal­ity. It was a brief con­ver­sa­tion, but it was full of the wis­dom of age and the quiet con­fi­dence of faith.

Af­ter our cof­fee we de­cided that we had done enough with the old mo­tor for one day, but would re­visit it again soon.

Af­ter John left, I felt that this had been a gifted day.

It started out be­ing about some­thing triv­ial and ended up with a mo­ment of tran­scen­dence.

It is a mark of ma­tu­rity, men­tal well-be­ing and au­then­tic­ity that some­one can eas­ily in­ter­weave enor­mous knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence of an old mo­tor and a pro­found ca­pac­ity for faith and love into a ca­sual morn­ing’s tin­ker­ing.

Our com­mu­ni­ties are blessed with many such tribal el­ders.

I’m re­minded of those chance con­ver­sa­tions that Je­sus had with peo­ple that wove the mun­dane with the tran­scen­dent.

A story that starts out about draw­ing wa­ter from the well and ends up be­ing about the mean­ing of life.

May we have eyes to see God in the midst of the ev­ery­day.

—Brian Spencer, Min­is­ter,

Tatura Unit­ing Church

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