The Big Red Beast

She may not be very pretty to look at, and I’m afraid if I actually washed her and cleaned off all the dirt, she may just fall apart all together. She is our big, old farm truck.

About 20 years ago, we traded six calves, the equivalent of $3000, for a well-worn truck.  It was a good deal for us since the calves were weaned and ready to sell. It was a good deal for the farmer we swapped with because he no longer needed this truck. He  had purchased the truck used many years before to haul grain and grass seed on his farm and wore the stuffin’ out of her. He needed a larger truck for his farm, so we sealed the deal.

The engine was still good, but the bed was shot. We spent $5000 to get a new metal bed with sides and put in a new transmission. The hydrolic-powered hoist is heavy-duty and raises the bed easily no matter how heavy the load. She has been a part of our farm ever since.

We put the truck to work full time that first year to help pay for all the extras we had done on her.

We had cut and stacked 60 cord of firewood while the truck was getting her new bed and transmission. The firewood was cured and ready to go when we picked up the truck from the mechanic, and with the help of an ad in the local paper, sold all the wood in 2 to 4 cord lots. It was time-consuming to load, stack for correct measure, and haul the firewood. It was a special treat when the buyer would let us raise the bed and dump the firewood in one big pile for them to stack later, but many times we would stack it also.

Even though the truck is no longer road worthy and doesn’t haul firewood anymore, she still puts many miles on her odometer each year here on the farm.

Besides hauling rock to and fro all around the farm, we use the truck to haul hay from the fields to the barns. There is a hitch hook on the side of the bed and we connect a Henry Loader. A driver is needed for the truck, and one person is needed in the bed to stack the bales as they travel up the elevator/loader and dump over the side of the truck bed.  When the truck is full, 130 bales can be hauled to the barn. That is, if the stacker is experienced, and if the bales are just the right firmness and if we are hauling from a close field to a barn. Usually it is me that stacks the bales in the truck, so it is more likely than not to have about 120 bales in a load, or less.

I prefer to be the stacker because the driver has a much harder job. The old truck lost all of her cabin amenities a long time ago. The doors only open from the outside, you have to reach through the open window and push in the knob from the outside. The windows don’t roll up and down without a series of down an inch then back up a half, back down an inch and up another half; such silly maneuvers. There is no fan in the cab that works, the wing windows barely open, and the driver is sitting on top of the engine. The cabin temperature is at minimum a balmy 100 degrees and much hotter on sunny days.

Then there are issues with actually driving the beast. Shifting gears is a convoluted task. There are always vague things like high-range and low-range besides trying to figure out the configuration of the system.When using the truck to load hay the only two gears needed are first and reverse. Anything else and there are big problems. Oh and don’t forget the leak in the air brakes, starting the beast and letting her idle until the pressure is up to 60 PSI before mangling the gears into forward or reverse, while a loud whine squeals until the pressure is correct, it all tends to get on ones nerves, and the sequence needs to be repeated each time the truck needs to be restarted.

Since the seat does not move, and I am not very tall, I would have to hold myself forward with the steering wheel to use the gas and brake and clutch. The clutch is so stiff that I have to stand up in order to have enough strength to engage the darn thing. The only thing that I can grab to hold myself up is the steering wheel. I find it is hard to turn the beast when I am pulling the wheel into my belly as I stand up.  After  running over several hay bales and almost knocking a stacker out of the back-end, I decided that I prefer the open outdoors of the stacker job rather than driving.

The big red beast runs rough. She smokes and belches, creaks and groans, shimmies and shudders; but as long as we spend time greasing all her parts, she runs when we turn the key.

Other than that, the Big Red Beast is almost as good as new!

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