Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Punctured Tire

My butt felt like ground hamburger after 14 hours in the tractor saddle late on that Sunday afternoon as I crawled across the pasture behind the house. It was shreddin' time, which in my prior life I would have called "mowing the grass". When you've got 100 acres to mow, though, a Snapper just won't cut it (literally), so you've got to upgrade to one of those tractors with giant rear wheels and a huge deck on the back containing twin whirling blades of death.

I was tired, sweaty, dirty, and in a foul mood from getting jostled around like a drunk rodeo clown in a barrel at the Running of the Bulls. Shredding the back part of our property is like driving a car over a field of speed bumps. Making it worse, Annie and Jill had been riding the horses over the hill and I'd see them, laughing and cutting up, while I was strapped to this instrument of torture all weekend.

So like I said, I was in a really foul mood, when IT happened.

The "POW!!" was so loud that for a brief second I thought I'd been shot quicker than a lawyer on a quail hunting trip. Then I whipped around, panicked that I'd somehow torn lose one of the hydraulic lines powering the bucket and shredding deck. Slamming on the brakes and cutting off the engine let me hear a far more dreadful sound, though -- an insidious hissing. With a heavy heart I looked back and, sure enough, one of the large rear tires was slowly sagging.

The last thing the guy at the rental place had said before I pulled away was "Whatever you do, don't puncture one of the rear tires unless you know how to fix it. We don't give refunds and we don't repair tires, that's your job."

Do I know how to repair a giant torture-device-supporting rear tractor tire in the middle of a field out on the far edge of nowhere? Uh, no. So I just stood there for a minute like an idiot, staring at the flattened lump of rubber, wondering what in the name of tarnation I was supposed to do now.

Of course the first thing you do when a tire goes flat, much like when you trip on something, is to look around for what might've done it. I don't know what that's supposed to accomplish, although in my case I'm pretty sure I was going to kick whatever it was. The most I could find was a stick, though. I still don't know what popped that tire, but I figure "God hates me" is as good an answer as any.

In disgust, I stomped the hundred yards to the back gate. Yes, I stomped like a two year old. I went into the house, got the truck keys, and stomped all the way down the driveway to where the truck and trailer were parked. I'd get the damn tractor on the trailer somehow, I figured, and get it back to town for somebody else to fix. Either that, or I'd ram the truck into the tractor over and over, whichever way was fine with me.

I opened the door, jumped in the truck, jammed the key into the ignition, ready to peel off in disgust and ... realized I'd gotten the wrong set of keys.

Getting a tight grip on my temper, I slowly walked back to the house. I got the right set of keys. I double-checked the keys before walking out the door. I slammed the door. So much for keeping control of my temper.

Finally getting the truck started, I positioned the rig with a well-executed ninety point turn. Stupid tree and bush and WHY IS THE GATE RIGHT THERE?!!? After displaying my driving acumen, I finally got the truck pointed down the driveway and headed to the gate. Looking in the rear view mirror, I was treated to the sight of the two ramps at the back of the trailer flapping up and down as they bounced off the ground.

Crap. I'd forgotten to lock the ramps in place before whipping out. Great.

Slamming the door shut after pinning them in place, I finally got out into the field where the tractor slumped. I glared at it. "This is your fault, you know!" I shouted at it. I think I hurt its feelings but at that point I didn't care. I walked to the back of the trailer to let the ramps back down so I could pull the crippled machine onto it and ...

One of the ramps was down again. With no pin holding it in place. With no pin anywhere in sight.

I looked back over the hundred yards to the gate. That tiny little metal pin could be on the ground anywhere between me and beyond the gate. It was dusk. The grass was high. I wear glasses. The chances of me finding that stinking pin at any point in my lifetime were about as good as the chances of Clay Aiken going steer wrestling.

It was one of those very clarifying moments. There I stood, covered in dirt and grime from shredding, a punctured-tire tractor steaming behind me, missing a pin without which I couldn't drag myself to town to have some other man fix a tire I was incompetent to repair, butt feeling like hamburger from the constant jostling as I mowed a field of speed bumps, and I just laughed.

What else can you do?

So I started walking back toward the gate, eyes glued to the ground, figuring if I couldn't find the pin on the way back I'd keep walking, get a beer, and I'd just wait for the truck, tractor and trailer all to sink right into the ever-loving ground.

And wouldn't you know it? Not three steps later, there lay the pin, right in a clear spot between two clumps of grass, just as pretty as you please.

I got the pin in, the ramp down, the tractor up, and the tire repaired the next morning by Willie the One-Armed Volunteer Fireman (that's a story for another day). I was only out $10 for the tire repair, and the rental place didn't even charge me for being late after I told them my tale of woe.

Sometimes, all you can do is laugh and get on with the business of gettin' on. I hope I don't ever forget that lesson.

Of course I also haven't been on a tractor since then. I'm optimistic, but I ain't stupid.


Denise said...

Jeff, my heart's bleeding for ya, bro! You did such a great job explaining your day from hell! And it ended up costing $10 and no late fee. Pretty good! What did puncture that tire?


John said...

yeah, what the hell *did* puncture the tire? Inquiring minds want to know!

Jeff Hebert said...

I don't know what caused the puncture, really. Looking back over the general area a few weeks ago I did see a half-buried small cedar stump, that might've been it. But at the time I really couldn't find anything that seemed likely.

I'll probably find out next time I shred and pop ANOTHER tire in the same spot :-/

Jill Phenix Avila said...

It's Karma. you had great Karma for way too it was bound to catch up to you.. does the Office come on after this???