Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tractor Crazy


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."



Anonymous said...

One year during a drought, our dad decided we needed to rake the thin rows of hay together into thicker windrows. I was nominated as the kid who got to drive a tractor with the raker hooked on the back. Talk about an old piece of equipment. This was back in the mid '80's. The raker was left over from when our grandparents were on the ranch. Our parents moved to the ranch in the 60's. That raker had to have been at least 30 years old. Being a teenager who wanted to finish this tedious task as quickly as possible, I stoked the tractor up and bound across the field, dragging that ancient piece of technology behind me without looking back. Sure there were some weird sounds, but I thought it was because the raker was old. Dad finally pulled up in the pick-up, arms waving. Apparently I had left a trail of parts the length of the field behind me. Because of the age of the equipment, replacement parts were no longer available. When I broke equipment, I broke it good. I am the only child who had the privilege of pulling that raker. It died a quick death, but went out in glory!

Bill Kirton said...

These are the blogs that are so worth reading. The immediacy of your day is conveyed, the frustrations and pleasures of a life unimaginable for me. It might surprise you, Kari, but there's an exoticism about the everyday things you write of.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Bill: Ah, yes, the exotic aroma of cow turds reconstituted by spring rain. Can't believe no one has bottled it yet.

Gina: Reminds me of Charlotta and the post pounder. The control box came loose and was dangled by the wires--which were all that was left when she got home. Wayne told Dad that she drug it to death

Julie Weathers said...

Oh, fun. I actually enjoyed faring. I could sing as much as I wanted without people telling me to shut up.

Remind me to tell you the story of the snake in the harrow someday.

Anonymous said...

You make our machinery sound like Mr. Douglas's on Greenacres.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

That's because it isn't any fun to tell stories about the stuff that works.

Anonymous said...

I want to know why, about a week after i left the ranch, mom and dad bought that hydraulic post pounder. Marty

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Probably because they could afford to once they didn't have to cover your grocery bill.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, the tractor bronc rider sister here. One day, dad had me plowing over north. After several hours of going round and round, I decided to go in for supper. Unfortunately, dad didn't tell me how to turn the tractor off. Being an out of the box thinker, I just buried the plow until I killed the engine. Of course, dad came over quickly to check on me and the equipment not necessarily in that order. When I explained the situation, he replied, "If I had wanted you to stop, I would have told you how to turn off the tractor!"

Anonymous said...

You know what? After a solid 3 hours of sleep i might have figured the post pounder thing out. i was the hydraulic post pounder. no need when you have a two hundred and thirty pound fella around. i will never forget the time i pounded at least a mile of posts and sat down to take a drink of water and mom got up and pounded a couple. that was when all the neighbors chose to drive by. i still here it from wayne to this day. marty

Julie Weathers said...

Lola. Yep, that sounds about right. My stepdad complained to high heaven when I broke the forty-year-old tractor.

We built five miles of new fence N.D. badlands last year I was on the ranch. I had lovely muscles from tamping all those posts, not to mention barring out the ones that had rock that had to be chipped out.

Crystal Posey said...

"...I drove a tractor around in circles for two hours, busting up cow turds with a harrow."

The funniest thing I've read today. And I complete agree with Bill Kirton. These days, your blog is one of my most enjoyed reads.