Herald-Journal Herald and Journal, March 30, 1998

Tractor-pulling time again


It's that time of year again. The time for mud!

Young men driving four- wheel drive trucks with giant tires will be happy to see this inevitable result of the spring thaw. I'm not quite so thrilled.

We all enjoy a nice spring day. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping happy little songs. I should be thinking happy little thoughts.

My happy thoughts melt like the last snow on the north side of the pole shed when I see my husband come back from the field, walking. I don't even have to wonder what happened. I know he left with a tractor and manure spreader.

I see him returning on foot. The danger flag goes up! Yes, the first words he utters as he yanks open the kitchen door are, "Sue, I'm stuck! Come and help me pull the tractor out."

I know I have been nominated and elected to help without so much as one vote being cast. It's not that my husband thinks I'm such a great help. I just happen to be the only other driver currently available.

I head for my barn gear. No since in putting on a good coat to go "mud-bogging." As I dress, I wonder, "Will I be the puller or the pullee?" I have found myself stuck in one or the other position, depending on the difficulty of the situation.

Being the pullee is probably the best job for me. I have discovered that when I am the puller I will invariably do the wrong thing at the wrong time. I don't intend to, but it seems to come naturally to me.

My attempts at pulling tractors out of the muck were usually punctuated by jerks of the chain that threatened to rip off the front end of the tractor. Other times I would be furiously spinning the wheels of the tractor, trying my best to dig a pit for that one, too.

When you are the pullee, you just need to remember to let out the clutch so that you are trying to move with the pulling tractor. Sitting there with the brake on is considered to be counter-productive.

Of course, it is always good to remember to stop the tractor once you have been pulled free of the mud pit. Driving over the pulling chain is considered to be a big no-no.

If we are lucky, the tractor will be pulled right out. If the tractor is buried, a lot more time and effort must be expended to work the thing free.

When we first started dairy farming in 1978, we didn't have a really big tractor to do the pulling. Sometimes a neighbor would have to be called to haul us out. Being the self-reliant person that he is, Tom hated doing that.

After a few years we progressed to more and bigger tractors, with the horsepower to pull the small tractors free. If we got our big, pulling tractor stuck, though, we were in trouble.

One spring we did end up burying our biggest tractor, the 1066 International. Tom was on the verge of calling a local tow- truck driver to winch it out of the mud. Then we came up with a better plan.

A tow-truck driver would charge about $80. We decided to offer our three oldest children a chance to earn that money. At the time, Sara, Jason, and Gina were 14, 13, and 12 years old. We proposed that if they worked together and dug the tractor out, we would pay them the $80 instead of paying the tow-truck driver.

They did manage to dig the tractor out after about three days of working at it when they had the time. They worked hard for their $80.

One final thought I will offer here. If your spouse comes to you for help in pulling a tractor out of the mud, you need to summon all the fortitude you possess. Don't make the foolish mistake of asking him how he managed to get stuck in the first place. You can discuss that with him later, when the shouting has died down and the tractor is standing on solid ground.

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