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The Milk House

Tales of a Hay Hauler: Initiative

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Columns - Brad Nelson
Friday, 19 February 2010 17:00

Dan Mori was one of those fellows who was doing something all the time. He got a few more years of good use from a K-model International Harvester pick-up truck by transplanting the engine and transmission from a Ford Thunderbird into the old truck. The body of the old “Binder” was too far gone to have ever been a show truck, but it made a heck of a farm truck.

The hardest part of making it all work (as I remember Dan showing off his project) was to get clearance for the steering gearbox. It took some exotic use of the “blue tip wrench” (cutting torch) and the “spark wrench” (arc welder) to make things fit.

I remember my son Ryan keeping me posted sometime back about a discussion at the hay ranch where he was working concerning the ranch’s decision to designate someone to be the official mechanic. He said his name always came to the top of the list. Once his employer found out he understood what he was doing, he had to do all the brakes on the ranch’s trucks. Ryan’s brother asked Ryan who opened his big mouth and told his boss he knew how to do brakes? Ryan got the job.

He told me an interesting experience. He had arrived at his wit’s end over an air dryer on the air brake system of one of the trucks.

He finally took the obnoxious part to the truck dealership and asked to talk to someone familiar with the beast. In about 10 minutes, he and the dealership mechanic had the problem solved. As Ryan was heading out the door, the service manager stopped him and offered him a job. He told Ryan he had overheard the conversation with his mechanic, and he was impressed Ryan had thought through the problem rather than just being mad because the goofy thing would not work. He went on that he had just fired a mechanic who could not think and did not feel it was important to use his head. Ryan politely stated he thought he was happy where he was for the time being.

Years back, I worked at the sugar factory in Nampa, Idaho, during my Christmas break from college. My Dad was a shift foreman at the beet pulp dryer. I rode in to work with him and he showed me where the ready room was. Dad told me to be there every shift change and one of the other foremen would hire me because one of the regulars on the crew had failed to show up, again. The second shift change, I had a job. One day a conveyor moving wet beet pulp to the dryer plugged up and before they could get things shut down, there was a couple tons of wet beet pulp on the floor. I was among four fellows they summoned to fork the mess off the floor. There was only room for one person at a time to run the fork.

I was the last one to arrive, so my first turn with the pitchfork was after everyone else had a turn. I just kept the fork and in about 10 minutes had the mess off the floor. The foreman had been watching from a distance and asked me why I wanted to do all the work. I told him I could do the job in about 10 minutes, or I could pass the fork around, working as much as each of the other guys, and it would take an hour. I think I told him my suspicions were the other three had never even seen a pitchfork before, let alone know how to operate it. He asked if I were Russ’s son. I replied that I was. The foreman said that explained a lot, and left.

Dad told me of an incident on his shift. Some of his crew complained the other shifts always left the place in a terrible mess, but Dad required them to leave things clean and orderly when the shift was over. He replied that they were probably correct in that the other crews left the place in a mess. Then he looked them in the eye and told them, “But don’t you ever let anyone say that about MY shift!”

Oftentimes a 5-percent increase in effort will result in a 50-percent improvement in the end product. The interesting thing is that the extra 5 percent does not happen because someone is making you do it. It happens because only about 5 percent of the general population understands initiative.  PD

 

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