A Day For Change

IMG_20171017_1153533.jpg
Alberta and Josephine not long after arriving last year.

Pressed for time this morning, I present a short narrative of the day I started raising chickens, overcoming my fear of the unknown to pursue a worthwhile, life changing endeavor. I hope you enjoy it. Note: I figured out how to use photo captions today!

“Chickens”
Joseph McMahon

I had never raised chickens before. I had never been interested in raising chickens before. Yet, here they were, two chickens, in my backyard, straight from the farm.

When my friend, John, asked earlier in the year if I were interested in a pair of birds when his eggs hatched and they were old enough to be transported, I sarcastically replied, “Sure, why not?” Forgetting John is both completely deranged AND a man of his word, I relegated the matter to the far corners of my mind.

I should not have been surprised to receive the phone call that fateful afternoon: “Dude, I’m on my way down with your birds, see you soon!” I was in shock until I remembered I had, in fact, agreed to said bird delivery. I awaited the arrival, trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do with two chickens. I had no coop, no feed, no experience and suburban neighbors. I nervously mulled these hurdles around, over and over in my mind, finally resolving to cross these bridges as I came upon them, not to be afraid of but rather embrace this new, life changing experience. I am, after all, a reasonably intelligent adult and will not be frightened off by nebulous, far-away possibilities which may or may not arise.

Finally, the madman arrived with the strange, chirping and peeping box. Peeling the towel off the top, he revealed the contents. When someone says “chicken,” images of a fat, white bird pop into the mind. These birds were NOT fat or white, rather grey, black and tiny. John explained to me these were a breed called Dominique and were, in fact, distant relatives of what we today call chickens. They are more akin to a grouse or jungle fowl and are of the type which would be found on a farm in Colonial New England.

Taking the odd fowl into my back yard, we carefully removed the wire from the top of the box and gently lifted them out. As the sun was already setting (such fowl have poor night vision and prefer to roost off the ground), we ventured to set them up for the night in a tree. This proved to be too high, as we were met with a cacophony of squeals and shouts. The neighbors took notice of this, warily asking, “Whatcha got over there?” to which I replied, “Chickens, sort of,” holding a small, noisy bird over the fence to show, explaining the intricacies of how this kind-of-sort-of-is-but-isn’t a chicken. The response was “Okay, whatever, cool,” somewhere between disbelief and amusement.

Eventually, we found the ideal spot to roost was on top of a deck chair. I was somewhat skeptical of this, being inexperienced in the ways of strange fowl but was assured by John, “That’s how they do.” Before departing, John detailed the ins and outs of bird tending, supplying me with the basics needed and a short shopping list. This put nearly all of my concerns at ease.

The pair at the beginning of winter 2017.

I was apprehensive about them being exposed to the elements and predators all night. However, next morning, there they were, huddled together on the same chair, uneaten, not frozen solid and in fine spirits. With winter approaching, however, shelter would be necessary. Searching the Internet high and low, I found what seemed to be a suitable coop and ordered it. Meantime, the birds had taken to the habit of living under my deck, striking out occasionally to feed on bugs and have a drink of water. Upon the arrival and construction of the coop, they continued this behavior for a few days, unsure of the strange, new structure. Eventually figuring out it was theirs, the pair moved in and made it home.

Making themselves at home in the coop.

Fast forward to today, less than a year later, all of my fears and apprehensions about this new endeavor proved to be totally unfounded and the birds, now named Josephine and Alberta, are grown up, happily free range in the yard, eat everything in sight and produce delicious eggs.

As I write this, a tiny new chapter in the backyard bird saga is unfolding in a plastic crate two feet to my left. Her name is Amelia, as she can already fly.

1495298207163

I wrote this piece as part of the application process for a gig at [REDACTED], one of those high-falutin’ firms trying to send people to a certain red planet. (They still haven’t gotten back to me, THE FOOLS!) I could have written a bit more, but the requirement was ~500 words and what am I going to do, write a thesis on an obscure car for a job application?

Anyhow, here’s

The Mercury Marauder
Joseph McMahon

A somewhat obscure, often misunderstood and mostly overlooked car, the Mercury Marauder remains an oddity in the automotive world. Those familiar with automobiles know of the 2003-2004 editions, based on Ford’s Panther platform. Less, however, are aware of the origins of the Marauder name.

