Farm Horizons, February 1999

Watch out for aliens while baling hay

By Sue Fink

Once, through a freak accident and no fault of mine, I managed to break the windshield of my car.

For several weeks, I had to stare at this embarrassing blemish every time I drove my car before it was finally corrected by a windshield repair company. No, the man did not leave a box of steaks. I was happy enough just to have my window restored. This eliminates having to answer embarrassing questions.

That wasn't the case several years ago when I broke the glass in both tractor cab doors on the 7000 Ford tractor. The broken glass stayed there long enough so my husband, Tom, could point at it and say, "Yeah, my wife did that."

Something always seems to happen just about the time I am congratulating myself about how well things are going. The tractor cab disaster occurred when I was still relatively new to tractor driving. Of course, I was doing one of my favorite jobs, baling hay.

When I first started baling, I really had to concentrate on where I was driving so I would pick up all the hay with the baler. Sometimes, I would kind of forget about the turn I would have to make at the end of the field, and at the last minute, I would realize it and turn frantically to the right. Whoops, there's another pile of hay I left laying in the field.

I was driving around the field, trying to pay attention to everything at once. I was beginning to get the hang of it. If I didn't do a perfect job, at least it was tolerable. The only thing left to do was to bale the outside round on the field.

To be honest, the outside round could be kind of tricky for me. It required driving the opposite way to pick up the hay, turning to the left, instead of the right. Of course, I was watching the hay, and not the branches of the overhanging trees next to the hay field.

Every once in a while a branch would clatter across the top of the cab, or even scrape along the front window. Of course, sitting high up in the cab, I thought I was safe from any harm. Not so for the glass in the cab door nearest the tree line.

Because it was a hot day, the doors on the tractor were open. When I was out in the middle of the field this was not a problem. No trees to hit. Looking back, it amazes me that I did not anticipate what was going to happen.

Suddenly a branch snapped back and struck the door. The glass in the lower part of the door shattered ever so nicely, but did not fall out.

At times like this, I am always at a loss for words. I am usually thinking, "What I am going to tell Tom."

Would he believe a creative lie? Aliens swooped down to get a closer look at the tractor and baler and broke the window with the ultrasonic exhaust from their spacecraft. A deer jumped out of the woods and broke the window with its huge rack of antlers. Or, my personal favorite, the baler pitched a rock forward and it broke the window.

No, at times like this, honesty is the best policy. Tell the truth and tell it quick. It's like swallowing bad-tasting medicine fast so you don't have to taste it.

Naturally, Tom could not believe that I didn't even think to shut the door before I drove around the edge of the field. After all, it was common sense. Where have I heard that before?

The glass managed to stay in the door, so there was no need to take it in to be fixed immediately. After all, other hay fields were waiting to be baled.

A few days later, I was baling on a field that we rented from a neighbor. Once again, I got down to where I was driving near the edge of the field. Once again, the tractor doors were open. I was thinking about shutting the doors before I got too close to any trees.

At this point you may wonder, in light of my previous experience, why didn't I just stop the tractor and shut the doors? I wonder about that, too. Maybe it is just my mission in life to find work for glass-repair people.

I saw a small sapling coming up and I thought I could just squeak by. I slowed the tractor way down and tried to inch by the tree. That sneaky tree reached out and grabbed the very tip of the door. I stopped to consider the situation. If I tried to back up, the door might break. If I tried to drive forward, the door might break. I decided that if I would ease slowly by, I would make it. Not so.

As I crept past the tree, the door was pulled back like a slingshot preparing to fling a rock. As I cleared the tree, the door hurtled forward and crashed shut, smashing the glass in the door.

There was one thing Tom had to admit - at least the doors were a matched set now. Eventually, I had the pleasure of hauling the doors over to the glass repair shop with instructions to tell them who it was that had broken them.

On the way, I wondered if they had ever heard of a rock flying up from a baler and breaking a tractor cab window. Or maybe they believe in aliens?

See Sue Fink's other writings in our columns section

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