May 29, 2020


• By John F. Chisholm •

Memory is something I took for granted for years.

That was a mistake.  I see that now.  The more I rely on it, the more I miss it.

Mowing is a good example of the issues involved.  There’s a lot of it on this farm.  If you’re going mowing, it makes a great deal of sense bringing a thermos or canteen of water with you.  Mowing can be dry, dusty work.  I’ve even bolted a stainless steel beaker to the tractor’s fender as a cup holder.  Unfortunately ― or fortunately depending on your point of view, the season and the outside temperatures ― there’s no running water in the garage.  That building has the carport attached.  That, in turn, is where I store the International 656 diesel.  That’s the machine I use the most frequently, mowing.

Alas!  There’s quite a list of items to be checked prior to heading out and getting to work.

Of course, there’s the engine oil.  The International doesn’t burn much ― in fact it’s a very clean running machine ― but it can overheat.  Usually that’s a symptom of low engine oil combined with hay coating the radiator.  Together, these two exacerbate any overheating issue.  The tractor evaporates coolant as it grows hotter.

That doesn’t help.

The result?  I always check the oil and the radiator for fluid levels before using it.  Usually I run an air hose from the garage to the tractor, blowing the radiator clear of chaff, grass seed, leaves and even insects sucked into the cooling matrix by the fan.  You’d be startled how much is blown clear.

I do all that before I grease the machine.  There are twenty-five grease nipples on the International, two more on the mower’s driveshaft and two on the mower, itself.  They all need attention on a regular basis.  I’m serious.  Farm machinery is expensive.  Ignore any of this at your peril ― at the machine’s peril, too.   Forgetting any of it hits you in the pocketbook.   Quickly.  Very quickly.

Seriously, mowing is work.  It’s hard on the machine.  It takes a lot of power.  I don’t begrudge the tractor the attention but it all takes time.  Usually I do all this while the tractor idles, warming up.

Yes, it burns diesel fuel, too.  I have an auxiliary fuel tank installed in the Dodge.  The truck’s batteries run a transfer pump.  Odds are that I’ll fuel the tractor as well.  That’s before I check the transmission.  Really.  There’s a dipstick for transmission oil, not just engine oil.  The power steering is hydraulic, using the transmission fluid as its reservoir.  Lose that and you’ll notice it, I promise.  Maneuvering that tractor without power steering all but dislocates your shoulders.

Don’t misunderstand.  None of this is extraordinary, unusual or unwarranted on any tractor.  I’m not saying that.  It’s just that all this is part of the job; mowing.  I’ll go farther, everything listed above simply has to be done.  On top of that, while this checklist never grows any shorter, it can easily expand.  Are any of the tires slack?  Perhaps the fuel filters need attention?  Did I have trouble starting it yesterday?   Are any wires loose?  And so on.

Calling all this ‘routine maintenance’ doesn’t remove any importance.  No.  Not a bit.

This being the case, what’s the point?

It’s just that invariably, unerringly, after getting all this accomplished, I head out mowing only to discover that, once again, I’ve forgotten to bring water for the operator.

I throw my hands into the air.

Memory.  I can’t take it for granted anymore.