In 1958, Ford’s Mercury division received a new family of V8 engines. Known as MEL (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln), these engines, specifically engineered for those car lines, replaced the Lincoln Y-Block V8, which was introduced in 1952. First appearing in a Mercury with a displacement of 383 cubic inches (the smallest of the family), the Marauder name was affixed to this engine. In it’s first year, the Marauder was available with power outputs of either 312 or 330 hp. By 1960, the final year of production, the output had been reduced to 280 hp. Alongside the 383 Marauder was the option for a 430 cubic inch version, available in all Mercurys from 1958 to 1960. In top trim, with three two barrel carburetors and rated at 400 hp (the first American domestic engine to achieve this output figure), this engine, only available for 1958, was named Super Marauder.

In 1961, the Ford FE (Ford-Edsel) series replaced the MEL in Mercurys. These engines, in 331, 352, 390, 406, 427, 428 cubic inch configurations, saw widespread use across Ford products from introduction in 1958 through the mid 1970s. When installed in Mercurys, the 352 received the Marauder name. Rated at 220 hp, this engine was available until 1963.

1963 marked the first year Marauder appeared as a trim package, available on all full-size Mercury two- and four-door sedans. It included distinctive “notchback” or “fastback” styling, as opposed to the reverse-slant “breezeway” styling. This roof style also appears on Ford Galaxies of the era and was designed for top speed in NASCAR competition. The package also included bucket seats and a center console. Similar to the Mustang, this option was
introduced at midyear and the vehicles are sometimes referred to as “1963 1/2.” Powered by FE engines in 390, 406 and 427 cubic inch configurations, these Marauders were the pinnacle of early to mid 1960s Ford-Mercury performance, on the street, strip and oval. In 1966, the name was discontinued, as full-size performance fell from favor, replaced by the now familiar mid-size muscle cars.

1969 saw the return of the Marauder, this time as a standalone model. This Marauder was positioned as a personal luxury coupe, competing in that burgeoning market against the likes of the Oldsmobile Toronado and Ford’s own Thunderbird. This Marauder shared chassis and body parts with other Mercurys and Fords, notably the front clip (and interior trim) of the Mercury Marquis and the fastback roofline of the Ford XL. Engine options included the familiar 390 FE and newer 385 series 429. An upgraded variant, mainly consisting of cosmetic features, including rear fender skirts, the X-100, was also available. Production of this body style ended in 1970.

2003 brought the last ride of the Marauder. As in 1969, this Marauder was a separate model, based on many existing Ford parts. In this case, the then-ubiquitous Ford Panther platform, upon which the popular Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town car were built. This third generation Marauder carried on the legacy of the 1960s trim package Marauders, being a full-size Mercury sedan with upgraded V8 performance. Rather than the two-valve per cylinder, single overhead cam Ford 4.6 liter V8 common to the Grand Marquis, the Marauder was equipped with a dual overhead cam, four-valve 4.6 V8, also known as the InTech V8. This engine debuted in the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII personal luxury coupe and was also installed in the 2003-2004 Mustang Mach 1. Featuring 300 hp, this engine was a marked performance improvement for the Panther platform, which had previously only seen power ratings as high as 239 hp. However, weighing in at nearly 4,200 pounds, the platform did not make the ideal partner for this engine, even with the higher than normal 3.55 rear gear to help improve acceleration. The Marauder was again sold for the 2004 model year with changes limited to new colors and a slightly improved transmission. A combination of this odd powertrain/platform marriage and little to no advertising bore dismal sales, resulting in the Marauder being cancelled after 2004, ending another chapter in the history of this name.

The Mercury Marauder, though short lived in each iteration, brought excitement and power to Ford’s Mercury division. Whether as an engine option, a trim package or a standalone model, Marauder constantly shifted features and styles to accommodate customer preferences, more often than not hitting the mark. As tastes moved away from full-size bodies with maximum power, Marauder lost its way. The last hurrah of 2003-2004 proved once and for all the classic formula had run its course. The cars themselves, however, live on as increasingly rare and valuable collector’s items.