March 24, 2019

Helpin’ Momma!

Some time ago, my Momma started complaining about her knees. They were beginning to hurt her, especially when she had to go upstairs. As time went on, the condition got worse and worse until we decided something had to be done about it.

After looking at all the options, we decided that installing a stair lift in Momma’s house would be the best thing to do. Now, I am nothing if not a good and devoted son, so in order to show Momma how much I loved and cared for her, I volunteered to handle this project from start to finish. She was grateful and relieved to know that it would all be taken care of for her.

The first thing I did was look into having a stair lift installed. Next, I woke up wondering where I was. Turns out I had been looking at the prices of stair lifts when I fainted dead away. Have you seen what they want for those things? Good grief! Only a millionaire could afford one!

My next decision was to build a stair lift from scratch. How difficult can this be?

The first thing I did was bolt an old section of railroad rail to the wall of the stairway. It took 20 guys to lift the thing into place and four hours to run enough bolts into the wall to hold it up, but when we were done, we had a rock solid installation.

Now for the seat. Turns out that a clever combination of an old tractor seat, some in-line skates, a mess of epoxy and a few rolls of duct tape work just fine. Pretty soon I had a nice comfortable seat that rolled up and down the stairway as pretty as you please.

The only thing left to do was to figure out a way to power it. I tied a rope to the seat, ran it through a pulley at the top of the stairs and led the rope back down to the seat. All Momma had to do was sit in the seat, pull on the rope and haul herself up to the second floor. Unfortunately, I had failed to take into account Momma’s age.

On the trial run, her arms gave out halfway up the stairs and she just let go of the rope. With nothing to slow or stop its travel, the seat made a “rapid return” to the bottom of the stairway, leaving Momma in a heap on the hardwood floor. While she recovered in the hospital, I worked on plan B.

The solution came to me while changing a flat tire. Getting Momma up the stairs was a little like getting my truck off the ground to change a flat–not that my Momma weighs as much as my truck, but the principle is the same. I managed to hook a jack up to the stair lift seat so Momma could sit there and just jack herself upstairs.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten that Momma doesn’t move as fast as she used to and the jack didn’t travel very far with each stroke of the handle. By the time Momma finally reached the top of the stairs, it was time for her to go back down. She reversed the jack and began to lower herself back to the first floor and when Momma finally reached the first floor, it was time for her to go back upstairs. This cycle continued for three days until I stopped in to check on Momma only to find her thirsty, hungry, worn out and cursing, halfway up the stairs.

Her second hospital stay gave me enough time to implement a new plan.  Momma’s hospital stay gave me the time to do what I should have done in the first place–put an electric motor on the stupid thing! It really wasn’t too difficult, even though I’m not all that skilled when it comes to electrical stuff.  What more time-honored and proved power source is there than the water wheel? Back in colonial times, water wheels provided the power to grind grain, weave cloth, run factories, and power those old-fashioned water-powered TV sets our forefathers were forced to watch.

Pretty soon I had a pretty good water wheel installed in the kitchen, right next to the stairway. A linkage of belts and pulleys connected the wheel to the seat of the stair lift. All Momma had to do was turn on the faucet, get the water wheel turning nicely, go sit on the seat and get a nice, smooth, gentle ride up to the second floor. Sadly, I had neglected to figure out a way to get the stair lift back downstairs and had overlooked the fact that once Momma was upstairs, she had no way to turn off the water.

When I stopped by Momma’s house three days later, I wondered why water was running out the basement windows. Discovering Momma marooned on the second floor, I tried to calm her down by describing what a nice new indoor pool she now had in the basement, but she wasn’t buying any of it. She was so worried about how to pay the water bill; we had to put her in the hospital for a few days to get her to calm down.

I managed to salvage a motor from an old washing machine, wired it up so it would run in either direction, bolted it to the tractor seat and installed a two-way switch marked “UP” and “DOWN.” As soon as Momma came home from the hospital, I insisted she try out the new and improved stair lift. Unfortunately, I had made one small error. The washing machine motor, which was designed to run on 110-volt household current, didn’t quite behave as planned because I had mistakenly wired it into the 220-vold air-conditioner circuit. Momma shot up the stairway like a rocket and just kept on going when the tractor seat slammed to a stop at the top of the stairs. Momma was catapulted through the upstairs bathroom, out the bathroom window into the back yard where, fortunately, a big willow tree broke her fall.

Like I said, I think we’re almost there. One or two more refinements and I’ll have it worked out pretty good. Now, if only I can convince Momma to try it one more time, I’m sure it’ll be successful.

If any of you out there have any ideas, I’ll be pleased to hear them. Call me any time. If I’m not in, leave a message. I’ll be at the hospital visiting Momma.

See ya around,

BUCK

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