I’ve been away for a little while. I’ve been in North Carolina meeting my nephew, Minnesota floating on a lake, the capital city taking care of important business (and shopping) matters.
I’m back at the farm now with the boys, preparing for harvest. A lot of preparation is needed for something like harvest: Change the oil on all the combines, set the sieves, fill up gas tanks, clean out cabs and truck beds, learn how to operate the new grain cart, stock the fridge with sandwich meat, watch the sky for dry weather, and the list goes on. Today, we moved combines, headers and trucks 20 miles to our furthest northwest field, with hopes set high to start tomorrow.
Let me tell you, things are not the same as they used to be.
When we used to move our harvest equipment, we used to make full use of highways, gravel roads, and whatever was the most convenient to move combines with 30-foot-wide headers attached, no problem. We might be passed by a pickup or two or the occasional semi, or we might meet nothing at all. We drove through town, we had entire highway lanes to ourselves, and we never used pilot cars. Western North Dakota was a whole lot of wide open space.
That was back then.
This is now. The oil field has made 20 miles seem a whooooole lot longer. And I’m telling you, it is not a job for the faint of heart. Today, I moved a combine that didn’t even have a header attached, and it was still quite a thrill. If you want to see angry men, just take up an entire lane of an oil field highway and force dozens of semis and pickups to drive 19 miles an hour behind you, unable to pass because of steady oncoming traffic. You will get middle fingers. You will get honks and glares. (You will also generally ignore them because your machine is bigger than their machine, and there is nothing you can do about the 19 mph.) However, you can’t ignore all of them, and some can get pretty ornery. Last year, one of us overheard someone at a convenience store say confidently, “Farmers and their equipment just don’t belong in oil field traffic.”
Hey. We were here first, buddy.
Anyway, this all reminds me of country singer Craig Morgan’s song from a few years back, “International Harvester.” My dad and I used to laugh about it and watch the video on Youtube. Some of the lyrics go like this:
“Three miles of cars laying on their horns,
Falling on deaf ears of corn,
Lined up behind me like a big parade
Of late-to-work, road-raged jerks,
Shouting obscene words, flipping me the bird.”
“Well I know you got your own deadlines,
But cussin’ me ain’t saving no time;
This big-wheeled wide load ain’t going any faster
So just smile and wave and tip your hat
To the man [or GIRL] up on the tractor.”
The song is a little obnoxious, but we can relate. For one thing, we also drive Case IH (International Harvester) combines. The video even features the same model of combine that we ran for years, which I first learned to operate at age 12. We’ve upgraded since then, so the difference between our operation and the song is that we go a little faster these days. But not much. The only other big difference is instead of three miles of cars following me, it’s three miles of scoria-colored tanker semis and jacked-up pickups.
It’s just one more adjustment we have to make as we welcome the chaos of progress. But someone has to feed America, so we’re going to keep pluggin’ along in the Case International Harvesters, and hopefully for the sake of safety, we can all share the roads.
Here’s the video. See you out there.