Two Men and a Tractor: The Curse of the Flat Tire

Some problems are as old as Farming. Man versus Rock. Man versus Stump. But since the combustion engine: Man versus Tractor. Here we chronicle the triumphs and failures of Mankind and the Tractors at the Long Shot Farm.

The Curse of the Flat Tire

Spring is a beautiful time on a farm.  Dormant plants begin to awaken, buds break through, and sleepy bulbs emerge from the ground.  The flowers are blooming and the grass is growing.  And so, the tractors at the Long Shot Farm are carted out and hooked up to their implements of cultivation to accomplish springtime chores like mowing, mulching, and general clean up.  But while Spring is a magical time of the year for the plants, it can be a tiresome time as one slowly discovers all of the needed tractor repairs that have accumulated over winter, as our Engineer acutely experienced not so many weeks ago…

Our story begins with the “rust colored tractor”.  It had been snugly parked all winter in the tractor shed, dreaming dreams of diesel and hydraulics, but it was time to hook the old girl up to the sprayer and take her out to the vineyard.  The Engineer gently backed the tractor out of the shed and realized the rear tire was leaking fluid.  Rear tractor tires are filled with liquid for weight and traction, often salted to avoid freezing. After some investigation, it became clear that the valve stem had broke off and a more professional repair was required.

The Farmer Called the Tire Man.

“I need a new rear tire inner tube.” Tire Man: “I’ll be by shortly.”

The Tire Man removed the faulty tire, drained the liquid, and took off the damaged tube.  It then became clear that the tire rim had rusted through, even more than the chic coat of rust the tractor usually sports. The Welder was summoned to fashion a new rim. After a few cuts from the angle grinder and some molten metal, in short order, the Welder and the Tire Man repaired the tractor and she was ready for work.

The next day, the Engineer happily drove the “rust colored tractor” to his house, about 1/2 a mile away, with the intention of attaching the mower. The sky was blue after the wet spring showers, so the lush grass was thick, and it is best, of course, to keep ahead of it. Merrily humming to himself atop the tractor while envisioning the mountains of hay to be made, there was water, water(?!), everywhere, but not drops you’d like to drink. The back rear tire….the same tire…was spraying fluid everywhere. With a brief curse against the Welder, whose fault it must be, the Engineer urgently pulled into his driveway to inspect. Clearly intending to be helpful, the tire had picked up a 12 inch adjustable wrench, a tool often needed for the tractor. Helpful though this may be, a tire should not pick up a 12 inch adjustable wrench by completely embedding it into itself. Yes, a wrench somehow, either from a perch near the tractor seat or from the road below, suddenly assumed the precise angle to successfully drive itself through the newly repaired tractor tire. This time the tire was completely ruined.

The Farmer Called the Tire Man.

“I need new rear tire.” Tire Man: “I’ll be by shortly.”

The next day, the Engineer, somewhat less happily, decided to take out the “blue colored tractor” from his house, and drive it over to the Winery and mow the vineyard. He successfully drove the blue tractor the half mile to the winery, and just completed his first loop about the vineyard when it became clear that the front tire was flat with a giant pencil sized hole in it. How did this happened? God only knows.

The Farmer Called the Tire Man.

“I need new front tire.” Tire Man: “I’ll be by shortly.”

With the “blue colored tractor” unavailable for mowing, our Engineer, decidedly scowling at this point, went to hook the “red colored tractor” up to the high lift. Though some might think it extravagant to have so many tractors, it is a rule of farming that however many tractors one might have, only one is currently working when the other two are needed, as our tale clearly demonstrates. In any case, if he couldn’t mow, at least he could use the high lift to move some of the excavation dirt, to fill-in wash-outs and ditches, and clean up around the place. The Engineer, for the fourth time in one week, on the third tractor, quickly discovered that yet another front tire was also flat.

The Farmer Called the Tire Man.

“I need…” Tire Man: “I’ll be by shortly.”

But the Engineer, tired himself, went to bed.

Two Men and a Tractor: The Auger

Some problems are as old as Farming. Man versus Rock. Man versus Stump. But since the combustion engine: Man versus Tractor. Here we chronicle the triumphs and failures of Mankind and the Tractors at the Long Shot Farm.

The Auger

On a small farm, one does not have large warehouses to hold all your tractor equipment. You have a fence row. A fence row is perfectly fine for storing your extra buckets, plows, discs, and augers, except for the weather, the weeds, the mice, and the rust. Now tarps can keep off the rain and snow, and cats can eat the mice, but with some implements, the ground is the enemy. Particularly for the auger.

