This is a rare, no members of the menagerie involved, post.
Well, my tractor driving yesterday was an adventure and a half. I ended up sending my kids a text message saying I'm clocking up too many tractor hours.
Graeme recently bought himself a fertiliser spreader and has been purchasing fertiliser in the truck half a load at a time. The our farm driveway is in a dreadful mess with all this water lying around. The truck cannot make it through this slush without being towed by the tractor. I'm the tractor driver. All has gone smoothly so far and then this happened ...
To start with it was raining (Yay! because Graeme had spread the fertiliser and it needs rain to wash into the soil; Boo! because the tractor's windscreen wiper rubber has deteriorated and doesn't work), our already soggy roadway is just that much worse in the rain. To add to my level of difficulty Graeme had left the spreader attached at the back of the tractor. It's not a tow behind type of arrangement, but rather it sort of latches on close to the tractor and can be raised and lowered. When raised I can't see a thing out the back, when lowered it's not much trouble at all - guess which position it had to stay in - yep, raised.
I drove out to the front gate and left Graeme to drive the truck out through the firebreaks. He believes that way is less sloshy, but I don't like it at all. I got through the Top Gate (after yesterday, now known as The Gate I Hate - the reason for this comes later) and my phone beeped at me. Graeme had been trying to ring me almost since I'd left to tell me to come back because the truck couldn't make it up the slight incline almost where I'd left him. It was only once I drove out of a black spot area on the farm that I got the message. I found a spot to turn around and headed back. When I saw where Graeme was, I stopped the tractor and rang him to tell him I wasn't towing him out via the firebreaks. After trying to convince me to do it his way, and me standing firm, refusing to go out via the firebreaks, Graeme finally relented, but he wasn't happy. Graeme had the tow cable all set up and had to undo it all so he could drive the truck to where I was waiting for him and re-setup the towing cable. That done and the truck hooked up to the tractor, we swapped phones so I could use Graeme's noise cancelling headphones with his phone for us to communicate. I keep telling Graeme he's deaf and he won't believe me, but when he spoke to me via the phones, the volume nearly took my head off. A quick lesson on how to reduce the volume and we were ready to go.
With the spreader up in the air and the side mirrors set for a 6 feet tall Graeme, I couldn't see the truck at all, apart from the very top of its yellow roof. I kept reminding Graeme that I couldn't see anything but he seemed to keep forgetting this small fact. Even my front visibility was hampered by a wet windscreen and no wipers. We trundled along reasonably easily despite these problems until we reached the Top Gate. The approach to this gate coming from the house towards the property's front gate is uphill and at a right angle to the roadway. This has never been a problem for me in the cars and when driving the tractor, but with the double wheels on the back, I slow down to an almost stop and creep my way through - so far no dramas. As we approached the gate this time, I told Graeme I wasn't great at driving through it so be prepared for me to slow down and creep through. Guess what! When towing a truck up a wet and soggy hill you can't drop your speed or the revs dramatically and not stall the tractor. I chose not to stall the tractor, said a little prayer and drove through the gateway. Immediately Graeme started yelling, "STOP! STOP! STOP!” I stopped, but the designer of the joystick arrangement for changing gears for the tractor had a warped sense of humour. You push the joy stick forward to go, flick it to the right to go up a gear, left to go down and pull it back to the middle for neutral - all good so far, but! you also pull it back just a little bit further for reverse. You guessed it, I pulled the joystick back too far. After a moment of confused panic, I put the tractor in neutral and waited for Graeme to tell me what was wrong wrong – apart from my unintentional reversing adventure.
The angle of my approach may have gotten the tractor through the gate but the truck was somehow aiming right for the gatepost. Graeme told me to reverse the tractor back through the gate and not hit anything – I really didn’t need that last bit of advice, it’s not like I ever plan on hitting anything. I once again reminded him that I couldn't see out the back at all and the side mirrors just showed me acres of paddocks and not the gate. With a lot of indecipherable hand signals, much yelling from Graeme and some mumbled words from me, the tractor was finally where Graeme wanted it. I then had a second go at driving through the gateway of the now, renamed Gate I Hate. There were no further dramas in the towing of the truck.
As I was driving along, I heard a beeping in my ear and asked Graeme what that might be. Graeme said someone was trying to ring him, most likely Brendan, the farmer who was having the fertiliser delivered and to where Graeme was heading with the truck now. Graeme said that he, Graeme would hang up now and ring Brendon back. Now it was my turn to yell. I told Graeme under no circumstances was he to hang up. I once again reminded him I couldn't see anything and the only way I knew nothing dire had occurred was that Graeme was calm and quiet on the other end of the phone (or calmish and quietish, but I didn’t say that to him). Graeme decided that an hysterical wife driving a tractor took precedence over a farmer trying to find out where Graeme was and stayed on the phone.
I towed him past all the slushy, boggy bits of roadway and stopped, waiting for Graeme to unhitch the tractor and rethinking my entire life until now and wondering how I got myself in these situations. Graeme unhitched the truck, gave me a cheery wave and drove off to meet Brendon. I drove back to the house, still rethinking my life. During this whole episode, all I could think of was the monetary value of the truck, tractor and brand new spreader that were all at the mercy of my limited tractor driving skills and lack of ability to see what was going on.
Thankfully, it is still raining so Graeme isn't going to get the truck back today. When he does, I will have the joy of doing all the above in reverse order – hopefully, with the spreader removed (if I have my way) and with a lack of rain; or at the very least a working windscreen wiper.