Pining On

Third base died from being girdled by all those clothes lines. We sawed it off right above the wires. That was when I was in high school. Sometime when I was gone the stump rotted off and was replaced with a post. One summer night in 1989 or 1990 during a thunderstorm the old walnut was hit by a bolt of lightning. I remember the storm because it hit in the middle of the night. While the lightning struck I swear I was elevated a foot above the bed I was laying in from the shear fear it instilled in me. The longest, loudest lightning strike I had ever experienced I thought it wasn’t going to end. I remember commenting on it to the stay at gone mom who only grumbled and went back to sleep. I only wished I’d looked out the window directly above my head and had seen the scene. It must have been one hell of a show.

In the morning the trees told the tale. According to the missing bark, lightning had traveled down the side of the old walnut in three streaks. When it had arrived at the number nine wire only one steak finished on into the ground. The other two streaks followed the wire around the triangle to the second base pine and the third base post then on down into the ground. The passing current had exploded the post, splitting it lengthwise into three or four sticks with the wire the only thing holding the upper end together. The longest wire to the east pine was no longer attached for lack of use when the lightning made it’s rounds, saving the eastern pine and possibly saving me from levitating completely away that night. I have often wondered if that is what ultimately led to second base’s demise. Or was it my nails?

I know pine trees were not indigenous to the area so their demise may have been predetermined upon planting them here. That aside they certainly flourished here for what had to be a long time given the girth and height of the trunks they’ve left behind. I’ve personally known them for over fifty years. Not counting the third base pine that we’d determined was killed by being wire girdled years earlier the second base pine was the first to show the symptoms of whatever killed the pine trees on this farm. The needles on the lower branches started to turn brown during the course of the year. At first I thought the culprit was a swing rope girdling the one branch so I sawed it off beyond where the swing was attached. Then the next one up showed the same symptoms.

Within a couple years the whole tree had succumbed to the browning needles. About that time the pine east of the house was starting to show brown needles on it’s lower branches. As was Dad’s tree up north on the hill by the headlands. Within a couple more years they were all dead. Today not a needle is left on any of the pine trees’ branches. Most of the trunks are missing bark. Owls and red tailed hawks still love to perch on the trees’ upper bows  even without the needles and maybe because the needles are missing. Occasionally I’ll see a turkey vulture or two on the one up north on the hill in the field, aka Dad’s tree. Last winter a couple of bald eagles were spotted more than once using that often utilized perch. One snow white on it’s head the other not so white.

Cc

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OK I lied. Three for three was correct in that I was finished planting corn on the bean stubble on farm number three. I finished the third farm in the dark with my lights on for the third time. Because for the third time I had a couple break downs. But never mind my breakdowns, I usually get over them before serious $#!t hits the fan, I was held up by a couple equipment breakdowns. After driving the 1466 and the JD 7000 Conservation planter up north of town I noticed while putting the drive chains back on the drive sprockets that I was missing a cast iron packer wheel. Funny, I never noticed that back on the west farm when I was taking the drive chains off to travel down the road. I wonder where that fell off at.

I had a spare conventional rubber tired packer wheel I keep around for emergencies so that was no delay really. But seven acres later when I just happened to glance back and witness the gauge wheel rolling to a stop and tipping over after falling off I didn’t have a spare with me. I thought I had one at home but that seven mile detour on the way to Avoca’s JD dealership for parts wasn’t much appreciated. Those two hours wouldn’t have kept me out of the dark but they would have got me done by ten. This year midnight seems the new norm and after planting a few times last year behind lights I can do it if I have to. I guess. Hello, my name is Cocreator and I f&ck f@t chicks. Lets get this meeting started. Any new members out there? Don’t be shy …….

Three for three stands correct given the context. Given that fact Four For Four should have been my next post. And it would have had I made it. Yesterday’s post would have had me bragging about finishing up planting corn along with breakdowns in the bean stubble on the fourth farm in the dark under lights. Barely but under lights. Or is that behind lights. Yes behind lights. Only the front two way up on the grill in front of the radiator work now. There were four working lights on the cardinal points of the roll cab when I bought it. But then the radio and air conditioning worked when I bought it. Come to think of it the seat wasn’t propped up on 4×4 blocks of wood when I bought it either. Man sh!t can go to hell in a hurry. How do they get away with selling this flimsy crap anyway.

