Some day spring may come, and when it does the cattle will take a back seat to farming for a bit. My brother and I would have made good partners in this split operation. He has always loved anything mechanical. I'm an animal person. In his opinion, a cow is a thousand pounds of mobile aggravation in leather pants. I consider a day on the tractor slightly less tedious than counting the grains in a fifty pound bag of rice. \
Unless it's wild rice. That might put it over the top.
The topic is fresh on my mind because I dragged pastures today. In other words, I drove a tractor around in circles for two hours, busting up cow turds with a harrow. My MP3 player was no help. Forget those businessmen trying to sleep on a noisy airplane. This is the real reason they invented noise cancelling headphones.
Luckily, the tractor did its best to keep me entertained. If I went more than two miles an hours, it immediately hit a badger hole hard enough to launch me out of my seat. And every fifty yards or so, for no particular reason, the door popped open. No big deal until the wind freshened and starting driving pellets of semi-frozen rain into my face as I attempted to steer with one hand while leaning out to drag the door shut with the other.
Man, I love farming.
Maybe I would like it more if I was gliding along in one of those deluxe tractors with a temperature controlled, sound-proof cab, ergonomically designed seat, Bose stereo and a GPS system designed to eliminate all need for thought on my part.
Wow. That sounds really dull.
Old equipment does add a certain edge to farming. Can I make this one last round before the clutch goes completely? The answer is no. It will disentegrate when you've only got five acres left to seed and a three day rain settling in. The tractor I was driving today has a history of personality quirks. One year, during harvest, my sister was using it to bale straw. I was ahead of her on one combine and our hired man was on the other. Mom was in a field a mile away, swathing barley. Dad was in the fuel pick-up, roaring from one machine to the other, fixing them almost as fast as we could break them.
I can't recall exactly what was wrong with the tractor, but every time my sister shifted gears the front end popped off the ground. She bounded down the rows like a bronc buster on a rearing colt. I had problems of my own. The slightest pressure on the brake pedal caused the combine wheels to lock up. At the end of every row it lurched to a stop, nose-diving, butt flying in the air.
It was a real rodeo out there, I tell you. Her tractor rearing, my combine bucking, and Dad racing around picking up the pieces that flew off.
Like the people on this ranch, our tractors are getting to the age when they require a little extra encouragement to get going in the morning. Each is equipped with the same basic tool kit: wrenches, screwdrivers, and a blue can of starting fluid.
We hadn't realized how often we had to pump ether into carburetors until one chilly morning when Mom and I and my three-year-old son climbed into one of the diesel pick-ups. It is notoriously cold-blooded and we had forgotten to plug in the block heater. My mom turned the engine over and over, hoping against hope that it would start anyway.
My son tapped her on the shoulder, full of male superiority. "You know, Grandma, it won't go unless you use the blue can."