Monday, March 30, 2009

Shovels and Tractors (February 20th, 2007) Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Lately I have been reminded what it takes to live in rural Minnesota. You have to have snow removal equipment in addition to a rusty shovel or two. Everyone (even my mother) owns a shovel that they use to move some snow around. These come in several sizes and styles. There is the back breaking, short handled grain scoop. This implement can hold enough snow to make a small car disappear until April with this just a few shovels. There are metal shovels that are virtually worthless because the snow just slides off the flat shiny square – they have a Charlie Brown quality to them. There are those that are shaped like a small plow when you just want to push instead of shovel. I have also noticed the ones with the S curved handle that are supposedly easier on your back – that assumes of course that you leave it leaning against the wall of the garage.

But, if you have a large driveway, or a long sidewalk – you need some horsepower. As is my style – I like to experiment with various scenarios. I have however resisted hanging a plow on the front of my pick-up truck – it always seemed like an advertisement for work that you didn’t want - such as plowing everyone’s driveway in a five mile radius.

When we bought the hobby farm I obtained a tractor at an auction - because I thought if you have a barn you should have a tractor. It was a 1943 John Deere A that just about killed me. It was a big as a circus elephant with a narrow front that made me think I was riding a large tippy tricycle. To start it required spinning a large flywheel with one hand while pushing the starting button with the other. This usually failed to start it on the first seventy-three tries. By then I had lost all feeling in my left arm and was ready for the insane asylum.

On the rare occasion when it did start - which was usually preceded by a visit from Bruce the mechanically inclined neighbor – I would almost freeze to death. As I sat up in the tractor (approximately ten feet in the air) I was exposed to all of nature’s fury. If there was a wind, I would catch every bit of it. After a few hours of mixing snow, gravel, grass and dirt into unsightly piles purposely placed around the yard, I would back the tractor into the barn. With limbs as stiff as boards, I would fall to the barn floor frozen, and then walk like a wooden man to the house where I would bathe in hot chocolate.

I replaced that with another piece of equipment. This gem was a 30 year old skid loader that I purchased from a friend of mine in the landscape business. For the first few years it seemed to do a tolerable job, but then things started to go out on it. I spent the necessary time and money on it over several years until I had just about run out of both. I finally broke down (as was the style of the tractors) and purchased a new piece of equipment. I can now attach the bucket and plow to the tractor, start it – do my snow removal routine – and park it in the barn (I still fall frozen to the floor, though not as far). Although, I do all of this in less time that it took me not to get the other tractors started, I still miss the struggle – it helped keep me warm.

No comments:

Post a Comment