Thursday, July 27, 2006


Big orange ball, sinkin' in the water
Toes in the sand, couldn't get much hotter
Little umbrella shaped margaritas
Coconut oil, tannin' senioritas
Now I know how Jimmy Buffet feels
This time Satuday I'll be in a very tropical place...
Will be back in a few days with the lowdown and pictures!
Coptright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden
Lyrics copyright 2000 Kenny Chesney

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Gone digital!

Now for the SIXTH fucking time tonight I've tried to post this... Goddamn Blogspot.

Yesterday when I was at Wal Mart I broke down and got myself a new Olympus FE-115 digital camera and spent this afternoon figuring it out. Above is two extremely rare green telegraph insulators I found along the railroad tracks at work last week. They're rare around here because the dumbass rednecks around here just have to use them for target practice... So it's rare to find one intact even in remote areas. Usually you'll find them shattered in a million pieces strewn around hundreds of 12 Gauge shotshells and Budweiser cans.

And again, I haven't a clue what's up with blogspot tonight but I couldn't even put the pictures in the order I wanted them. Above is a shot of my bedroom.
Another shot of the bedroom, this is where RT rests his weary head after a long day on the railroad.
Here's my loo... It's a lot better than my place in Athens. There the tub had a huge wall to wall mirror in the shower. That was creepy and it took me months to get used to that. The one plus to it though was it was easy to shave in the shower.
And now the kitchen. Notice the electric range. Apparently gas ranges are illegal here in West Virginia because in the two years I've been here I've yet to see one. It was a bitch to re-learn to cook on electric without burning everything I tried to cook.
Another shot of the kitchen. Still no dishwasher, but I'm working on it!
And mein lebensraum. Not much going on here, but you can see where I come up with all my warped and twisted ideas. I still haven't hooked up the TV to satellite or cable because I just can't justify spending the money on something I'd never watch.
A view from my back yard (Garden to my mates in the UK and Australia) of Cheat Mountain.
The outside view of my place. It's really four apartments but my entrance is the only one in front so I've got the sole use of the huge porch and it looks like I'm the only one living in this huge old house.
Another view of the front. Not bad for $250 a month!

Hope all of you had a swell weekend!

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Back in boots, an update long overdue

Ok, so I'm more that a year overdue in posting an update to a post I wrote... So sue me.
About a year and a half ago I decided to re-enlist into the West Virginia Army National Guard and a few people have written me on several occasions asking what had ever happened to that whole thing...
Here it is in a nutshell.
I did enlist, was sworn in and everything. I passed the physical (which kind of shocked me) and everything. But there was a problem. Apparently at the time I was 39 1/2 years old and new Army regulations had just come down from the Pentagon for prior service renlistments so I was required to take another physical... A more "detailed" exam.
This physical I failed. Apparently I've got arthritis in my knees and the Army didn't want to take any chances so they failed me.
To tell you the truth, at this point in dealing with the Army I wasn't too disappointed. Firstly, since I had been out of the Army for almost seventeen years the recruiter started to bring up that I might loose three pay grades... From E-5 sergeant to E-2 Private... Oh, that would go over real well. And I might have to take basic training over again... That would definitely not go over... Can you picture what would happen the very first time some twenty year-old sergeant got in my face?
sergeant: "You shitbird! I'm gonna rip you a new asshole!"
Me: "Oh really now? Listen you little fuck, I was doing this shit when you were still gestating..."
And off I'd go to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas where they still make little rocks out of big rocks. And I hate Kansas.
So discretion being the better part of valor, I decided it was best for myself and the Army if I stayed out. Especially when I started hearing stories from friends who were in the Army now... And It has changed so much I don't think this old dinosaur of a soldier could handle the changes. Or would today's Army be able to handle this old dinosaur?
That's the story.
Some other very good things are happening also and I'll let you all in on those after the first of August.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, July 21, 2006

Funny Foto Friday is back!

Ok, I can deal with instant death, but please no more fines!

Happy Funny Foto Friday!

And don't forget the I HEART Ranger Tom contest! Go here for details:

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Nuff' Said?

I don't normally do this, but this was forwarded to me in an email by a very good friend yesterday and I thought you all would like it... I couldn't agree more and very eloquently said.

