Our four-year-old grandson does his part to herd the cattle down the road by waving his cap in order to encourage them along. His dad takes a bit more active approach as he runs along behind the critters!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Long Way From the Heart

A few years ago a farming peer who owns and runs all new equipment noticed the amount of grain John had hauled to the elevator during wheat harvest and said, “You sure get a lot done with what you have to work with.”  That statement could be interpreted a number of different ways, most of them unflattering.  But the fact of the matter is that John really does get a lot done and spends less money doing it than some. The fact that he’s often able to do his own mechanic work helps. 

But once in awhile Farmer John does carry things too far.  Before he traded his last pickup in, both the right front headlight and the rear bumper were held to the body of the vehicle with baling wire. One afternoon I pulled into the filling station in my little red Ford Escape and the owner hurried over, bent his knees and pushed his head into the driver’s window.  We were eye to eye when he quickly looked to the right and to the left as though to check for eavesdroppers, and then said in an urgent whisper, “Linda, John needs a new pickup.”  

Like I hadn’t noticed. 

I went home and found my husband lying on his back under the old pickup, probably tying more things together with baling wire.  I said, “John for Pete’s sake, when the gas station man is trying to get me to use my influence to persuade you to buy a new pickup, it’s time to go truck shopping!”  A few weeks later he bought his new(er) truck. 

The New(er) Truck
We check cattle using this newest pickup which has less, shall we say, character than the other vehicles.  

Our second best pickup is named "The Trilobite" because the truck’s former owners owned a rock quarry, and had decorated the truck with decal of a trilobite (trilobites are fossilized skeletons of prehistoric creatures that lived in the depths of the ocean that covered Kansas millenniums ago, and these fossils are sometimes revealed when layers of rock are uncovered).  The decal is long gone, but the truck's nickname remains.  We use the Trilobite to haul the stock trailer because it has dual wheels in the back and handles loads well.  
The Trilobite
 During the years I was working as a teacher, I had few opportunities to ride in the Trilobite; and on sale day last week I found that this old diesel truck has developed a few new idiosyncrasies since I rode in it last. I discovered one of those when I was left waiting in the truck while Farmer John went to pick up his cattle check.  I used the electric window button to lower the driver's side window.  When John returned he muttered something under his breath and entered into a wrestling match with the window.  “It goes down, but it won’t come back up,” he said, as he nevertheless was able to use his pliers and the flat of his hand to force the window closed.  

A little while later I was looking for a pen, and I reached for the glove compartment.  I heard John make a sound of protest just as I released the latch.  “It opens, but it won’t close,” he said.  He leaned over, performed a series of maneuvers on the latch, and after a few minutes of struggle (which made me nervous because we were driving down the highway at 70 mph at the time) managed to get the door to stay closed. 

I like things that work the way they are supposed to, and John noticed the dissatisfied expression on my face.  He tilted his head to one side with the demeanor a of a college professor patiently explaining a difficult concept to a not-very-bright student, and said, “It is true that my vehicles aren’t new…”  I rolled my eyes. He ignored me and continued, “…but they are mechanically sound.  The window and the glove box are a long way from the heart.”  

I looked at him doubtfully.  

“Here’s my point,” he continued, “Windows, doors, and tires are just accessories.  The heart of the vehicle is the motor and transmission.  Those are sound.” 

He paused and then with a little less conviction added, “Hopefully.”  

We pulled into the cattle barn and John expertly backed the trailer to the chute and unloaded his cattle.  I heard one of the workers shout jovially, “Well here’s one trailer that’s bought and paid for!”  John just grinned at him and agreed.  

When he got back into the truck he was still smiling.  “You see, my trailer isn’t pretty but it serves the purpose, and that guy was exactly right.  It’s paid for.”  I looked back at the trailer and could see that the inside dividers had been liberally reinforced with baling wire.  

But hey, that’s a long way from the heart. 

1 comment:

  1. This might be my favorite post ever. I just read it again and found myself laughing (again). It captures Dad so perfectly...and I like the sentiment!