Oh look, a horse, and a truck — here comes an idea
Burt's Eye View
“How do you come up with an idea for your column every week?” she asked as we walked to our cars.
I tried to blush. “You’re amazed by all my great ideas?”
She shook her head. “If you have great ideas, how come you don’t use those instead?”
“Yes, well…” I cleared my throat. “Anyway, the secret is that I think more weirdly than most people.”
“You’re telling me.”
“I’m trying to, but you keep interrupting.” I glared. “Anyway, when I saw horses in a pasture today, do you know what popped into my mind?”
“How much it hurt that time you fell off a pony?”
“That wasn’t my fault, and no.” I patted the hood of my car. “What I wondered was who was the horse that determined the power of an engine?”
“The specs claim that this vehicle commands 140 horsepower. But I don’t think there’s any way this little thing can tow as much as 140 horses.” I scratched my beard. “Also, what kind of harness system would you need to hitch 140 horses? Could the lead horse even hear the driver hollering, ‘Giddyup,’ from way back on the sled?”
“I don’t think that’s what horsepower means,” she said.
“They never say what kind of horse. See that 350-horsepower Super Duty pickup truck over there?” I pointed across the lot at the gleaming aluminum-alloy beast. “Is that 350 Budweiser Clydesdales, 350 Seabiscuits or 350 Pokeys?”
She blinked. “You mean Gumby’s horse? The one made of modeling clay?”
I nodded. “I saw one of those big pickups stuck in the mud once. It spun and spun, sinking deeper and deeper. A farmer brought over his team of draft horses. Those two Belgians yanked that stuck truck free, something all 350 of those horses under the hood couldn’t do.” I leaned against my car and studied the truck. “It must mean 350 rocking horses power.”
“I think hooves versus tires might have something to do with that.”
“Three hundred fifty stick ponies?”
“You’ve got this horsepower thing all wrong,” She scrolled through her cellphone. “Scottish engineer James Watt compared steam engines to the power of draft horses. One mechanical horsepower lifts 550 pounds one foot in one second.”
I waved off this interruption. “How come horsepower is always listed in neat, rounded off numbers, like 140 or 200 or 250? How come it’s never something more precise, like 143 horses and three sheep? Or 317 horses, two squirrels and a chipmunk with a limp? Answer me that.”
She edged away. “You’re not normal.”
“Exactly. That’s how I come up with ideas for columns week after week — by viewing the world through crooked glasses. It helps if the lenses are smudged, too.”
She stared at me. “May I ask you something strange?”
“There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”
“The hamster that’s powering the wheel that runs your brain — did it go on vacation?”
“Another maxim shot down.”
She glanced at her wrist. “Oh, look at the time. I really must go.”
She charged away so fast that I didn’t have a chance to point out that she wasn’t wearing a watch. Those 160 horses under her hood must have been related to Seattle Slew.
• Tap into Cole’s mind, if you dare, at email@example.com or at www.burtonwcole.com.