The Hazards of Being Out Standing in the Desert

I rarely post events about myself, believing that readers would rather see and read about the boot heel of New Mexico and southern Arizona, but an event occurred recently that merits a story.  The road grader at the Painted Pony Resort is a useful tool for road maintenance around the estate, but with all tools accidents happen.  In the case of the Galion road grader it was being used at the north end of the estate across the riverbed.  Water in New Mexico's rivers is an option and the San Simon does not flow but does get muddy during the rainy season.  Well, the grader got stuck in the mud and while trying to get unstuck it broke.  The arm that lifts front blade has a ball joint that the hydraulics use to lift the blade and this piece broke.  So, after the end of the monsoons and ground had dried out it was shovel time.  After digging out the grader and temporarily tying the broken arm so it was possible to raise the blade I got the grader moved and stored.  Then it was on to repair work.  Galion is no longer in business and this is the boot heel with an average population density of 1 person/square mile, so the repair work fell to me.  A replacement ball joint was found (from another grader) and purchased.  Then armed with sledge hammers, steel wedges, a come-along, heavy chain, and assorted tools I attacked the road grader and started dismantling the arm.  Of course all the parts were frozen on the grader with years of accumulated rust and covered by many layers of paint.  But with the use of a rust dissolver (PB Blaster) and lots of time with the sledge hammer it was possible to loosen and eventually move all of the seized parts except one, you guessed it, the broken ball joint arm on the shaft that raised the front blade.  Friends were helpful with suggestions and the most common comment was "try heat".  This sounded like a good idea but the size of the parts dictated something larger than a simple hand torch.  Heating a 70 lb piece of metal on a shaft several inches in diameter was going to require a significant heat source so I found a heating wand that fit a 5 gallon tank of propane.  With the new tool in hand I began heating and bashing, then heating and bashing some more.  I thought there was evidence of movement,  perhaps 1/16 of an inch.  Encouraged, I continued and it was at that point disaster struck.  While heating the broken ball joint arm I heard a loud pop and at the same time saw a fireball rising before my eyes.  Engulfed in fire, my response was to shut my eyes, drop the heating wand and dive to the ground.  Rolling around to make sure I was not on fire, I then got up and shut off the propane tank to prevent a grass fire.  The smell of burnt hair was all around and upon examining the heating wand I saw a broken and melted hose near the handle.  The failure of the hose and the resulting explosion shocked me, but I seemed to be intact.  Checking myself for other injuries I found my hand was burned.  Fortunately it is my habit to always wear long sleeve shirts and hats but no gloves that day.  So after making sure there were no grass fires and securing the site it was back to the main estate for some burn management.  Redness and swelling were becoming noticeable and I searched around for something to put on the burns.  Bag Balm came to mind and I used a liberal amount on the burned areas.  Bag Balm, a lanolin based product, was originally created for cow udders and is primarily for animals but the product works well on humans, it even accompanied Admiral Bird to the North Pole.  Liberal application of Bag Balm kept the burns moist and helped with the pain.  After the blistering and with continued use the healing process is progressing.  In response, I moved work back to the main estate and I'm concentrating on projects that only involve water, like irrigation.  I can deal with cracked pipes and getting wet while working, it is always better that getting burned.

Galion grader at PPR
The Galion Road Grader
The broken ball arm joint on the road grader

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