Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sequel To "A Tale Of Two Pilots" October 29, 2012

Leia B. was a student at college in Ames, Iowa.  Mark and I spent that first night on her apartment living room floor.  The following morning we all piled into her little car and drove to her parent’s farm just a few miles outside of Sioux City, Iowa.  Victor B., Leia’s father, was a good host and made us feel welcome.  His farm was a large one, that is, it was really large compared to the farms I was used to seeing in Northeast Texas.  I do not remember how many acres he was farming but you can bet that it was over seven hundred.  He had a grain barn that in the currently empty state reminded me of an airplane hangar.  His tractor was huge and was only out sized by his combine.  Victor and his hired hand worked “dawn to dark” on any one of a million things that needed doing including machinery maintenance.  As I noted in the flying story, it was late springtime and past time for Victor to be planting.  The problem was that this was an unusually rainy spring.  That storm which held us in Texas that extra day had been through here as well, along with dozens of others in the past couple of months.  The result was fields inundated with water, standing water.  It was impossible to run the planting tractors through those soaked fields.  That was the main topic of conversation at dinner the evening of our arrival.  If they waited much longer to plant, it would be too late to count on a bountiful crop come fall.  Victor’s hired hand had an idea in which he would back into one of their main fields with their small John Deere tractor.  He planned to back in at full reverse speed until he came to a stop.  Then he would lower a single blade plow and drive straight out, leaving a furrow.  He had hopes that that furrow would channel the standing water into the ditch adjacent the field and help the field to drain and dry more quickly.  For the lack of a better idea, Victor reluctantly agreed to the plan.

First thing the next morning he put his plan into action.  I wasn’t there to see him back into the field, however we heard how it turned out when Victor got a phone call from a neighbor telling him the his small tractor was hopelessly stuck about seventy-five yards into his field.  We rode over there in Victor’s pick-up truck and sure enough, that little tractor was up to the frame in mud.  Those little front wheels weren’t even visible and only the top half of the rear wheels were above the mud line.  Leaving us young people there, Victor drove back to his farm to get the big tractor.  It was one of those huge four wheel drive Case tractors.  It looked as big as a locomotive engine to me.

Victor backed into the field with that monster and Mark and I waded and slucked out there and hitched those tractors together with heavy chains.  After we oozed our way away from those machines waist deep in mud and water, Victor dropped that tractor into “Low” drive and his hired hand revved up the John Deere.  I was ready to see some real action when Victor’s four wheels started grinding away, but was shocked to see his only movement to be down, down to his frame.  I never saw so much mud!  On the farm folks improvise and help each other.  Victor’s wife jumped into the pick-up and drove home to call another neighbor.  He showed up an hour later with a Case that was the twin of Victor’s.  A few minutes later he was hooked onto the tractor train and with all three revving and torquing he sank down to his frame as well.  It was then that I coined an old Iowa saying, “It is hard to remember that your original purpose was to drain the field when you are up to your ass in stuck tractors!”  Another phone call and another neighbor comes!  These are truly the Americans we are all so proud of in our songs and stories.  The cool thing about this final neighbor hooking his four wheel drive John Deere onto the train was the train was so long now that he was still up on the asphalt road.

Now, with fourteen wheels turning and I do not know how many horsepower pulling together, that mud monster came outa there!  I’ll never see anything like that again.  In a few seconds there were four tractors standing and idling up on the road and that road was almost buried in the mud that came out with them.  When we looked back at the field there was a huge rut that was draining water like a river.

That was back in the early 1980’s and I have often thought of Victor and his family and his farmer friends and neighbors.  There was a severe farming crisis in the mid and late 80’s and I pray they weathered that as they did their stuck tractor crisis, by pulling together.  May God bless all of those people!

No comments:

Post a Comment