Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Of Tractors and Field Roads...

As previously mentioned, I worked on a farm for several years.  Well, the fact of the matter is that I grew up on a farm and my dad quit farming when I was in high school.  Apparently after that, I just couldn't bear the thought of not doing farm work and had to work on a different farm in the area.  Most of my terrible stories go with that farm as I was then old enough to make the terrible decisions that are so often associated with being 16 - 23 years of age.  And as many decisions I made that proved to be less than fortuitous, this actually involves a fellow worker on that farm.  His name was Aaron, and he was the most reckless of the lot of us idiotic kids on this farm.

On this particular farm, we had many tractors and one of the training tractors was the mighty Ford Jubilee we had.  You see, not everyone knows how to drive a tractor and you need one with very little destructive power to give teenagers to learn on.  The Joob was that tractor for us.  It was small, but still had enough power to haul various forms of equipment and trailers all about the country side.  So, on this particular day, Aaron was to take the Mighty Joob out and use it with an inverter (an attachment that inverted windrows of hay to aid in the drying process).  Aaron set out to the top of a hill toward some hay that was in desperate need of turning over.

Meanwhile, I had to go to a different field area with one of the trucks and went to do whatever chore it was that needed to be done.  It doesn't really matter what it was I was doing, it could have been frog stomping for all I know (please note: it wasn't frog stomping or badger smashing or any sort of animal pulverizing at all).  What matters was that the chore involved me driving on a trail that took me directly past Aaron's inversion.

As I happened upon the field of hay that was noticeably turned over, I saw Aaron bouncing merrily along on the Jubilee.  I saw that he was going a little faster than advised on the tractor, but as I said before, he was the most reckless on the farm and therefore it fit his style.  Now, it should be noted that I said "faster than advised" because the Jubilee had a rear tire that possessed too few nuts.  You see, several of the bolts which the nuts were attached to had been stripped of threading over the years and it was down a couple (most of them).  Therefore, trundling along at top speed over uneven ground was a bad idea when the rear wheel had a habit of coming off rapidly.  I suppose you've figured out now where this is going...

I navigated the truck along the drive parallel to Aaron's path and there was quite a lot of tall grass between the two of us (along with a fence).  So what I saw unfold was the following set of events over the course of maybe 10 seconds.

Aaron and the crest of the tractor's fenders bounced along roughly in the field (that was all I could see over the grass) out of the corner of my eye.  Suddenly, nothing was there in my field of vision.  I brought the truck to a grinding halt on the gravel path, knowing that something wasn't right when Aaron popped up from behind the grass like a whack-a-mole dummy.  He made the briefest of eye contact with me, then turned and ran to his right at breakneck speed after something.  I hadn't the foggiest what was going on, but by this point I had turned off the truck and put it in park and was now halfway out the door, standing to look over the top of the truck (I wasn't going to help Aaron, but I knew whatever was happening needed to be seen from a good vantage point).  Aaron hit a patch of grass that was about waist high and I noticed something else was making a path through the grass just ahead of him, but I couldn't see what.  Aaron found the ground rapidly and involuntarily, arms and legs akimbo, tripping over god knows what in that tall grass (probably a smashed badger) and whatever was ahead of him stopped as well.

Now that this was all finished, I had a second to take stock in the situation.  I glanced back a few feet and saw what appeared to be a Ford Jubilee sans one rear tire.  And it all started to make sense.

You see, Aaron had been driving the tractor too fast when the wheel decided it had enough of this hard labor and opted for break time.  It broke free from the shackles of "The Man" and went on its own path.  A path that led directly to a fence that was holding cows into a pasture.  Aaron, meanwhile, had followed gravity's path and taken a digger off the tractor.  He did have the wherewithal to realize the wheel was now not only doing a piss-poor job of being on a tractor, but was also heading toward a fence.  A fence that Aaron would have to fix if anything should happen to it.  So, Aaron took off in a dead sprint after the wheel through the weeds trying to stop this from happening.  A bit of flattened woodland creature later and he was on the ground.  Luckily for him, wheels are notoriously quick to give up, and the wheel decided to take a nap in what it presumed was Narnia instead of breaking through barriers (literally and metaphorically).

I traversed the small space between the truck and the accident scene to turn the still running tractor off.  Aaron was still down, more out of shame than injury (I assumed, anyway).  I could see two very clear entry points into the thick growth, so I followed one and came upon the Che Guevara of wheels.  Aaron sprang up once again, but this time less purposefully.  I helped him drag the wheel back up, gave him a ride to the barn, and let him explain what had happened to our boss as I set out to demolish more animals smaller than me (or whatever it was I had been trying to do before).

And that, my friends, is how we inspired the movie Rubber.