The auger is an indispensable tool for the vineyard: it digs the holes cleanly through our slate ground for the end-posts that support the trellis. But to stand the auger for easy attachment the next time you need it on the tractor, you have to dig the bit into the ground. After a few years, your mighty auger becomes a rusty testament to the inevitable corruption of all things.

And so, to slow this creep of Time, our Engineer turned to our Welder, and told him, “Erect me a stand. Make it 4 cubits high, and 3 cubits long, and 2 cubits wide. Upon this stand we will hang our auger. The ground will not eat its metal, so that it may churn for years to come.” The Welder scrounged up the metal piping necessary to make this stand, that the auger may sit in the fence row without rusting. Wielding his lighting, he fashioned it together, and they gazed upon their handiwork pleased.

Except it seems that once one makes a suitable storage for a tool, the tool breaks anyways. For our hard slate ground of North Mountain is unforgiving, though it may yield a superior grape. The Master of All Things But One went looking for a new auger and once he settled upon a suitable tool, purchased it. Suitable except for the blade.

While the housing and assembly and blade were shiny and new, the tip of the blade was insufficient to pierce the hard slate ground as the Master desired. Yet there are no two pieces of metal, old or new, that cannot be made one by our Welder. Cutting off the old blade, and removing the new, a workable auger was formed. And this auger has a new home, to float about the ground in the fence row, waiting its turn to chew the earth and sink yet more posts for our fields.

Two Men and a Tractor: The Step

Some problems are as old as Farming. Man versus Rock. Man versus Stump. But since the combustion engine: Man versus Tractor. Here we chronicle the triumphs and failures of Mankind and the Tractors at the Long Shot Farm.

The Step

On a small farm, tractors do not simply fade away, are not simply tossed off when the lease is up. No, they are repaired, refurbished, rebuilt till their old bodies cannot take it anymore. Much like the farmers who drive them.

So in a county not far away, in a much simpler time, stood a modest white farm house, with a large old fashioned barn and a newish tractor, nestled in the middle of the rolling farmland on the side of an Allegheny mountain. It is here a young family moves to work the land and live the American life, and it is here that the journey between a 10 year old boy and a similarly aged tractor begins.

Times are good at the little farm on the mountain.  The boy learns to take care of the farm and the animals, and hunt the steep hollows of hickory and oak. The tractor is cared for and continues to be the reliable machine it was born to be. At the end of the day, the boy goes home to the white farmhouse with the wide front porch and the tractor putt putts back to the barn every night, safe and protected from the weather.  The tractor can count on having its oil changed when needs be, its lines checked, its parts replaced as wear gets to them. For the boy and his father knows a well maintained tractor is a companion for life.

The boy grows up.  A young farmer now, he goes to college to learn more deeply about the animals he loves to care for.  But while he is away, tragedy strikes the little farm on the mountain and the young farmer’s father dies.  The little farm begins to fall apart, parcels of land are sold and the tractor is sent away…away from his home, his young farmer, his family.

The tractor’s new home is not a pleasant one.  He is abused, driven into the ground, and neglected. His oil is not changed, his filters not cleaned. His hydraulics loose their strength. He spends each night outdoors, alone, wet, and rusting until finally, the tractor gives up.  He cannot move another inch, his engine cannot turn over.  Here the tractor rests, up an old dirt mountain road, miles from anywhere, for years.  Meanwhile the young farmer begins a new life in a new county, although still longing for his old friend and seeking farmland of his own.

The farmer, now no longer a young farmer, but with the demands of a family full of children, decides to track down his old friend. After following the chain of neglect, deep in the woods he discovers the deplorable state of his tractor, unable to run, and rescues him with a trailer.  The tractor travels across central PA to a new home.  But he is still in such a sad state, with a broken clutch and ancient fluids, and years of neglect showing wear on the outside.  But the farmer understands the true value within and begins the long, expensive, and painful process of restoring the now rusty tractor. For a tractor that is cared for is a companion for life.

Finally, after several mechanics and even a few crafty Mennonites, the old rusty tractor is running and ready to be useful. But even so the years drag on, and now the old farmer, also a victim of age, can no longer climb aboard his trusty old friend with the same spring in his step.

So, the Engineer and the Welder, sons of the old farmer, devise a plan, to once again allow the old farmer and the old tractor to work the land as one. It is as the riddle of the Sphinx: man starts his life on four legs, goes about his prime on two, but ends it with three. So now the tractor will have three steps for the farmer, rather than just two.


