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Dear County Agent Guy

By Staff | Aug 19, 2020

The most difficult part was breaking the news to my dearly beloved. How do you tell someone that you have found another?

We have been together for decades. I can hardly remember a time when she wasn’t part of my life.

But the heart wants what the heart wants. My new love interest was sleek and slinky. Plus, she’s much younger than the old girl.

I went to her and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’ve found someone new. But you aren’t being replaced! Think of it as our little family unit expanding. I hope that you can find it in your heart to accept this new addition.”

My wife, who was sitting on the deck, asked, “What are you doing? It looks like you’re talking to your John Deere ‘A’ tractor!”

I’d been caught! This brought me to the second most difficult part, which was broaching the idea of getting another tractor to my wife.

“Why on earth do you need another tractor?” she exclaimed. “What’s wrong with your old ‘A’?”

“Nothing,” I replied apprehensively. “She will always be my first. But there are some areas where I find her lacking.”

“Such as?”

“Power steering, for one thing. I’m not getting any younger and it seems like her steering wheel is becoming more difficult to spin with the turning of the years. And I know from experience that the ‘A’ is nearly impossible to steer when she has a loader on her.”

“A loader! Why do you need a loader? Our neighbors have been happy to dig us out after snowstorms.”

“Well, yes. But you never know when a guy might want to yank out a fencepost or move some dirt or simply do a bunch of guy stuff.”

“So, tell me about this hot new item. What’s she like?”

“She’s a John Deere 3010,” I gushed, “And she’s a sweet little thing!”

“A 3010? Wouldn’t that make her like 60 years old?”

“Fifty-seven. But age is just a number.”

My wife let me twist in the wind for several long moments. “Well, OK. You can go ahead. But don’t buy a junky loader for her. I want her to look nice.”

Wow! No one can dispute that I have world’s best wife!

Dad had acquired a 3010 when I was a teenager. I have fond memories of spending many long hours with that tractor, doing fieldwork and working through my teenage angst. As I rode the 3010, I grappled with such deep, philosophical questions as “Why can’t they find a cure for acne?” and “Are these zits terminal?”

Dad eventually put a loader on his 3010. That little rig was so nimble that it could turn around on a pool table. I became so adept at operating the tractor/ loader combo that I could have picked up a penny blindfolded.

My desire for a similar rig wasn’t exactly a mid-life crisis. It was more like being swept away by a wave of mid-life nostalgia.

I went to the owner of the 3010 that had caught my eye and made an offer. He quickly accepted. A nagging voice in the back of my head wondered why. Was I simply acquiring someone else’s problems?

Then came the task of finding a suitable loader. A local used machinery dealer had a dizzying array of loaders from which to choose. We walked through his lot and each time I paused to inspect a loader the dealer would effusively expound upon what a great deal that unit would be for me. Again with the nagging little voice.

We reached an understanding for a loader that seemed perfect for the 3010. I then faced a conundrum: how do you mount a loader on a tractor when you don’t have a loader to lift the loader? The dealer said he would be happy to do the mounting for me and could also furnish remote valves and hoses for a small additional fee. He enthusiastically explained that he was giving me a bargain that was miles better than the one which involved the purchase of Alaska for two cents per acre.

After several annoying delays, the dealer finally delivered the tractor/ loader combo to our farm. The 3010 purred beneath me as we puttered around our farmstead.

The next morning, I noticed that one of her rear wheels was loose enough to have moved. This was an easy fix that merely involved jacking up the 6,000-pound machine and tightening a few large bolts. Perhaps I should name the tractor Lucille.

I was thoroughly contented. Now if I could just quiet that nagging little voice.

Next: mission creep or money pit?

Jerry Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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Dear County Agent Guy

By Staff | Aug 19, 2020

I have known Larry Ust since forever. Larry grew up on a neighborhood farm, coached 4-H softball for our two sons and delivered our mail for 25 years.

“I would still be a mail carrier if I hadn’t broken my arm and suffered some nerve damage,” Larry told me recently. “I really enjoyed that job.”

One might not think that placing mail in rural mailboxes would have a social aspect. But that’s not how Larry operates. He would hand-deliver the mail to older residents and chat with them for a few minutes. My widowed mother greatly appreciated Larry’s visits. His daily wellness checks were a comfort to elderly rural residents and their families.

A few years ago, I began to notice that piles of logs were accumulating on Larry’s acreage. It seems that Larry, who has always been a skilled craftsman and has tackled numerous building and remodeling jobs, had embarked upon yet another career. The new sawmill in his backyard confirmed my suspicions: Larry had become a sawyer.

Most people might look at a tree and see leaves and branches and twigs. Larry looks at a tree and sees tables and benches and fireplace mantels.

“You don’t know what a tree wants to be until you cut it open,” Larry said. “If you listen, the tree will tell you.”

None of the logs that are piled on Larry’s acreage were cut down for the express purpose of producing lumber.

“All of the trees were taken down by a storm or had to be cleared out to make room for something,” he said. “In this part of the world, wood dries at the rate of about an inch per year. A big log will never dry completely, so it has to be milled into lumber. The best time to mill a log is the day you cut it down. The second-best day is the day you get at it.”

Ask Larry about his favorite kind of wood and you will get a variety of answers.

“I really like walnut,” he said. “But I also like the aromatic red cedar that grows in this area. Russian olive is extremely interesting, and I’ve seen some awfully nice ash come out of the sawmill.”

Most people would want lumber that’s easy to tool, with a straight grain and no knots. Larry prefers gnarly, twisted wood that’s riddled with burls and cracks and worm holes.

“I just love what other people might call defects,” Larry said. “It’s the defects that sets a piece of wood apart and makes it unique.”

An interesting technique that Larry has been using involves injecting colored epoxy filler into some of the cracks and holes in pieces of wood that are destined to become a tabletop or a bar. He has also experimented with placing a ribbon of blue epoxy down the middle of a tabletop.

“I call those my river tables because the swirled blue epoxy looks like a river,” he said. “I took the first one that I made to the Folk Arts Festival and sold it before the festival even opened. The person who bought the table said that it spoke to him and that he had to have it.”

“Larry really enjoys the social aspect of his woodworking business,” said Doris, Larry’s wife of 46 years.

Larry is putting the finishing touches on a new home that he recently built for Doris and himself. The day that I spoke to him, Larry was sanding western red cedar planks that would soon become the surface of their deck.

“Isn’t this some pretty wood?” said Larry for the umpteenth time that day. “This came from a 60-year-old utility pole. It’s going to have a second life as part of our deck.”

Larry and Doris have a six-year-old granddaughter who likes to come to their place to visit.

“One day our granddaughter was ‘helping’ me by peeling the bark off a log with a small pry bar,” Larry said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Grandpa, we need to make me a bench from this log.’ I said ‘Absolutely!’ and set the log aside. The next time she visits, I’ll let her ‘help’ me make her bench. I’ll have her sign the seat of the bench, then I’ll rout out her signature and seal it with clear coat. Hopefully, it will create a memory that will last for many years.” Larry, like each of his furniture creations, is one-of-a-kind.

“I don’t tally the number of board feet that comes out of my sawmill,” Larry said. “What’s important to me is the amount of pleasure that I get from making things that give other people enjoyment.”

Jerry Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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