My wife, Rosemary, wrote a wonderful letter to the editor of the OC Register (Orange County, CA) which, of course, was not printed. So, I Decided to "print" it myself by sending it out on the Internet. Pass it along if you feel so inclined.
(signed) Dave LaBonte
Written in response to a series of letters to the editor in the Orange County Register:
Dear Editor:
So many letter writers have based their arguments on how this land is made up of immigrants. Ernie Lujan for one,suggests we should tear down the Statute of Liberty because the people now in question aren't being treated the same as those who passed through Ellis Island and other ports of entry. Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out to people like Mr. Lujan why today's American is not willing to accept this new kind of immigrant any longer.

Back in 1900 when there was a rush from all areas of Europe to come to the United States, people had to get off a ship and stand in a long line in New York and be documented. Some would even get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground. They made a pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country in good and bad times. They made learning English a primary rule in their new American households and some even changed their names to blend in with their new home.They had waved good bye to their birth place to give their children a new life and did everything in their power to help their children assimilate into one culture. Nothing was handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws to protect them.

All they had were the skills and craftsmanship they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity. Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out. My father fought along side men whose parents had come straight over from Germany, Italy, France and Japan. None of these 1st generation Americans ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from.They were Americans fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan. They were defending the United States of America as one people. When we liberated France, no one in those villages were looking for the French-American or the German American or the Irish American. The people of France saw only Americans. And we carried one flag that represented one country. Not one of those immigrant sons would have thought about picking up another country's flag and waving it to represent who they were. It would have been a disgrace to their parents who had sacrificed so much to be here. These immigrants truly knew what it meant to be an American. They stirred the melting pot into one red, white and blue bowl.

And here we are in 2006 with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same rights and privileges. Only they want to achieve it by playing with a different set of rules; one that includes the entitlement card and a guarantee of being faithful to their mother country. I'm sorry, that's not what being an American is all about. I believe that the immigrants who landed on Ellis Island in the early 1900s deserve better than that for all the toil, hard work and sacrifice in raising future generations to create a land that has become a beacon for those legally searching for a better life. I think they would be appalled that they are being used as an example by those waving foreign country flags.

And for that suggestion about taking down the Statute of Liberty, it happens to mean a lot to the citizens who are voting on the immigration bill. I wouldn't start talking about dismantling the United States just yet.
(signed) Rosemary LaBonte

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another "What The Fuck" Monday...

So I've been having some problems with my truck the past few weeks. I've been trying to get things done, but with the hours I work I never have free time when anything is open. Auto parts stores, garages, anything. I get done early enough, around 6:30 or 7 PM most days, but nobody stays open for business after 5 PM around here, and don't even ask about weekends. Nothing is open.

So It took me over two weeks to get a PCV valve... That little tiny thing that is on the valve cover that when it goes bad blows motor oil all over the place. Because that valve was bad I was going through about 2 quarts a day.

So I finally got a PCV valve at NAPA last week when Jimmy and myself went there to get some parts and supplies. I changed it right there in the freight yard and everything was ok. Until Friday when I was on my way home I noticed a Valvoline Quik-E change place still open in Elkins. I stop in and have them change the oil and I thought everything was fine.

I thought wrong.

By the time I get to the top of Cheat mountain on my way home I can hear my valves chattering like I'm low on oil...

The first of many "What the fucks" to happen over this past weekend.

I get home and just park the thing and Saturday morning go out and check the oil. The dipstick is bone dry! It was then I noticed a pool of oil under the truck. From the time the PCV valve was bad, my entire engine was covered in oil so I couldn't tell where it was leaking from. I added oil and went to the grocery store and that was about it.

I parked it and didn't go anywhere else. I checked the oil Sunday and it was fine. A little low, but well within the safe range to get me back over the mountain Monday morning on my way to work where I can stop at the only place open that early, a Exxon station in Huttonsville where I can get some more oil.

So this morning comes around. The alarm goes off at 4 AM and I roll out of bed. I get ready for work and head out at 5 AM to work. I start it... And there's that damn valve chatter again! I get out and grab my MagLight and I see all FIVE FUCKING QUARTS of oil on the street under my truck. There is no Goddamn way I was driving 20 miles over the mountain with a bone dry oilpan.