In reality this post can be Four For Four since as of now the fourth farm is completely done. It all works out in the wash. Ew, don’t say wash, Gully. Yesterday I planted the twenty four acres of corn on corn on the farm north of the interstate. Also known in this piece as the fourth farm. Come to think of it it was the fourth farm I started farming. Any who after finishing up the fourth farm I headed back and planted about thirty three acres of corn on corn on the third farm. Three For Three farm for this piece. (Maybe for the whole year) I saw thunderstorms approaching from the west as the sun went down so I bailed and ran the seed home to shelter from the rain in the shop. We were dodging it until around midnight here at home but when the stay at gone mom came home and we ran back up north of town it had already rained and was sprinkling still so I called it a night. That’s two nights in a row I was done by ten thirty. Not bad for planting season. At all.

I could get used to this.

Then, there …….

Cc

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1440

There’s no time like the present. This is the 1440 story.

Last summer as I was reading the classified section in a monthly newspaper titled Iowa Farm And Ranch Statewide Edition I came across a classified ad for an IH 1440 combine with a lot of new parts. Had since new. Always shedded. In excellent condition and ready to go to the field. Priced at $4,000.00 American Dollars. I remember thinking that sounded like a good buy.

A few weeks passed and I still hadn’t called on the ad. As a matter of fact I could no longer find my copy of that month’s edition. A week later the next month’s edition came in the mail. I made a point of putting the paper where I wouldn’t lose it until I found the time to call the phone number listed on the ad. By the time I was done putting up hay there was more than a combine in the paper I was interested in. A New Idea double basket hay rake listed had caught my eye. If it was what I thought it was the price looked cheap. The combine ad I was looking for was gone but another ad for a 1440 that said new price $2,7oo, if not sold by July 15 will part out good unit or lots of excellent parts. Procrastination pays???

I made the calls and arranged the itinerary. One day I would journey out to Nebraska to look at the rakes. The next day I would journey up to east of Sioux City to look at the combine. It was quite a drive out into Nebraska. The rakes weren’t what I thought but they looked like they were still in good condition so I bought them. One was a right hand rake and one was a left hand rake. One had a longer hitching tongue than the other so they would pull staggered to not miss the narrow strip between them had they not been staggered and overlapped. They both were hydraulically driven instead of ground driven. Both hooked to a three point toolbar that they trailed behind.

The next day after getting directions from the farmer’s wife I headed up to see the combine. I left without the cell phone my wife offered to send with me. I left without the directions the lady had given me. So I simply wandered north by west through the countryside on the back roads until I crossed highway 20 east of Sioux City.  That much I remembered from the directions I had written down. I also remembered it was two miles south of the old highway 20 that could be seen from the new highway 20. I had also remembered that they lived about twenty miles east of Sioux City and the farmstead had two upright silos near the road by the other out buildings.

When I had found highway 20 I headed west until I came to the twenty mile mile marker. Sure enough I could see the old highway 20 pavement from the new highway 20.  I drove the two miles on south of the old 20 and started heading back west. Then back tracked east to the place I’d started two miles south of old 20. Then on east looking all the while for two silos. There were a lot of farms with two silos but none were along that stretch of road. So I tried the roads a mile north and a mile south of the one I’d been searching. Eventually I came across the local mail carrier. At last I thought, this guy will know everybody in the area, it’s his job to know.

He’d never heard of any Wilcoxes in this area. However he had heard of some one town over. (I say one town but what he meant was in the next town’s rural delivery route) He gave me a rough description of how to get to the house he thought it was. When I got there and saw the two silos I thought this has to be it. It wasn’t but the guy there had heard of Gary and knew where he lived. Even though one of the houses he told me to turn at was no longer there I could tell it had been a farmstead at one time by the windbreak still standing across on the other side of the road. When I pulled into the farmstead I’d been directed to the lady was out in the garden just like she’d said she would be.

She called her husband and said he would be by shortly and proceeded to direct me out to the shed that the combine had always been shedded in. When my eyes had adjusted to the dim light I couldn’t believe them. This sucker still looked like new. The tires were like new. The chains and belts all looked like new. It had a chaff spreader attached. I had already decided to buy it if it ran like new.

