Friday, November 19, 2010

Lost loves...

I wrote in Farm Journal about trading off one of my favorite combines long ago (1999):
Letter to the New Owner

Hi. My name is John and I raised this combine from a pup. Over the years, this machine and I have been through a lot of experiences, and I thought it might be helpful to pass on the history.

1.    I rewired the radio to a live lead from the battery so you can sit and listen to the radio with the key off while waiting for trucks. Unfortunately, I discovered that the LCD readouts are therefore always energized, and draw just enough amps to slowly discharge the battery over a few weeks. That’s what the unmarked toggle switch is for. Be sure to turn it off when storing.
2.    The front cross auger in the bottom of the grain tank should be replaced soon. I did the back one last year, and it was so expensive I decided to wait on the other one.
3.    The low speed setting on the chopper will cause an alarm, and neither the service manager nor I can figure out why. All the parts have been tested or replaced, but feel free to spend several hours going nuts over it. I did.
4.    The attractive grain tank extension is actually homemade. (I know, you couldn’t guess.)  Under absolute maximum conditions (15%, 62# TW) the tank holds 208 bushels, not counting the pile on the cab.
5.    There is an auxiliary battery stud (+) low on the left rear side. I put this on after lugging my big battery charger all the way up to the engine deck several times because the cables are way too short.
6.    The electric fan speed control works fine, but will get stuck on max rpm. Stop just before that.
7.    The odd bracket in the cab on the upper right was to hang a bag phone on.
8.    Speaking of which, don’t talk on the phone while unloading on the go – a little advice.
9.    If the water pump goes out, you can drive at least 5/8 mile to the shop before massive engine failure.
10.The vibration dampener was replaced (by the dealer) last year. It feels like a bad water pump vibration when going out.
11.The original rasp bars are still on the machine. Each time I thought about replacing them I decided they work better for food grade corn. However, green stems are a tedious experience.
12.Some fool forgot to disconnect the header height controller wire when uncoupling from the grain header last year. Check to make sure the connector has been replaced.
13.The grain loss monitor can drive you crazy if you let it. Although the book says to find an “acceptable loss level”, this is an oxymoron, and I constantly fiddled and adjusted to get the loss down. By the way, my personal best setting was 9.5.
14.We changed the oil and filters religiously. But then again, I’m a Methodist.
15.For the most part, we have kept mice out of the cab. I think the concept of keeping ample corn supplies in the cornhead and rotor area kept them busy there. We did have a “raccoon surprise” in the fan one spring when we were moving and running the combine. Not coincidentally, that is the year we decided to upgrade to the newer style fan.
16.You can go about 150’ after the grain bin alarm goes off in 50-bushel beans. In normal corn, stop immediately. By immediately, I mean of course, not IMMEDIATELY, but easing back on the propulsion control to prevent overflow.
17.The lower clean grain elevator housing was replaced last year.  A word of warning: it wore out on the “inside” side of the boot, where the hole could not be seen. What could be seen was a bright green line of soybean plants in the field a few days after a fall shower.
18.The parts manuals are enclosed. I tried to note the year that parts were replaced so you can get some idea of what the repair frequency is. Any part that was replaced twice in the same year (as noted by “95, 95” for instance) is likely one that can be installed incorrectly or backwards, leading to immediate failure.
19.The radio is not too bad on FM, and can get WGN from about 180 miles out. Of course, I never listen to “Kathy and Judy”. Well, rarely. The tape deck will mangle approximately every fifth tape, especially if it’s Neil Diamond or disco.
20.The tallest point is (surprisingly) the top of the auger discharge boot. Notice the bolt on top is reversed to keep from catching on the shop door beam.
21.The seat raise-lower control is a real pain, but it does work, after a fashion. To prevent it pumping all the way up, lift your weight off after the proper height is reached. If your wife is about 5’7”, she might appreciate a 3” foot platform (not included) to prevent her legs from going to sleep.
22.During really wet falls, this machine is a real trooper. It will, however, generate ruts that can be felt for the next 6 years.
23.You can get the whole family in the cab if you put the two-year old in the right front corner and the five-year old on the left.
24.She answers to the name LuAnn.

To my surprise received a wonderful letter from the new owner.

This week, he just updated me on how LuAnn is getting along.

I thought I would give you an update on LuAnn. She has been a very good machine for me.  I finished my farm shop the same year I got her, so she has never sat outside.  We made 300 hours this year so I treated her to new tires. I enjoyed the letter you sent me after I bought her so I thought I would give you a story. If you notice in front of the spreader there is a shiny piece of aluminum.  I had a $350 cob throw the belt off a gearbox and knock the seal out. Problem solved. She is a joy to operate, and even though she has a woman's name you can see what she has hanging under the cab*.  I enjoy reading your articles and I hope things are going good for you.

As folks today would say, Lou Ann has "had some work done".  She didn't look that good when she left my farm.  My combine friend is obviously a meticulous caretaker.

I'm glad. It makes me feel good that my happy memories of harvest with Jan and I with our boys are not the end of LuAnn's story.

How do we get so attached to machines?

*FWIW - I have no idea about the combine-scrotum-thing, and frankly don't want to know.

[BTW - the "two-year old" I refer to in the FJ article now has his own two-year-old.]

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