The belt had shredded itself. The noise was little rubber strands of the belt slapping up against the inside of the hood. It was game over for me, and I gingerly drove the "bull" back to Pit-Road, otherwise known as the stone drive-way on the side of my house. I went inside grabbed some Benadryl and disappeared for about 1.5 days.
This morning I had to fix it. I've also had a tensioner pulley noise for sometime: the squeaky wheel sound, a bad bearing. This may have been partially to blame for the destruction of the belt, but both were going to be replaced. Luckily Dad delivered the parts to the house yesterday, and all I had to do was figure out how to put them on. Replacing the belt and pulleys on a 3.0 ford is simple and straight forward. If your vehicle whines, it's time to replace the idler or tensioner pulley. On the Taurus they're the same part, and cost about $17.00 a piece. The belt costs about $25, and you may want to figure in some washer fluid and antifreeze, since you're going to move those reservoirs out of the way.
Basically the tensioner and idler pulleys are nothing more than metal or plastic wheels with bearings pressed inside that rotate with the belt and allow proper tension against the engine accessories.
So lets begin.
First take a picture of the engine. No matter how good your memory is, the moment you remove the drive-belt, you will by some psychological truth of humankind forget the proper routing for the belt. Do not, by any means proceed without a digital picture or a diagram of the belt routing... Trust me.
You may need to remove the washer / antifreeze reservoir (one piece on my 95) before taking the picture. It's held in by one screw on the radiator frame and you'll need to unplug a small hose held on by friction and time to the washer assembly.
As you can see, I've already disengaged the tension on the belt by placing an appropriate socket on the bolt head and lifting the pulley against its springs to release the belt. A special tensioner tool is available if you don't have a short enough socket from your auto parts dealer. Do not pry the tensioner with a tire iron against the nearby power steering pump, which is made of plastic.
Removing the belt indicates exactly what was going on. The belt was shredding itself. It wasn't stoning midgets, it was common maintenance issues which I should have taken care of the moment I heard the bearing whine.
Basically it's pretty simple from this point. Find a socket to fit the idler pulley if you're removing it, and loosen, and replace. The replacement might be plastic while the OE might be metal. If you live in a normal (thy fertile crescent wrench zone) climate, I doubt it makes that much difference. The tensioner pulley is a different story, since you won't be able to get a socket around it, you're going to have to use a wrench. It's metric, not Standard. Go figure? American cars...
Here we've removed the tensioner pulley, not much to say other than "Shiny, Shiny, Pretty, Pretty."
Here you can see the new pulley installed. Now all that's left is to re-install the belt on the accessories. By now you've completely forgotten how to route it. So break out the picture, and carefully make sure everything is back in the grooves.
Replace any lost fluids in the reservoir that were lost and reconnect the small washer fluid line. Start the car, and your done less the doing drive-bys at your local Ford Dealer giving them the middle finger.