The Convoluted Story Of The Snake Skin In The Bird Nest

This is a Dear Diary entry, no construction news. It is just a little story in case you have time to kill. Lynn M., you can go to the end of the story to see the photos.

“I didn’t want to wake you, but the dryer isn’t working; the clothes all smell burned,” so stated Cynthia as I emerged from the bedroom. I had gone to our local acupuncturist the day before, and on this day after, I could not keep my eyes open. So I laid myself down for a nap, a nap that lasted for six hours.

When I emerged, a frazzled and frustrated Cynthia greeted me with news that the dryer wasn’t working, and hadn’t been working all afternoon. The pile of dirty clothes was still mountainous. I thanked her for not waking me, even though I think she would have been justified.

So with about an hour of daylight left (our laundry is outside of the house under a roof), I took my groggy self outside to diagnose the problem. Sure enough, the bed sheets in the dryer smelled as if they had been in a oil refinery fire. We have a gas dryer, so I figured that there was a problem with incomplete combustion of the propane gas.

The dryer sits up against a wall, and I noticed that the Slinky-style, aluminum vent hose had fallen off the dryer’s exhaust port.  A thing to know about gas dryers is that the dryer not only exhales the moisture from the clothes, but also exhales the fumes from combustion of the gas. And right close to the exhaust port is a fresh air intake port. Without the vent hose to take the combustion fumes away, the fresh air port inhales the burned gas fumes, and these fumes get tumbled into the clothes. Additionally, the gas flame now gets less oxygen than it needs, so there are even more nasty gas fumes being produced and exhausted. It is a viscous cycle.

I figured that because of the lack of oxygen, that the gas burner where the flame is produced would be covered in soot. I shone a flashlight into the small inspection port and sure enough, it was fuzzy and as black as night in there.

I made a quick trip to the new house for the necessary pliers, nut drivers, and screw drivers to disassemble the machine to get access to the burner. Two screws allowed the top to flip up like the hood of a car. This gave access to two more screws and I removed the front panel. The tumbler drum dropped free, and after removing the drive belt I removed the drum.

Next I removed a bunch of screws at the burner, but noticed that I couldn’t get access to the gas supply line without removing the back panel from the machine, which I then did. I also unplugged a bunch of wire connections, noting things such as, “blue wire top, white wire bottom.” With all that done, I carefully removed the burner from the tube that surrounds the combustion area.

I knew from prior experience that the glow plug, the thingy that gets electrically hot and ignites the gas when you start the machine, is extremely delicate. One tiny knock and the glow plug can will disintegrate. That little lesson in Learn-It-Yourself appliance repair a year or so ago required a trip to Panama City for a new glow plug.

The glow plug, and the little spoon around it where the gas gets ignited, were caked with soot. Lamp black, actually, and I should have saved some of it for my watercolor painting. But being freaked out about the delicacy of the glow plug, I went about cleaning the assembly with a spray bottle of vodka and cotton swabs. I let everything drip onto a paper towel, then, just as one does with tar, I got the lamp black all over myself. It spreads like wildfire.

Being chemically sensitive, we use vodka for a lot of our cleaning needs. It is great when clothes smell a bit musty; spray them with vodka and toss them into the dryer for a few minutes. They emerge springtime fresh. But I digress.

By now nightfall, which happens very rapidly here in the tropics, was upon me. Cynthia brought a flashlight and held it as I gingerly replaced the now bright and shiny burner assembly into the combustion tube, then replaced all the screws, pieces, and parts to reassemble the machine. I vacuumed a bunch of lint from the inside of the machine, along with retrieving twenty-nine cents that had fallen into the machine’s darkened recesses. I washed everything with vodka to remove any soot that would end up on clean clothes. As I re-assembled, I made sure to double check the proper re-connection of the myriad of electrical connections to sensor plugs.

Now to the Slinky exhaust hose. The old hose was badly bent and mashed. I remembered that there is a newer one that was hooked to the exhaust fan in Cynthia’s studio out in the kiosko. Since she is packing her studio for the move to her new studio where we won’t need the Slinky hose, I cannibalized her hose for the dryer.

But the hose felt heavy at one end. I shook and prodded and poked and after some doing, removed a rather robust bird nest. Upon inspection of the nest, I saw a lot of bird feathers, plus re-purposed chicken feathers, some of our cat Harry’s orange fur (that Cynthia puts on the barbed wire fence for the birds to find), and  a piece of snake skin shed.

As you will see in the photo, it looks like it was (or maybe still is) a fairly big snake. A big snake right near, or possibly in, Cynthia’s studio. We don’t need another live snake story (see my Cats Earn Keep entry). Maybe one of you can tell us the make and model of the snake, but Cynthia and I don’t know. Probably not a Fer de Lance, but the skin could be from a boa or python.

Questions of the Universe linger. Had the snake made the hose it’s lair also? Had the snake been on the hunt for bird egg delicacies? Had the bird found the snake skin on the ground and used it to feather its nest?

We’ll never know.

All in all, soup to nuts, I accomplished the task of taking the dryer apart, cleaning it, re-assembling it, and signing off on proper operation in just under an hour. I encourage everyone to take apart major appliances. They are just an assembly of parts, nothing magical or mystical. Remember that you are working with things that can electrocute you or explode and be thoughtful and careful. Google is your friend and you can research everything you need to know. What’s the worst that can happen? Call in the Professionals? Purchase a new appliance? The things that you can learn in the process just may be magical or mystical.

Here are a couple photos of the nest:

Jabo’s nose included for size reference.

I think that the gossamer window pane pattern of the snake skin is absolutely beautiful:

In other news, Armando and I are making progress on Cynthia’s new studio, my bending brake, the block walls for the walkway in the carport, and a little stone wall around the garden. But that’s all for now.

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