When he showed up Gary assured me it did. He said that even though he hadn’t bought it brand new he had bought it two years old with only 800 hours on it and yes it had always been shedded. He went on to tell me he had run a rock through it so insurance had bought him a new rotor and concaves. (the parts that do the actual threshing) he further told me it had a new motor installed not that many hours ago. The hydrostats had been replaced with new ones. The final drives had been rebuilt. I could see the unloading augers had been replaced. He had converted the header height control from the old cable actuated to an electric over hydraulic actuated one.

I was basically buying a new combine for $2700 dollars. We began talking and had he not had hay to bale I think we could have talked the rest of the day away. He and his wife were very personable. I felt like I’d known them all my life after a couple hours. But he had work and I had driving to do so after I’d written the check we parted company. I tried to find a route home that I could drive the machine on without overtaxing the hydrostats along the way. Western Iowa can have some very steep hills to climb and I wanted to avoid the worst of them if I drove it home.

By seven or so I was still lost and getting very tired. When I rolled into Logan Iowa from a direction I’d never driven before I was at least on familiar ground. Logan is the county seat for Harrison County, one of the counties I farm in and home of the USDA’s Farm Service Center where we sign up for the government cheese. (Farm Program) I whipped the pickup into a parking stall outside one of the watering holes I stop at when I’m in that town. I had a few drinks with the locals and caught up on the local gossip. Then I had a few more when the rounds were being bought faster than I could drink them. When the bartender suggested I get a room instead of trying to drive home I was all for it. I had nearly fallen asleep driving as it was before I’d even had a drink.

When I went back to hauling hay the next morning a friend showed up and said the stay at gone mom was calling every sheriff between home and Sioux City looking for me. It’s OK if she stays at gone but let me slip off the radar just once …….

I used my little cream puff to harvest all the crops last fall. I only climbed into the 1460 to move it out of the way and to park it in the barn at home for the winter. Along with the five row head I’d bought from the rake guy. It will become my new home made six row head this summer. I bought another four row head for the parts I need to make the transition.

I went back and bought a couple of Lundell gravity box wagons from Gary and towed them home with the pickup. I could only drive twenty five miles an hour towing them. That’s when I decided to have the combine hauled home by a professional trucker. The five hundred dollars it cost wouldn’t go far buying another new hydrostat if I wore it out driving it all the way home.

This post is way longer than I thought it would be. Sorry about that. I’ll tell you the story about the original home made six row corn head some other time. When I have more time/room.

See you then, see you there.

Cc

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The Nice

Planters have been rolling in the neighborhood. The usual suspects. I suspect they were getting antsy to start. I rolled mine out of the barn over on the west farm after getting the 1440 with the home made six row corn head backed out of the way (remind me to tell you the 1440 story sometime) (maybe the corn head story too). And the two bush hog wagons. It’s getting it’s first washing of the season. April showers after all. All while waiting for the trucker to show up.

We had a good rain today. As in nice and easy. It was spotty showers and every drop soaked in. So did the semi. I wondered yesterday when he mentioned something like truck driver’s school. He suffers from pavementitus. Or is it a pavementality. Either way he needs to stay on a solid surface. The stay at gone mom gave him a ride in the rain back to the boss’s where he’d parked his ride to work. Stuck in the muck. What the truck.

I’m spotting it in. Just like the showers. The corn price not the semi truck. The local grain merchandisers give a spot price everyday at the close of the board of trade for all the bushels “spotted in”  or delivered without a sales contract that day. It’s more or less based on shipping costs and board of trade contracts for the nearest month. Each location determines their own.

We started hauling corn into the RR terminal at Council Bluffs yesterday afternoon. About the time the neighbors started to plant. Or restarted, some had run Saturday and Sunday. Right alongside the Easter Bunnie. Rain Sunday night shut em down. Looked plenty wet where they were planting the way it was. Reports are that the ground has warmed right on up into the sixties. I wonder if it will stay that way. They say it needs to be around that temp to get corn to germinate. The clearing seventy degree day they predicted today never did clear off or get  above the fifties. I think fifty is all the warmer the ground gets down deeper around here. Without sun keeping the top warm the 4 inch depth could cool right back down. Night temps chill right back down too.

Not much more to report. The cows are still burning hay though they go looking for greening grass to nip in the bud. I swear if they knock down the pasture fence one more time I may call the cattle truck. Let that pasture grow gol darn it. They don’t know how thin the ice their skating on is. Now that I mentioned it …….