I call Jimmy and tell him what's going on and now I'm stuck until the closest place in town I can walk to opens up at 9 AM to get some oil so I can at least get to a garage to get it fixed, whatever the problem is...

I get to a garage in Bartow, the next town over from Durbin and the owner puts my truck up on the lift... And guess what?

The fucking oilpan drain plug was on so loose it came off in his hand when he went to check it! The bonehead dumbasses at the Quik-E oil change place never tightened the bastard when they put it back in and the vibration of the engine running loosened it enough that it was pouring out almost as fast as I could replace it.

Fucking morons.

So, not only was I out the sheckels I had to pay for the oilchange, I was out for another six quarts I had to put in over the weekend, I'm out almost $500 for the days wages I would have gotten if I could have worked today...

Next time I'm just going to do it myself... The only sure way I know it'll get done right.

Any of you know of a cheap ($1,500 to $2,000 range) 4WD for sale? Let me know, ok?

And don't forget the I HEART Ranger Tom contest! Go here for those details:

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, July 16, 2006

It's NOT a damn wet-T-shirt contest!

I've gotten a few emails deriding me for promoting a wet t-shirt contest... And it's not, damnit!
I'm 40 years old. I stopped going to titty bars a long time ago. Wet t-shirt contests are for drunk college kids on a weekend bender in Daytona Beach. I am not a drunk college kid.
What started out as a joke Red made in a comment snowballed into people thinking it was a wet t-shirt contest. That's not what I meant by a 'creative' photograph. What I meant was something funny like sitting on a horse backwards or wearing a huge sombrero holding a giant burrito... Or standing by a local oddity like if you live in a town that has the claim to fame being it possesses the world's largest ball of twine or a giant concrete chicken or has a tupee museum...
Like I said. I'm 40 years old. I've seen more than my fair share of tits in my life, up close and personal. I don't need to shell out $100 to see any now. If you really must, I'm not going to argue about it... But that's not what I was after.
Four people have ordered t-shirts this week (and the person who ordered one Thursday, it was shipped yesterday) So I'm looking forward to your entries... But don't feel you have to get wet... Be funny! That's what I'm all about anyway, making people laugh, not getting a cheap thrill.
So hurry up and order your I HEART Ranger Tom T-shirt today and lets have some fun with it... Who knows, we may just start a fashion trend. God knows it's got to be better that those moronic "Pedro" shirts from a year or so ago.
Contest deadline is August 31st, so hurry!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Well I'll be...

...Dipped in dogshit!
Earlier this week we finshed up the work we were doing in between milepost 28 and 51 and track travelled back over to Belington to tie up in that yard.
So Tuesday morning Jimmy and myself were waiting for a fuel delivery and the track inspector comes over to talk with us. It was then he said something that shocked me into silence. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he told us:
"The president of the railroad and I took a highrail ride up to see what you guys were doing at High Bridge and the falls... ____ was tickled-pink with how it's turned out... You guys are doing the best job tamping and regulating we've ever seen... He couldn't be happier with the way it's turned out..."
And no matter how well Jimmy tamps and aligns the track, it's going to be me in the regulator making it look pretty...
There's a wry and bitter irony in this statement I can't really tell right now... But I will soon... But you all know how I love irony...
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Another day on the railroad

Well, I finally finished all the work from Bowden up to milepost 51... It only took me 4 weeks. It should have only taken me about two weeks, but because my machine was running so shitty it doubled up the time required.
The ironic thing about the whole mess is that even though myself and the tamper operator was telling the office I needed a mechanic to come out and service the machine they wouldn't send one, and in the same breath were bitching about the time it was taking for us to finish. The other thing was that parts for my machine were so hard to find. It took three weeks to get a damn fuel filter for it!
Nothing like an ounce of prevention.
So now all I have to do on this end is tidy up four bridge approaches in Elkins and then we can track-travel to the yard in Belington. That's going to be nice because we'll be able to get more track time and not be hampered by trains. A lot for days were spent just sitting on the machines on a siding waiting for the train to go by... Wasted time.
I'm also having some problems with my little Ford Ranger... But nothing I can't fix myself if I can get to a NAPA store before they close. I'm going to look at a 1996 full-size Bronco tomorrow. I had an 88' at one time and I like them even though they've got big V-8's and the price of gas seems to keep on rising. The way I figure it, I need 4WD for the winter around here, and I need something that'll be able to tow something. My little pickup can't do that and it's only 2WD. I'm looking at getting a small travel-trailer also, something self contained, and a Bronco would be able to easily tow one. My idea is, that if I've got a little 18' camper, no matter where I go I've always have someplace to live and not have to worry about finding a place.
Rambling Ranger Tom!
We're figuring another five to six weeks on this job and it'll be over and done with. After that I'm thinking of heading up to Philadelphia to visit some friends and family. After that, who knows? But what I do know I'll still be doing something on the railroad. I've proved to myself and to everyone else I can do it and be successful at it.
I've got my resume out to several railroads here in West Virginia and also some in Texas, Florida and even Alaska so you never know where RT will wind up!
Also, don't forget the I HEART Ranger Tom contest! Go here for the details on how to enter:
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Win $100!

