Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Old Mr. Umph Had a Puncture in His Tire. . .

. . . and he fixed it with a wad of chewing gum.

We used to sing that song as children, does anyone else remember it? I think the 'real' version was Old Mr. Ford had a puncture in his tire. I believe the 'umph' part comes from singing the song and replacing words one at a time with the word umph. You know, like when you sing rounds of B-I-N-G-O and gradually replace each letter with a hand-clap. It's right up there with, "On Top of Spaghetti" and "John Jacob Jinkleheimer Schmidt".

There's a word for this sort of improvised repair: jerry-rigging. The term comes from either a) jury-rigging, a sailing term; or b) the WWII slang for German engineering on the fly. When I was young and first heard this term I thought it referred to my uncle Jerry. It's plausible! He did farming and construction, so of course he would know how to rig things. Then again, my dad, grandfather and other uncles had the same abilities so the term could have been named for any one of them. I didn't really stop to wonder.

Well, just like Mr. Umph, we've all had occasion to make a repair to something using less than ideal materials. There's glue, duct tape and twine. And then there's the more unusual remedies. In early May I was driving to south Florida for my nephew's wedding when a piece of plastic trim around my front windshield came loose. It wasn't a hazard so much as a nuisance, as it kept flapping up in the wind. I pulled off for a rest break and began to search my car for tape. All I could could come up with was . . . a band-aid. Yep, I fixed my car's boo-boo with a band-aid. Got some funny looks but it worked.

I've heard of people filling small nail holes in the wall with toothpaste (basic white, not gel!). My parents once used dental floss to rig the windshield wiper on their RV when it gave out during a rainy drive. I believe they had to thread it back through the side window and give a pull now and then. Once my ex super-glued some small parts together in our car engine when we got stuck on the road somewhere and it held up quite well. I'll bet you can all think of plenty more examples, so tell me about your inner MacGyver - what's one of your creative fixes?


Lucy said...

I hadn't even heard of the song, although I want to know it now. Hmmm....I do use the toothpaste and it does work....not as well as the pasty stuff you buy in a can at the paint shop, but in a pinch it does. I gotta think about this for a while. You have me interested.

AmericanRoo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AmericanRoo said...

I remember living in Key West and lifted the back of the toilet top to see what was underneath. I ended up dropping it on the floor and it broke in half. I figured the best way to fix it (and avoid trouble) was to tape it up. To me, tape fixed everything!
I thought nobody would notice the nice tape job up the middle.
Turns out my parents did and asked who it was (they couldn't ask without laughing) so I confessed.
It stayed for a few days until it was replaced :)

happyian said...

I made a watch out of a slap bracelet, a button, some thread, some sock material, and...
an old watch...

but if you saw it you'd understand!

LUCKY said...

Well if your ever travling and have
your belt fly off your car use a pair of pantyhose! Just tie around main drive pullys tite as you can and drive slow!!WARNING! This is only for cars or trucks that have v-style belts not serpentine belt that are flat it wont work! Jerry-rigging's in the blood!!! ;-p

Annie of Blue Gables said...

I believe the song goes like this:
Old Mr. Umph had a
sssssssss in his (hold your hands over head arms forming a circle)
*repeat three times before concluding:
and he fixed it with a wad of chewing (pull imaginary gum in and out from teeth)

This was sung at our annual fireworks show at Folsom Stadium, remember. I didn't think anyone else knew this song but us Boulderites.

I fixed a radiator with epoxy and fiberglass cloth.
I was driving home from Boulder to Utah. Radiator gave out in Eagle. Called hubby who builds boats and uses this to seal the outside, a form of epoxy and fiberglass I got from an auto shop. An hour later I was on my way home, hubby didn't have to take leave from work and rescue me. I was so proud, but my husband was as well, and told all his coworkers.
I think most of my life consists of Jerry-rigging, making due with what is on hand. My hubby and I both do this.