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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: Give it enough snort

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairyman Published on 24 November 2018

It was one of those falls up here that was wetter than normal. We had gotten our corn silage chopped off, and now we were going at our high-moisture corn. I always hired my neighbor, Howie, to come with his combine and two trucks to harvest my corn.

While he combined, I would unload the corn into the roller mill that rolled the corn and then blew it up into the silo. Usually, things would work pretty well, and we could get it done in one to two days.

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But this fall was different; the fields were very wet. Howie parked his trucks on my field road and started to open the field up with the combine.

That went fine. As he started to get more of the field off, he had me park the trucks in my field, close to where he was combining, so it would be faster for him to unload the combine. I was hesitant to do it but followed his instructions. He filled the truck way full of corn, and the truck started to go down a little.

When I got back to the field with the other empty truck and saw the loaded truck sunk down about 6 inches already, I felt we were in for trouble. Howie said to me, “Give it plenty of gas, Tom.”

Now, a grain truck loaded full doesn’t go very fast in first gear, even with the gas pedal to the floor. I went ahead about 4 feet, and the truck died. The back end had sunk in a good 2 feet deep. It was not a nice-looking sight.

We looked the situation over, and Howie said, “If we try to pull that truck out loaded, we’ll just pull it apart.” To which I readily agreed. We went and got Howie’s big four-wheel-drive Case tractor and two scoop shovels. Back in the field, we drove the other truck alongside the stuck one and then started shoveling corn from the one to the other.

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By the time we had it almost empty, we were about wore out too. Then we drove the good truck out of the field and hooked on to the other one and pulled it out with the tractor, all in one piece.

After that, Howie had me park the trucks on higher, drier ground, even though it meant he had to drive a little farther to unload his combine. It was late afternoon by the time we got that field done. Since we still had some daylight left, we decided to start my marsh cornfield.

We were being very careful where we parked the trucks for him to fill them; we had learned our lesson very well earlier in the day. Howie got the outside rows all off without any problem whatsoever. So I assumed this field would go just fine. But there’s always the unexpected. On the other end of this cornfield, I had about 2 acres way too wet to plant in the spring. I had to leave it lay idle all summer long, and it grew up in weeds.

When Howie got to the other end, instead of just turning the combine around on the headland, he made a big turnaround out in the weedy hunk – or I should say, he tried to. He got half turned around, and one side of the combine went down to its axle.

When I got up there, I was astonished at what I saw. It was not a pretty sight after a long day of hard work. Howie wasn’t too happy over it either. I asked him, “Why did you go out in that wet area?” To which he replied, “It didn’t look wet to me.”

Howie and I talked it over, and we agreed we would never pull the combine out with its hopper nearly full of grain. We also agreed we didn’t dare drive an empty truck in there either; neither one of us wanted another stuck truck. So we went and got a tractor with an empty grain wagon and backed it in to the wet area just far enough so we could unload the combine. After that, we were able to drive the tractor and wagon out of there.

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Then we went and got Howie’s big tractor from the other side of my farm, where we had left it after pulling the truck out earlier that day. We hooked it up to the combine, and I could tell Howie was real uneasy about it. He said, “If that other tire goes down, I don’t know how we’re going to get it out.” I had to agree with him; I was uneasy about it too.

As I headed to the tractor, Howie’s last words to me were, “Give it enough snort.” We both knew we only had one chance to get it out with that tractor. I said a quick prayer. When Howie was in the combine and ready, I tightened up the chain and pushed the throttle almost wide open.

I wasn’t going to fail by not giving it enough snort. The Lord blessed, and the combine came out, for which we were both very thankful and relieved. With the sun almost down, we decided to call it a day.

Every year, when we combine corn here, I always think back to that and to what Howie said, “Give it enough snort.” That’s how we need to live our lives, to the fullest, to the glory of God. So many people today live such empty, selfish, meaningless lives. But with God, they don’t have to.

Howie passed on a short time ago, but he lived a full life. He was a loving husband, father and an excellent, hard-working farmer. He was also a wonderful neighbor and friend to us. I could never have asked for a better one.

I’m sure someday I’ll see Howie on the other side, and we’ll smile as we think back to that night down in my marsh when he told me to “give it enough snort.” I’m sure, too, there will be no stuck trucks or combines for us in heaven.  end mark

Tom Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Contact him at Life on the Family Farm or order his book at Tom Heck Farm.

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