In a moment of sheer self-promotion (and to sell some T-shirts) I came up with a little contest.
I call it the I HEART Ranger Tom! Contest.
Here's all you need to do to win $100 from me. Scroll down on my blog and you'll notice a picture of a T-shirt that reads "I HEART Ranger Tom". Click on that picture and that will take you to my politically incorrect T-shirt store.
Buy a "I HEART Ranger Tom" T-shirt and take a photo of you wearing it. Email me the photo. Whoever sends me their picture first, or has the most creative and/or humorous pose or situation in the photo will win $100 from me.
Make sure you send your snail-mail address along with the picture and info I need to make out the check.
Things I promise:
1) Of course I'm going to post the pic here, so I won't show your face or say your name unless you give me permission.
2) None of your information will EVER be made public.
3) My check won't bounce!
Ok, lastly, let's make the deadline for entries the 31st of August.
Now lets have some fun with this!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, July 03, 2006

Typical Monday... For me at least

I think maybe I spoke to soon when I said my machine was running fine now that we replaced a shitload of parts... And by last Friday I was playing catch-up with my work and should now have everything done soon.
I should have known I'd have a bad week. It all started around 9 PM last night when I went to bed. No sooner was my light off and my head on my pillow did I hear a loud noise outside my apartment. I looked out the window and what do I see? The Town of Durbin chose that moment to start digging up the street right under my bedroom window with a backhoe.
What the fuck.
This went on until at least 3:30 AM when they called it quits. I was finally able to get to sleep even though my alarm would be going off in an hour and a half. I get up and I don't even feel rested. Now I'm pissed and my goddamn coffee pot decides to take a shit then too. So now I'm tired and cranky with no coffee as I'm getting ready for work. I make my lunch and put it in my lunch bucket and head to my truck. I'd been loosing a lot of oil lately so I've been checking it every day. The dipstick is bone dry... I take my maglight and peer deeper into the engine compartment and see where my oil is going. The PCV valve is shot and it's spewing the oil all over the motor.
It's a wonder I didn't smell it sooner. So I stop on my way to work and dump four quarts of oil into it (yes it was that low) and head off. I get almost there and I hear the lifters begin to chatter again... I pull into the small gravel area next to my machine and shut it down. I'll deal with it after work.
So I do my morning inspection, fuel it, check and add oil to it also and fire it up. Only cranked once and belched to life, idling perfectly.
At least something is going right this morning I think.
I thought wrong.
The sky is turning blacker by the minute and I hear rumbles of thunder over the hum of the diesel. Just as Jimmy the tamper operator pulls up the sky opens up with a torrential downpour. He rushed over to my machine and climbed into the cab. We have a brief meeting to discuss what we're both going to do. It was decided that I head out immediately up to milepost 48.7 and finish the last two miles up on the top of Cheat Mountain so we can begin to work our way back through Elkins and on to Belington.
By the time I get to milepost 44 I begin to notice something is awry. The engine is still running perfectly, but my windshield wiper is slowing down markedly. I look out at my work lights and they too are growing dim.
Fucking wonderful.
By the time I got the machine stopped so I could check out the fuzebox, I lose all electric. I decide to limp back to the siding.
I finally get there and she finally dies. That new alternator and battery we put in last week?
Tits up.
I'm glad it's not my money. The battery was $270 and the alternator was $544...
We head to the Napa in Elkins to get another alternator. Unfortunately we got the only one they had and to get another is a special-order.
"We can have one here by Thursday afternoon..."
That's definitely ungood. If the machine is down, I can't work. And I don't work, I don't get paid. The company isn't going to pay me to sit on my ass on a broke-down machine and I don't blame them.
So I'm off the 4th of July... But I didn't want to be off. I was looking forward to not only getting this shit done, but the double-time premium Holiday Pay.
A 16 hour day at $85.00 an hour would have been really nice.
If I were paranoid I'd say someone or something is conspiring against me...
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A week from hell

