Brent’s been working and some of the chores we usually do together have landed gently in my lap. For example: I picked up three 4×6 rubber horse mats at an old farm in Dunnville and managed to get them into the leanto to keep Autumn and the goats dry. The mats are heavy and dirty, but I managed. I finally wrestled them into position, but when I went out the next day the ground water had flowed over the mats and caused a bigger mess.
I pulled up the soaked mats and raised the floor up, so the horse and goats have a comfortable and dry place to rest. Thankfully we put down clear stone in January in front of the lean to, so Autumn has a dry place to stand. Actually, I saw her laying down out there basking in the sunshine. It filled me with warmth, but that’s not part of this story.
Today my chore was to move a round bale into the horse paddock. This is normally a fairly easy job since Brent and Tim built a bale spear.
The selected round bale was sitting in the pig and chicken paddock. I thought maybe they’d have a little taste, but after a few months they haven’t touched it. We’re a little short on hay this season, so I wanted to make the most of what we had left.
I had the backhoe running and slid the bale spear into place. I checked that the pigs and chickens were inside the barn before I opened the gate and prepared to spear the bale with the backhoe. I rolled the dirty round bale in front of the gate. This was no easy chore given the round bale was wet and extra heavy.
With the gate precariously open I jumped into the running backhoe. I lowered the bucket and advanced on the round bale like a warrior from the movie 300. As I pushed the backhoe into gear and leaned forward, it died. Out of fuel.
I was unable to close the gate and could hear the pigs squealing. Running to the back of the barn I grabbed a piece of plywood and a three foot piece of 2 x 6 to block the animals in the barn. I ignored the angry snorts and clucks as they tried to move the barricade. Once that act was done I felt a little more secure. I asked myself why I hadn’t done that before and couldn’t come up with a good answer.
The paddock gate runs perpendicular to the drive and the only way to fit the backhoe through the gate was to position it across the driveway. With the backhoe blocking the entire exit and only the F350 pick up truck to take to get fuel I felt a little stuck. Little did I know that I was about to be a lot stuck.
It had rained and then snowed. The snow gave a false sense of freezing and I realized the ground was too soft as the dual wheels of the ford dug into the mud of the front lawn. If this had been Brent I would have been really upset, but it was me, so I was just mad.
With two tires a foot deep in muddy lawn I shifted into 4×4 and got out to lock the front hubs. I’m really proud of locking the front hubs. I drove around the hoe and only managed to scratch the driver’s side with a small tree. Hopefully, Brent won’t notice.
I paid twenty bucks for barely a ten gallon container of fuel and was fuming as I drove home filled with the desperate hope that the backhoe would still start. Diesel engines don’t like being run out of fuel.
I imagined Brent slamming into the backhoe that was parked precariously across the driveway. It was very near the end of the driveway and the drive is wide and happily accepts fast moving vehicles off the eighty kilometer highway. He might not see the backhoe blocking his way in the dark.
I climbed up on the backhoe with one foot on the front tire and the other on the step into the cab I balanced the ten gallon fuel container and managed to get the nozzle into the hole marked gas. I kept thinking as I listened to the diesel fuel gurgle into the tank… is this a gas engine? No. I’m sure it’s diesel. Then why does it say gas? Eventually, I concluded that gas has fewer letters than diesel.
With one hand on the key and the other holding a can of starter fluid I turned and sprayed. After a few fitful seconds she turned over, but didn’t stay running. I jacked up the fuel intake, started spraying, prayed a little and turned the key.
She started and I nearly wept with relief. I let the backhoe run for a minute and then speared the round bale and picked it up. I backed out of the paddock and rolled down the driveway with the five hundred round bale balanced on the front bucket with a spear in it’s belly.
I stopped in front of the barn to release the angry pigs and chickens after I closed the gate. While in the barn I heard the plaintiff cries from the backhoe as she stalled and became frighteningly quiet.
I took up the familiar position with my arm through the window of the backhoe as I balanced with my left foot on the step and my right foot on the front tire as I leaned forward and sprayed starter fluid into the intake while turning the key.
She fired, choked and then started. I did a little driveway dance.
I wasn’t taking any chances as I drove full speed up the muddy hill toward the horse paddock. I didn’t stop until I ran over some rough cut 2×6’s on this side of the fence. With all the grace of a drunk teen I managed to dump the round bale into the right side of the fence. I examined my exit as I pushed the backhoe into reverse and slid back down the gentle slope until I reached level ground.
My heart beat leveled as I backed the machine behind the barn, turned the loader towards the ground and turned the key off. I didn’t look up as I made my way towards the house exhausted, wet and muddy, but proud. The ground was covered in ice that I’d walked over at least ten times, but this time my feet went out from under me and I hit the ground on my right shoulder.
I laid on the wet ice trying to determine if I’d broken anything. After a moment of hesitation I got up and figured this was one of those days when I should have just done laundry.