Starting from scratch
Adventures in trucking On the farm
It is almost impossible to live on a farm and not own a pick-up truck of some sort, be it big or small, fancy or antique. Because of the vast amounts of stuff that needs to be carried or hauled, a good farmer needs a truck.
The relationship between a farmer and his/her truck is iconic. Nothing says “farmer” like a wrinkly old man leaning out the window of his pick-up truck. Country songs are written about love gained or lost around, or in, a favorite 4x4. The truck we have at Oxbow Farm is neither new, nor fancy. It is not that old, but it is old enough to now be costing us lots of money to get aging parts fixed.
Occasionally the radio will just turn off mid-song, and we usually have to wait until the truck gets turned off and then on again before it comes back to life. The air conditioning doesn’t work and the windows are opened and closed manually by means of an old hand-crank. This is fine until it starts raining and I cannot reach the passenger window. It is even worse when the kids are in the back and they get pelted with rain. The front seat consists of one big long bench seat, so the passenger either has too little or too much leg room depending on the driver. The seats are extremely uncomfortable in my opinion and the gas peddle is not ergonomically correct. Oh yes, and it smells of dog and manure.
The tailgate fell off a few years ago and being the red necks that we are, that part is in a “car pile” in the pasture along with another car that has yet to be moved from the time of the farm’s previous owners.
Farmer Jim wants to eventually replace the 8-food bed with a flat bed, and use it only on the farm and occasionally in town. At that point in time, I will be able to buy the big ol’ pick up truck that I deserve. Complete with leather heated seats, lumbar support and automatic windows.
“The Tank,” as it is referred to, has a full back seat and an 8-food bed, not to mention a severely poor turning radius. The trips I take in the truck need to be calculated mentally before I venture out. What streets do I have to drive on and where can I park are questions that need to be asked.
Back in February I ventured out with my two kids, the truck and our livestock trailer to take some of our pigs to the processing plant we use in Center Barnstead. This trip requires me to drive through both Concord and smaller towns on winding roads. The gas mileage for the truck is not very good and, when you attach a trailer and the weight of a few pigs onto the back, it is even worse. When I left Dublin, I had almost three-quarters of a tank of gas and then as I ventured home, I had around a quarter of a tank left. I knew that because of the length of the truck and trailer combined, the number of gas stations I could actually fit into was limited in smaller towns. I tried to think about which gas stations I could use on the way home.
I then realized in terror that my wallet was in my car at home and I had a total of four dollars in my pocket. My son, who usually can be counted on for a few dollars when desperate was not carrying his wallet on this trip. I was beginning to panic on the inside, while trying to keep a calm facade for the children. I was frantically going through my head which one of my friends would actually come and meet me with some money or my wallet.
In desperation I did what most women do as a last resort in their time of need: I called my husband for advice.
He calmly asked, “Did you take the wheels out of four-wheel drive?” Of course! I found a safe place to pull over on the highway, so I could manually turn the dial on the wheels to take the truck out of four-wheel drive. One wheel was fine, but the driver’s side wheel was severely corroded with salt from the road. I prayed I would find something big and strong rolling around the floorboard of the backseat to use as leverage.
As trucks rolled past me on the highway, I hammered the heck out of the dial on the wheel to get it to move into the release position. Success!
I climbed back into the truck, brushed the hair out of my face, turned up the now-working radio, and heaved a sigh of relief. My kids, who were now realizing the severity of the situation, continued to monitor the gas gauge all the way home. I think we made it home on gas fumes that day.
That next weekend when I relived the story with my husband he inspected the wheels and took inventory of his beloved truck.
“Is this the trailer hitch you used?” he asked.
“Yes, it was the one that was on the truck.” I replied.
“Well, it’s the wrong one. I’m not sure how the trailer stayed on while you were driving,” he answered.
Kim Graham lives in Dublin with her husband, Jim, and their two children. The couple hails from New Brunswick, Canada. This column chronicles their first-ever adventures in farming. For more about the farm, seewww.oxbowfarmnh.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.