It’s hot inside the tractor cab. The fan works but there’s no air conditioning. Keith took the door off so I’d have some relief. When I head west into the afternoon sun the cab heats up fast, It’s like sitting in a fishbowl without the water. Turning east, the open door catches a breeze, and it cools down. I wish I could bale the hay only heading east.
My companion, Esme is always happy. She loves riding along with me. The cha-chunk, cha- chunk, cha-chunk of the baler picking up hay is hypnotic. The constant rhythmic cycle, along with the warm air, and quiet music from the radio puts me into a trance. Every now and again the sound changes; cha-chunk, cha-chunk, cha-clink. Sometimes shear pins break while baling the thickest hay. Esme and I get out of the tractor. She runs off in search of snakes and mice. I take the wrench, bolt, washer, and nut out of the toolbox to repair the pin. In a few minutes were back to work. Esme’s in her seat, I’m in mine. I have to sit sideways facing backwards so I can watch the windrows and the baler. In the thickest rows I adjust the tractor’s speed or the speed of the power take-off (PTO). Again, the rhythm of the baler along with the warm sunshine puts me into a trance. Cha- chunk, cha-chunk, cha-chunk. Esme sits up, looks out the window, starts barking. Cocking her head to one side she barks happily and wags her tail. As I glance out the door I notice a tire rolling past us. “Where would a tire come from way out here, Esme?” It took me a second to realize that the only tire out here had to be from either the tractor, baler, or bale basket full of hay. Pressing on the clutch and brake pedal I downshifted. The tractor stopped. The baler tilted awkwardly to one side. The hub was buried into the earth. The tire continued rolling down the hill. I watched it curve. Circling, it rolled into the tall grass of the waterway, wobbled and fell over.
I made a call to my pit crew, who weren’t happy to hear from me. They bombarded me with questions. The first, “Did you check the tires before you started baling?”
“Of course I did.” If you consider walking past the tires and noticing that they were attached to the equipment checking, then I checked.
“Did you notice the tire wobbling?”
It’s hard to notice a tire wobbling when you’re fidgeting with the radio. The signal’s very weak out here. I don’t say this out loud, that would be suicide. “Nope, I didn’t notice a thing.”
The discussion escalated, “How does a tire roll past without you noticing it for 50 yards? Look how long it took you to stop.” He continued with increased volume, “I hope the axle didn’t crack. The hub looks alright, but we have to dig it out.”
My response is lame, “I didn’t notice any problem with the baler, and it wasn’t 50 yards.” Looking at the bare ground where the baler dragged across the field I calculate that it was only 45 yards. 48 yards at the most. I hate when he exaggerates.
They unhitched the bale basket, moved the tractor and baler to level ground and began the repair. Adding insult to injury they weren’t happy when I took out the camera. They gave me ‘the look’. The one that says, ‘Are you seriously taking a picture? Don’t you have anything else to do? Let’s recap why we’re here…You called us to help you fix a tire. You never mentioned that it fell off and rolled away or that the hub was buried. We’ve been working our butts off in the hot hay mow to get this put up before it rains. It’s sweltering. We’re hot. We’re uncomfortable. We’re very CRABBY! You’ve been riding in a tractor with an open door and fan blowing on you. You’re drinking ice tea. You’re listening to the radio. You’re driving through the field with that irritatingly happy dog and enjoying yourself. Are you seriously going to take our picture, now?’
After a couple of shots I put the camera away. I brought them cold drinks and walked around the equipment pretending to inspect every inch of it. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I wanted to look efficient.
After refilling my drink, adjusting the radio and getting Esme some water we were back to baling within an hour. Our friend, Rusty Little had the hay curse but I have the equipment curse.