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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Hot times in January

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 29 December 2017

Early January. Most of the country is concerned with things like, “Did the water to the house or cattle freeze up last night? Will it freeze tonight?”

“Will the felt liners to my snow boots dry out by morning?”

“Will the tractor we use to feed cattle with actually start in the morning?”

Or, on a more positive side, “Will the lake freeze solid enough so we can go ice fishing?”

Or, with a note of caution, “Will the kids think the lake is frozen over deep enough to drive on?” Not everyone survives driving a car or pickup out on lake ice.

So let’s talk about things that are too hot.

My friend Mike F., who is probably in the upper 1 percent in the nation for welding skills, shared a thought with me some time back. He said when one is welding an overhead bead – that is, welding something above you, welding up the horizontal bottom of something – “You’re dealing with areas of molten metal (molten means liquid), and liquids tend to run or fall downhill.

Most of the time, you can control the amount of heat you are using and the angle of the welding tip to keep the liquid metal pool small enough to manage and cool in place before globs of it fall onto the welder. Protective gear, like welding hoods, leather gloves and leather welding jackets all do well to keep this liquid glob from reaching your skin.”

Mike says, “When, and not if, hot metal penetrates the protective garb, things get interesting. First off, anyone welding an overhead bead has been welding long enough to experience burns from errant hot metal. Second, getting an overhead weld started is high on the difficulty list and, once one gets the weld going correctly, one does not want to stop just to deal with a red-hot piece of metal inside one’s clothing.

The shirt collar is the usual place of entry. It’s easy to slightly shift position to allow that ball of steel to stop sizzling in place and roll further downhill, knowing it will cool the farther it moves. This shifting movement usually happens without interrupting the overhead weld.

“In case, after two or three shifts of position, the offending metal is still sizzling whenever it touches bare skin, and it is now prevented from further downward movement by one’s belt, the best idea is to stop welding and address the hot metal with clear vision and the use of both hands.”

I once welded up a broken hay hook. Absentmindedly, I then picked it up to turn it over – with a bare hand. Grabbing it with the whole hand, it left its imprint across the palm of my hand before I could turn loose of it. The only good thing about it was: I didn’t have any of the kids with me that day, so I wasn’t in trouble that evening for further fouling their vocabularies.

Ever notice the first hot days of summer seem to cause truck tires to blow out? Things that flex intensely create heat. An under-inflated tire will flex and, at speed, will create heat. Heat weakens tires, and enough heat and flexing will cause the catastrophic failure that precedes a blowout.

Summer or winter, when I’d stop to check the tires, in addition to thumping them, I’d place my bare hand on the sidewall of each tire, near the tread. Any tire warmer than the others was suspect for under-inflation or pending failure. As technology improved, I would carry a non-contact thermometer with me and check the tires, axle hubs and brake drums for abnormal heat.

Once the in-the-cab temp gauge for one of the drive axles on the truck I was piloting showed the temp rising quickly. At first opportunity, I stopped and used the infrared thermometer to check the offending axle. I was greatly relieved to find it was actually cooler than its mate. I wrote the truck up for a defective axle temperature sensor.

Then there’s the secret weapon (my family calls it the nuclear option) for clearing out plugged sinuses due to winter-time colds – one can of chicken noodle soup, or chicken broth, your choice. Add a teaspoonful, more or less, of garlic. I’ll add chopped onion and chopped jalapeno pepper (just ’cuz I like both), heat it as hot as you can stand to spoon or sip it, and add all the cayenne pepper you can stand. Have paper towels or tissue handy.

Hot Chinese mustard can have the same effect. However, the strength of the potion is more difficult to monitor, and the result can be thinking you are about to blow the top of your head off. Plus, your body needs the fluids the chicken option includes.

Finally, my friend John (not even an initial or location, for obvious reasons) shared this: “My wife is one of those people who simply cannot tolerate even a mild teasing. My 16-year-old son is just full of it. Every single morning that dang kid would get his mother wound up so tight and hot under the collar smoke was coming out her ears. Then, with her ready to explode, he’d get on the school bus and leave – leaving me to live with her like that all day.”  end mark