And this is because on a good farm, tractors are repaired, refurbished, rebuilt till their old bodies cannot take it anymore. Much like the farmers who drive them.

Two Men and a Tractor: The Cup Holder

Some problems are as old as Farming. Man versus Rock. Man versus Stump. But since the combustion engine: Man versus Tractor. Here we chronicle the triumphs and failures of Mankind and the Tractors at the Long Shot Farm.

The Cup Holder

It is hour seven. The sun is now high in the sky. Too high. And on the Rust colored tractor, there is no shade, no air-conditioning, because it was built in 1958 when “Real Men” worked the Earth. But there is still daylight, and there is still mowing to be done. Grass is high and weeds are working their way through. And the heat is beating down. So the Farmer feels a deep thirst, and reaches down to grab his Drink. But there is no Drink.  No. Drink. For there is no cup holder. Silently, the Farmer curses, raises his fist to the sky, but continues mowing. For there is still Sun in the sky, and still weeds that need to die.

The Farmer returns after the day is done, and finds his Welder, installing a muffler on one of the tractors. “Lars! We need a cup holder. For my thirst rages within me out in the field, and it demands satisfaction.”

Now on a Farmer’s tractor, one cannot just weld on any old cupholder. No, it needs to be large enough to hold both a jug and a mug, including handle. Jug for the afternoon, but coffee is always the order of the morning. So the Welder sauntered into the shed which houses the tools and all things that might be one day useful. After much rummaging, he found it. An old one quart Folgers coffee can: also somewhat rust colored. Now this coffee can is truly old, for it is metal, not plastic. Inside are the same 6 nails it had stoically guarded for the last three decades. “It will do,” muttered the Welder. Large enough for the mug or jug.

For such a delicate piece of metal, only precision TIG welding will do. By arcing from a tungsten tip a high wattage current, enveloped by a layer of argon gas, one can join together that which was made separate without fear of burning or oxidizing. But only when wielded by the skillful welder.

After the weld was made, the Farmer came to inspect. With but a glance and a nod, he muttered, “It will do.”

The next day, as the Farmer ventured back out to the fields in the Rust colored tractor, thermos firmly secured, the Welder looked on. “But that tire looks flat!”

And so goes the eternal battle of Man and Tractor.

Posted by Anja Weyant

Two Men and a Tractor: The High Lift

Some problems are as old as Farming. Man versus Rock. Man versus Stump. But since the combustion engine: Man versus Tractor. Here we chronicle the triumphs and failures of Mankind and the Tractors at the Long Shot Farm.

The High Lift

Our story begins on a beautiful Spring Saturday morning.  There is mulch to be spread and grass to mow.  The Farmer saunters out to the tractor shed after downing a fresh pot of coffee and a pan of scrapple, eager to get to the days work.  He reaches the Red Tractor, and a look of despair and consternation crosses his face.  He realizes he can’t put mulch in the mulch spreader.  There is no high lift.

Mulching in the vineyard is a two tractor endeavor.  One tractor has the mulch spreader in tow while the other tractor waits near the mountainous mulch pile with the high lift attached.  This tractor fills its bucket with mulch and dumps it into the spreader. The Farmer,  determination in his eyes, sits down at the kitchen table at the Long Shot Farm homestead.  Here he consults with the Master of All Things But One.

“Jeff”, he says, “we need a high lift.”

A tall, burley man, with a whiskery face and kind brown eyes grumbles, “Let me see what I can find.”

Days pass.  Fixing an old tractor is never a one purchase affair and the purchases made are never completely accurate.  But what can be found, will be made to work, through the thinking and brawn of our dear Aerospace Engineer and resident Apprentice Master Welder.

A used high lift made for the former model of the Red Tractor was found.  The high lift was in good condition but the brackets were made for a smaller tractor.  The brackets also had to come forward so the high lift could clear the front end of the tractor and the brackets were too high.

The Engineer puzzled over the situation and in a eureka moment, devised a plan to modify the high lift.  He discovered that only a few diagonal slices to the bracket of the high lift would simultaneously make the bracket bigger, bring the front of the high lift more forward and allow the entire lift to be lowered.  He communicated this plan the Welder.

With steady hands like a surgeon, the Welder sliced the metal, laid out the new angles with precision, and gently braided the metal back together.  The final task was to attach the new device to the the Red Tractor.  The fit was beautiful.

As the Red Tractor puttered away on its mission to mulch, something was amiss: “But,” said the Welder, as he looked on the Tractor moving off on its way, “the hydraulics are leaking…”

So goes the eternal battle of Man versus Tractor. Until next time…

Posted by Anja Weyant