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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Some things you don’t want to take with you

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Grower Published on 26 May 2016

I had never worked on a diesel engine before. It was about 1969 and I was working for Charles Warnick at Pleasant Grove, Utah, while going to college. One morning, he asked me to grab my toolbox and drive over and help a neighbor.

The fellow had run his tractor out of diesel and could not start it. I told Charles I’d never done anything like that before. He told me the fuel lines needed to be purged of air, and I just needed to open the bleed fitting by each injector to do that.

I went and found the correct fittings and cracked them open until pure fuel was all that came out when the engine was cranked, then tightened them. The tractor started in three seconds, and I was a hero.

Young helpers who expect to learn something new are easier to come by than flashlight holders. (I’ve lost track of the number of times as a child I was sure I was going to freeze to death while holding a flashlight for Dad.)

The latest event was when my big lawn mower went defunct. We first disassembled the errant part. The big nut that held the pulley that turned the mandrel shaft that turned one of the blades came off, but the pulley was tight.

I wanted to be able to reuse the pulley, so I declined to go the big hammer route. There were two holes through the body of the pulley, opposite of each other. They were not threaded. With my helper occupied with another chore, I found my steering wheel puller. All of the pulling bolts that came with it were too short.

I found longer bolts and then a tap that matched the threads on the bolts. I blasted the holes with thread-cutting oil and, with the tap in my tap holder and attached to an impact driver, we soon had threaded holes in the pulley. I had him hold the puller in position while I turned the bolts into the new threads.

“Grandpa, what are you doing?” the helper asked. I told him we were adapting a steering wheel puller to pull off a common pulley, which we had adapted by threading the holes that were in it. I explained that had there been no holes to thread, we would have first drilled holes in the pulley. The alternative would have been ruining the pulley getting it off and having to replace it.

“We are being mechanics and not parts changers,” I explained.

Until he asked, I thought he could figure out what I was doing. How much knowledge are we going to take with us to the grave if we don’t explain a few things as we go along?

For example:

  • If a cow goes off by herself to lie down away from the herd, she has a problem. She may be sick or hurt – or be ready to calve.

  • Mechanical things used to do what computers now do on motor vehicles. To understand a motor vehicle, a person needs to understand how the mechanical things used to work. Case in point is how to start a carbureted gasoline engine with a manual choke on a cold morning.

    The choke restricts the flow of air into the engine, making the gasoline concentration entering the engine richer and easier to ignite when cold. Computerized fuel injection takes all the skill out of this.

  • If your big farmstead guard dog that has always refused to come in the house wakes you in the night and wants to come in the house, let him. Then get your rifle loaded and your good spotlight handy. (This happened to a friend some years back. The next morning, they found mountain lion tracks nearby.)

  • If you notice a truck flashing its headlights toward another truck going the same direction you are as they meet, pay attention to the road for the next 5 miles or so. Depending on the region and the signal, there could be deer, elk, livestock, a wreck, an icy stretch of road or a speed cop ahead.

  • Don’t do anything the “big boys” are trying to talk you into doing unless those same big boys are doing it themselves and not getting hurt or in trouble – especially if it involves an electric fence.

  • Nothing is so bad that you can’t make it worse by lying about it.

  • You are the reason your children never want to make their mother cry. They need to understand that before she is their mother, she is your wife, your lover, your confidante and your best friend – and you expect her to be treated with and spoken to with the due respect those roles deserve.

  • The guys who built it are not smarter than you are.

  • Never throw away something from your dad or granddad’s shop because you don’t know what it is or how it works. Ask. I have lots of hard-to-find tools in my shop that most people don’t understand.

  • The guy (or girl) on the team who is making the most noise is usually doing the least work.

  • You go to school to learn how to find answers. If you succeed at school, you will have more questions when you graduate than when you enrolled, but you will know how to find the answers.  end mark