Wednesday, September 18, 2019
The Shrewd King 9.3: Cutting hay days four, five, six and seven
Daylight in Blastic’s Demesne lasted for sixteen hours a day during the last two weeks of June. It was possible to cheat another half-hour on each end if the needs were great enough and work seventeen hours a day.
Wesley counted on the fact that the hay cutting was proceeding apace and the fact that his father had hit the bourbon particularly hard the night before and loafed a wee bit on the morning of the forth day. He arrived at the field fifteen minutes before sunrise. Denny, his dad, was already there. It did not go well for Wesley.
Denny demanded to know why there was a fifty-yard, zigzag border on the west side of the field that had not been cut. Wesley interpreted that as an actual request for information and started to tell Denny. The “back-talk” earned Wesley a clout to the side of the head.
“I ain’t asking you. I am telling you. Cut the damned grass.” Denny said.
Ear smarting from the blow, Wesley dutifully started up the tractor and lined up along the extreme west edge of the field, running the tractor’s tire on the cusp of the river bank.
Predictably, twenty yards into the cut, Wesley dropped the left, front tire into a gully that crumbled beneath the weight of the tractor. He was able to haul it out by putting the tractor into reverse and backing it out on the slightly less steep path created when the bank crumbled.
He backed up and carefully eased away from the river to get around the gully. If his dad wanted him to cut every damned blade of grass, well by golly, Wesley was going to accommodate him.
Wesley ran in dead-low gear and went half as fast as before. It did not matter to him that there were still fifty uncut acres that he could be dropping. His dad said cut beside the river...then Wesley was going to cut beside the river.
A couple of hours after sunrise, Wesley hit a spring where water bubbled up from a gravel seam and liquified the peaty soil. The soil exhibited thixotropic properties. Water saturated peat, when not excessively stressed, acts like a solid. When agitated, thixotropic materials change from semi-solid butter to warm gravy.
The first hint Wesley had that he was in trouble was when the front wheels punched through the netting of roots that bound the soupy soil together. The tractor stopped RIGHT NOW.
Putting the tractor into reverse, Wesley tried to ease his way back out of the hole. The reversal of shear forces from wheels turning forward to wheels turning rearward were his undoing. The rear of the tractor dropped into the hole as if somebody had kicked the jack-stands out from beneath it and it sank to the rear axle.
Extricating a tractor from a mud hole is not rocket science. You turn off the tractor. Go to the nearest woodlot and cut a pole that is four feet longer than the distance between your rear wheels. As close to the ground as you can get, you lash or use logging chain to span the rear wheels with two feet, give or take, projecting past the wheels. Then you put it into reverse and the pole allows you to move about six feet rearward.
Remove the pole from the front of the wheels. Reattach to the rear. Lather. Rinse. Repeat as many times as required.
Vernon had been watching the show with glee.
The only way to survive a father like Denny was to throw your siblings beneath the bus every chance you got. As the youngest, Vernon was the one who most often ended up with tire tracks across his backside as he lacked the sophistication to anticipate and maneuver out of the way.
That glee ended when Denny took control of the rescue operation. No way was he going to let Wesley screw-the-pooch for an hour when he had over fifty workers jerking off. He could see that they were flipping hay much faster than Wesley was cutting it.
What Denny failed to comprehend is that Vernon’s crew had to flip all of the hay Wesley had cut that week and they had to flip it every day. The crew was a tattered wreck. Hands were blistered raw. They were going through the motions. In all honesty, Vernon was getting about one man’s work out of every seven workers. But it was a conspiracy of victims. Nobody was going to tell Denny that using fifty people to push one tractor out of a mudhole was folly, if only because of the limited amount of room at the rear of the tractor for people to push against.
Everybody but Wesley was surprised the next morning when Denny insisted that Wesley keep cutting on the west side of the field, next to the river. Denny was sure the problems would clear up. Wesley was sure they would not. Wesley was right.
On day four and five, Wesley cut a grand total of ten acres of sixty acres that had been uncut at the end of day three and Vernon’s crew had not turned over or fluffed any of the cut grass on those two days.
On days six and seven severe storms blew through the area and dumped two inches of rain.
Wesley was not able to get the tractor back onto the field for two days but Vernon’s crew was able to go out and turn hay on days eight and nine.