Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gettin' the Tractor Stuck. Again.

We've had a lot of rain here on Bleecker Mountain.  I comes down in buckets sometimes, which washes away parts of our driveways.  Our property's driveway is fairly flat and only a small part of that vanished, but the steep downhill driveway to the Unabomber Cabin was a disaster.  We could navigate it in the all-wheel-drive Kia, but a regular car could not.

On Saturday, I dug up some stone from the pit and fixed our property's driveway.  It took five loads, but it smoothed out nicely.  Then I loaded up the manure bucket with stone and drove a mile to the Unabomber Cabin to patch that up.

It was an uneventful trip.  I parked Bessie the Tractor at the top of the driveway and shoveled stone into the places where it washed out, which is a more efficient use of stone that dumping it and spreading it with the back blade.

I had finished spreading the stone, but there were still big boulders sticking up from frost heaves last winter and spring.   My Irish Grandma's voice spoke to me.  "Be the job big or small, do it well or not at all."

OK.  Let's see if the back blade can pop out these boulders.

For those of you ignorant about tractors, the majority have a three point hitch on the stern where you can attach all kinds of implements.  I have a tow bar, a post hole digger, and a back blade.  The back blade is like a snow plow, but you have to angle it manually, and  your only control is to raise and  lower it.

So I attacked the big rocks at the bottom of the driveway, and popped them out one by one.  I either picked them up and tossed them aside, or if too big rolled them.  I  did this to the worst of it, and then I got to the top.  I snagged onto a huge boulder, about the size of a woodstove, and pulled it out.  It was almost perfectly round, but try as I might, I couldn't budge it.  So I drove Bessie up the driveway, turned her around, and attacked the boulder from above.

I dropped the bucket to just above ground level, and pushed the boulder in front of me.  I couldn't see the boulder because the tractor's bow was in the way.  But I slowly nudged it towards the starboard side of the driveway right to the edge where it dropped off.  Then I heard a KLANG behind me.  I looked, and there was the boulder between Bessie and the back blade.  I must have hit a bump and the bucket bounced over the boulder.  I looked ahead, and I was on the edge of the drop off.

I put Bessie in reverse and her big, cast iron weighted tires with chains just spun.   I put Bessie in forward, but could only move about a foot before I had to stop so I didn't drop off the edge.  I went back and forth a half dozen times, trying to work Bessie's bow downhill, and then it happened.  Bessie's right front tire dropped off the edge, down about two feet into a hole.  I was stuck.

Do you remember Brian?  He's the guy who came last January to tow the Kia, which was stuck in our driveway last January.  He got the Kia out when a tow truck driver said it wasn't possible.  Well, while I was hooking up Judi's small ATV to Bessie's stern to try to tow it, along comes Brian on his ATV.

"You ain't gonna tow that tractor out with an ATV.  I'll fetch my truck."

Ten minutes later, Brian and his friend Rich were there.  They couldn't tow it out, even with the big Ford 4x4.  Not only was the right tire in a ditch, but it was flat.  I couldn't start Bessie because the gravity feed gas tank was at such an angle that it wouldn't feed gas.  To top it all off, the front bucket was hooked over a boulder the size of a Volkswagen.

Brian managed to back up the tractor just enough that I could start it.  I immediately raised the front bucket and back blade as high as they would go.  Brian then got in front of Bessie and pulled it sideways.  After some tugging, Bessie was free.  I drove it down the driveway and parked it.  Sunday would be a day for fixing the flat and finishing the driveway.

In true Drift Away fashion, we all retired to the Unabomber Cabin for victory beers all around.  We then drove the half mile to Brian's hunting camp for another victory beer, and then another half a mile to our property for a final victory beer.

Poor Bessie.  For a 1952 Ferguson TO-30, she can sure take a pounding.  You would think that at 62 years old, she'd want to be turned out to pasture.  Nope.  Not Bessie.  She's not about to be shown up by an imbecile like me.


  1. with a little TLC, old stuff was made to last forever... Got an '87 pickup truck, a 1974 boat with a '62 motor. and a 100 year old canoe I am refurbing, and a 30 year old roto-tiller.

  2. Boys and their toys...on it goes.

    I don't know your driveway, but it seems to need some the least some water bars on the steep part.

    Did I read that you were shoveling? Hmmmm..

  3. Two burning questions: How is Chevy? When is your surgery going to happen?

    1. Chevy is holding his own. We went to our regular vet today. He's concerned. He says Chevy has an autoimmune thing going on, but he's optimistic. Chevy goes back on Wednesday.

      As for me, my surgery is Thursday. Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be spent running around on pre-op medical appointments, and Wednesday will be gathering loose ends. Don't look for much from the blog.

  4. There is half a boulder at the bottom of one of the hills on my grandfather's farm. Geologically, it is an area where the ice melted and dumped boulders from the glaciers. For some reason, it's not called a Moraine, but it is close. I think it is not called a moraine, because the boulders are bigger. Not yet pulverized like those being pushed at the leading edge of the glacier.

    Anyway, this granite boulder stands about eight feet tall and about 12 feet in diameter. And, it is so evenly cut, laying on the cut, it looks like the rest of it is below ground.

    My father tells me, that in the annual drudgery of picking rocks and in turn making the rock fences taller, one year a little corner of the boulder came to the surface that he was unable to dig out. The more he dug, the bigger it got. Finally, they got enough exposed, they could get a chain around it. So, they hired a front end loader to come in and lift it out. Wherein after several hours of struggling, they broke the hydraulics on the hired FEL. Finally, they decided enough was enough and obtained some dynamite to blow it to smithereens. Placing two sticks of dynamite, strategically as far down under it as they had dug, they called "Fire in the Hole" and let her rip. All it did was break the boulder. After which, they were at least able drag the thing off the hill with their tractor. Where it still sits, 70 yrs, later.