I’m skating on outta here.

Cc

And of course …….

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Hauling

Rain. Good. Good rain.

But not before six more bulls sorted themselves. I quickly loaded them up and hauled them off to the sale barn.

This morning when I got up and looked outside it hadn’t rained. I decided to give the cattle a second bale of hay. I’ve been feeding them only one bale at a time for a few weeks because once it warmed up they started wasting too much hay. They were only half done with the bale I had given them last evening. I decided that another bale was timely if it was going to rain since I hate slopping around in the mud to hay them and by evening again they would need another bale. While I was driving by the cattle pens (I’m haying them out in a corn stubble field) I noticed the two herd bulls that are there to breed the cows were in the pen following a cow in heat that was trying to lick the mineral blocks I feed there. A few other younger bulls were tagging along for sloppy seconds. I jumped out of the tractor and swung the gate shut to lock them in.

After I finished haying cattle I unloaded the rest of the hay from the flatbed trailer so I could unhook it from the pickup truck and hook up the stock trailer. I threw a small square hay bale into the catch pen to coax the group in. A few cows and calves were swept up into the catch pen with the bulls and heating cow. They sorted out quite easily since the whole bunch was busy with lunch and not really aware of what was going on. I ran up to the house and asked the stay at gone mom to help me run the bulls up the loading chute. The last six bulls I had loaded were a lot smaller and I had barely been able to get them pushed into the trailer. I needed her to stand outside the chute and give them a little shock on the butt to get them up into the trailer while I stayed in the back of the column and kept pushing them towards it. Mine is a rather dangerous job given that cattle can kick backward very hard. I was fortunate. I was only kicked once and it wasn’t that hard.

Once I had them loaded and the truck and trailer were back up on the gravel pointed towards the road I was safe from rain and the mud that goes with it. I backed the rig up to a drop cord and plugged in the air compressor I keep in the truck box. It’s a thirty gallon tank with an electric built in pump. I like to have extra air out on the road in case I need it to get to the next town should a tire start to leak. I grabbed my hat and a cup of honey tea and we were off to Dunlap, the earliest sale in the area coming up on Tuesday. On the road again …….

On the way to Dunlap I remembered the first batch of calves I had sold way back some 28 years ago. Probably because they were sold at Dunlap also. Back then I hired a trucker to haul the calves the day before the sale. When I went up to watch the calves sell I noticed after passing the last town along the way that I was running very low on gas in my car. Having left my wallet at home I had no way of buying gas. With seven miles to go to Dunlap I began parking the car and walking the ditches for empty beer and soda cans. Here in Iowa we have a nickle deposit on each one. I would go about a half mile at a time and walk up one side and down the other side of the road throwing cans into an old box I had found in the trunk.

I wish I had left earlier. I waited quite a time on the bleachers watching calves sell hoping to see mine. When the killer cows started selling I went to the office to see if mine had sold. The cattle had sold by the time I arrived at the sale barn and they had my check waiting when I walked into the office. It was almost as much money as I had paid for the cow/calf pairs the year before. And I still had the moms. Maybe these cows were worth the effort after all. Maybe my old man was right. Livestock was farming, growing crops was glorified gardening. I pocketed the check and have never looked back.

What I did look for was a service station that would take all those empty cans. Here I was with a multi thousand dollar cattle check but no gas money, both feast and famine. Dunlap isn’t that big of town. I finally had to explain to a gas station proprietor what had happened, showed him my calf check and convinced him I wasn’t trying to con him. He seemed to think I had too many cans for that stretch of highway.  I was a little in awe myself as to how many cans there are along the roads. I had a trunk full and a few on the back seat floor. I think the rest went to a HyVee store to buy beer.

This isn’t what I had planned for a Sunday but then I’m not allowed to follow my plans anyway. Something better always comes up. That’s OK, plans are tentative at best anyway. I had planned on getting the two breeding bulls out of the herd a couple weeks ago so I wouldn’t have cows calving in January next winter. Hopefully those two weeks will be during our January thaw. Sometimes His plans, no every time, His plans are better than mine. Have a great Sunday even if your plans don’t pan out. As long as the gold does it will be alright.

If you’re at the Dunlap sale barn Tuesday …….

See you then, see you there.

Cc

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