Since starting the new job I've only told you the good things. Well, the machine I operate is what you'd call a POS, or "Piece Of Shit".
When I started working on it I've had nothing but trouble with it. Running crappy, stalling out in heavy stone, just plain anemic. Something with a 500 HP diesel engine should not stall out in the rock I'm working with even though the railroad did lay way too much ballast in most places and I've had to waste almost 80% of it. The thing that pisses me off over that is the president of the railroad doesn't seem to care because it's not his money paying for the ballast rock. It's the state of West Virginia's money... In essence, my fucking money.
Yes, the state's tax-dollars are being wasted big-time and no one seems to care. And when I voiced my opinion about the amount of stone being put down I was told that apparently I didn't know what I was doing... Not by AmTrack, the contractor I'm working for, but by the railroad. If Amtrack had a problem with my work I'm positive they'd have fired me weeks ago considering the amount of money they're paying me. Even the tamper operator I'm working along with said they laid far too much rock.
But I'm the fucking idiot and don't know what I'm doing.
What the fuck.
But I digress.
I was saying the regulator I'm working with was a POS. I had been telling my supervisor for a few weeks that it was getting worse every day and he just kept giving me different things to try. Some worked for a while, some didn't. They didn't want to send a mechanic down from Hagerstown, MD if we could fix it in the field. From a business standpoint I could understand the rational, but it still wasn't helping me any. I was already three weeks behind schedule and falling farther behind every day. No matter how good the money is we still had a deadline and couldn't drag it out indefinitely. We were supposed to be finished Friday with this and we're not even half way done, all because of the breakdowns with my machine.
All I wanted to do is do a good job for them.
So this past Monday I break down but good. I'm working around the milepost 51 regulating and the machine just stalls out on me. No biggie you say? Well, MP 51 is smack dab on the middle of Cheat mountain, seven miles from the nearest road. On top of that it's pissing down rain so hard I can't see twenty feet in front of me.
Also, we have no radios (which I've been screaming for since we started) and no railroad pilot in a highrail pickup with us (FRA regs require it) so I had to walk out seven miles in the pouring rain to find the tamper operator.
I finally found him several miles below me and we went back to my machine to see if we could get it to run. No dice. It was deader than dogshit. We had to then travel out on his tamper back to where we could get cell phone service to call the railroad... Unfortunately, they had a scheduled passenger train running the next day right through where my machine was blocking the main line with no siding where they could pass me.
So we had to leave it that night and meet the railroad's Track Master the next morning early to see if we could get it started. After about three hours we finally got it fired up and had it moved onto a siding so the train could get by. If we couldn't, the railroad was going to bring up a locomotive to drag it to a siding. The would have great, but the problem with that is it has air breaks. If any of you are at all familiar with air breaks, when the engine isn't running there's no air in the tank, so the breaks would be applied the whole trip. Have any of you ever sat near where a train is going by and heard a bang, bang, bang, bang as one of the cars pass? Well, that bang is caused by the breaks being applied at one point while the car was moving creating flat spots in the wheels. Not a pleasant ride, I'll tell you.
By Wednesday, an a new battery, alternator, fuel conditioner, air filter... It finally turned out to be what I suggested three weeks ago.
A clogged fuel filter.
So the last two days, Thursday and Friday, I've been working my ass off, running the balls off my machine to catch up. I did a week's worth of regulating those two days and didn't get home both days until 10 PM instead of the usual 8 PM.
So, now everything is running peachy. For now.
Like I told the tamper operator Wednesday, I don't care how good the money is at this point, I'm ready for this contract to be over and done with.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden