OK - for those of you who thought I was a little bent in the head (not that I'm not) about the lift rod here's the JD OEM correct rod and my substiture side-by-each:
So I went back and pulled the front lift rod out of the tractor and adjusted it all the way down to its shortest. Much easier out of the machine where I could stick a screwdriver in each end and crank on it.
Threw the JD lift rod on for yuks and put the lift back together. Might be tough to see in this pic but the snowthrower is now 4"-5" off the floor. :trink40:
Thanks for the help and suggestions - if I'd just sucked it up and done the rod adjustment sooner I'd be done by now :banghead3 It'll be interesting to see what happens when I put the plow back on.