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Tales of a Hay Hauler: How many ways can you have heart?

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 28 November 2018

‘Finish the job’ heart

It was the summer my brother Neal was my main hay bale-throwing helper. He was the only one of us to whom football was important. (This good-sized kid, almost as big as me, was infuriated he was not quite big enough for a serious college football career.)

He’d told me his coach had called and was requiring the whole team to be available for afternoon practice the month of August.

Neal said, “The football coach said if I was hauling hay with you every day, loading and unloading by hand, there was no need for me to quit so I could come in for an hour each afternoon to get in shape for football season.”

Neal went with me on a “quick” trip to Portland one Friday. About dusk, we left the Portland area and headed home. About two hours later, the truck experienced a sudden-onset whirring sound and felt like it was trying to play leapfrog. Shortly before I got it stopped, there was a very rude noise followed by a banging sound.

The carrier (center driveline) bearing mount had cracked and completely come loose from the frame of the truck, making the whirring sound. The noise was when the splines of the slip-joint had come apart, and the two halves of the driveline started hammering on the frame of the truck.

Under the truck with a flashlight, I told Neal there were parts missing. He growled and grumbled, then disappeared. He showed up a few minutes later, asking if the parts he had in his hands used to be part of my truck. They were. He’d found the missing carrier bearing, along with the rubber vibration damper that surrounded it.

In short order, we were able to reassemble the driveline and pull it back into place with a come-a-long. We then anchored the carrier bearing assembly in place with chain and binders, and there were no new vibrations. We drove the remaining six hours to home without incident.

Mitch’s heart

My oldest son, Mitch, was once described as having a heart the size of a basketball. Born with arthrogryposis, he was 3 years old before he took his first unaided steps. One of our challenges was to get helpful bystanders to allow him to learn to get up by himself when he did lose his footing and take a tumble.

Mitch ran with the cross-country team in high school, and falling and breaking his collarbone twice didn’t dampen his spirit for the sport. Soon after graduation, our community days event had a fun run as one of the activities. Mitch ran in it. He said a group of buff, athletic-looking fellows ahead of him would run, then rest by walking, then run some more.

As he’d catch up to them walking, they’d start running again. Finally, with his unusual gait, he passed them while they were running. “There was quite some explicit profanity from them as I passed,” Mitch said.

Supportive heart

Nothing will make your heart stand still like having the love of your life come to you and softly say, “I need to have a biopsy.” At that moment, any number of things in your life become irrelevant. Time stands still, waiting to know what’s really going on. Biopsy results come back when they come back and won’t be hurried. Then the answer isn’t a yes or a no, but a maybe. And on that maybe, surgery is scheduled, then more waiting after the surgery.

And through it all, two questions are “Can I survive this?” and “Will I ever be able to comfort and support my loved one through this, whatever the outcome?”

The swelling near the thyroid was the catalyst for the biopsy request. The “maybe” led to the removal of the thyroid. The post-surgery tests showed cancer that had not spread, specifically caused by radiation exposure, which was treatment for tumors removed decades ago. The prognosis is a clean bill of health. Thyroid pills are now added to the daily regimen.

One of the things that makes life fair is: We don’t know how many days we have, nor do we get a voice in the timetable.

Giving heart

It was Christmas Eve, and it was already dark. I had some last-minute shopping to do as I closed up the hay export facility after some repairs so it would run again in two days. As I locked the door, a loud boom rattled the windows. The truck that had just passed had blown a tire. Late on Christmas Eve, it would be a miracle if a service truck could be found to deal with it.

I stopped on my way home. The driver had no jack, no spare and no tools to work with. I gave him directions, and he turned around, and I went back and opened my shop. He was lightly loaded, so it was safe to just single out the axle that had blown the tire. We got the remains of the blown tire and its wheel loaded inside his trailer, and he was safe to go. He wanted to pay me, and I refused. He said he’d not have made it home for Christmas if I hadn’t helped him. He pulled from his truck a huge gift basket and insisted I at least take it. I did.

I locked up again and still made it to town to traditionally (as my wife insists I do every year) close the stores on Christmas Eve.  end mark