This harvest season, when we found ourselves a little short of help, my husband approached me to see if I would drive the grain cart, which I had never done before.
I agreed to the job, thinking, “How hard can it be?” After all, our sons earned the job when they were in the fourth-grade. My sister who lives in town caught grain for my brother once only a few harvest seasons ago – and the only other time I remember her driving a tractor was when she told Mom to go to (you know where) under her breath once.
She wasn’t counting on Mom hearing her, of course, so Mom sent my sister out to Dad, who made her drag the yard with the old Ford tractor in exchange for her ill-timed and louder-than-planned commentary and analysis.
I have ridden with the guys before during harvest and have always been graciously thankful that I was not the one responsible for keeping the tractor just inches from the bean head as they rolled together through the field. And yet I thought that if our fourth-grade sons could pick up on it, I should be able to do it, too.
The first day I packed up all the necessities – my lunch, some toilet paper (though I have to say I’m a little afraid to use it out there, with all the satellites and drones, I’m afraid I’ll end up on YouTube); and my sports bra to keep everything in place during those hurried trips back to the combine after a load dump.
A few lessons on speed and how many rows to be over, and I was flying solo in no time. I thought it was a pretty good gig and wondered why no one ever wants that job.
The learning curve appeared when we got into a wet hole and the tractor became bogged down. As we worked briefly to free ourselves from the quagmire, someone asked me, “Is your differential on?”
My eyes were spinning like those of long-ago cartoon characters that had just been coldcocked. I couldn’t find it on the ‘Mission Control’ panel in the tractor and I couldn’t find it via my husband’s instructions on the radio, so another guy stepped in and found it for me.
If my husband would have told me it looks like the T.V. pictures of shingles that people get, I would have spotted it right away.
One of the corn fields we got into was hilly. And I mean hilly.
I went over the first big hill with the tractor and grain cart and felt like I was scaling the first climb of a roller coaster. The sign at the top of the coaster at Arnolds Park says, “The Point of No Return.” I saw that sign in my mind as I neared the summit and prayed there was land on the other side. I felt a little like the great explorers must have felt – Christopher Columbus and Yukon Cornelius.
It felt like we were gleaning the Matterhorn, and I thought that if I heard yodeling or spotted the Von Trapp family over the next hill, I was going to need some of that paper on a roll that I referred to earlier.
My husband asked me to top off a truck one day, which I did. I overloaded it by 8,000 pounds according to the scale at the elevator. I guess farm wives can add elevator scales to the list of scales that rat us out and laugh at us secretly.
A high school guy working for us said incredulously, “That’s impressive.”
My husband had another word for it.
The good news is that after my experience this fall, I won’t have to do toning exercises on my left thigh for months after all that standing on the clutch while loading the trucks.
Fourth-grade was a long time ago. Imagine how sleek my thighs would be by now.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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