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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Trying to be helpful

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 31 May 2017

Just the other day I joined a “jumper cable” party that had been underway for some time before I arrived on the scene. Two little cars were parked with the front fenders almost touching, and both hoods were open. Jumper cables ran from one car to the other.

I approached from the side with no people and quietly observed. When my presence was noticed, I broke the ice by saying, “Perhaps the problem is that the Japanese car does not understand Spanish?”

This got a laugh from the two young ladies who seemed to belong to the non-starting car and the two young men who seemed to belong to the running car. A fellow older than these four, and much younger than I, seemed to have been there for some time. It appeared the battery cable ends on the non-starting car had been replaced, and the battery posts seemed to have been cleaned.

Without being asked, this fellow told me he was at a loss as to what the problem was. He said he had good power to the lights and all the accessories, but the starter wouldn’t even click – much less start the car.

I stepped back and looked inside the recalcitrant car. It had an automatic transmission. I asked the fellow working on the car if he had checked out the neutral start switch. He thought it was OK, since when the ignition key was in the correct position for the engine to start, all the appropriate lights came on – just no action from the starter.

“That’s how the system works,” I explained. “Everything will come on except the starter unless the neutral start switch is fully engaged, so the car will not start unless the transmission is in ‘park’ or ‘neutral.’”

He reluctantly got into the driver’s seat and turned on the ignition key. He then moved the transmission shift lever from “park” through all the gear selections, and then jammed it back into ‘park’ and twisted the key once more.

The car started.

I have no idea why, but the fellow who had been there for who knows how long working on the car acted like he was upset with me. To the other four, I was a hero. I quickly explained to the girls who had the car how the neutral start switch worked and what to do to rattle it loose if it misbehaved in the future. Then I left.

During a cold spell last winter, I was in a store looking at portable electric heaters. I greeted an old guy (I’m 70; this fellow had to be about 85) in the same aisle of the store. We exchanged comments on the pros and cons of the selection. Once I had chosen one, he mentioned the heater I was buying was rated for 1,500 amps, and that was all lots of household wiring would stand from a single plug.

He said he was a retired electrician and he’d seen lots of people get in trouble plugging an electric heater into a circuit that was already fully loaded. I politely told him I was familiar with that danger, but my new heater was going to be used out in the shop only every now and again.

He said I’d be OK, then added, “Thank you for listening to me.” I, in turn, thanked him for being concerned. He acted like I had just made his day.

Then there are incidents like last Saturday. I noticed a crew-cab long-bed diesel pickup waiting in line for a traffic light with the right front tire looking like it had about 15 pounds of air in it. I wasn’t where I could flag down the driver and let him know he had a problem.

Just a few minutes later, walking to where my car was parked, I saw this truck sitting parked with the driver still behind the wheel. I asked him if he was aware his right front tire was just about flat.

He said, “Oh, it’s OK. These are low-pressure radials.”

My mind raced. I looked at the left front tire, and it was about as low on air as the other one had appeared. It had been run that way for some time, as the tread was deep in the center of the tire and worn off unevenly on the outside edges – classic signs of gross underinflation.

My head involuntarily shook from side to side and I heard myself say something about it being something new as I left. As I got in my car, I heard this driver call out to me, “Thanks for letting me know anyway.”

My grandson asked why I was banging my head on the steering wheel.

This episode was balanced by an earlier snowy road event. In a rural area, I came upon the blue lights of a sheriff’s vehicle near a smaller rig stuck in the snow beside the roadway. Traffic was clear at the moment, so I pulled close enough to speak to the deputy and the driver.

“Would you like me to pull that back on the road?” I asked.

The driver did not want to be stuck, and the deputy did not want to be there blocking traffic for the hour or longer it would have taken a tow truck to arrive, so I was most welcome. Three minutes later, all three of us were very happy.  end mark