Sunday, March 20, 2011

Building a tractor cab.



Having completed the second tractor cab for my 2003 Kubota L3000DT, the first being a miserable failure, I thought I would touch on some of what I learned in the hopes of saving others from my mistakes.

As mentioned the first cab was a train wreck born out of desperation. For starters I began the project well into a tough winter following a subzero ride to scoop out my daughters acreage. Under pressure and looking for quick results I used 1/8 thick angle iron. I did finally manage to fashion a frame with a half- arsed working door, a plexi-glass windshield and piece of plywood for a roof.

The angle iron had too much flex and my haste resulted in a cab which not only was an embarrassment to myself but my entire family both living and dead. With spring breaking I pushed it off into the scrap pile where it rests as we speak.

Rule number one, don't build a cab with angle iron.

Rule number two, don't wait until winter is upon you.

Rule number three, do use square tubing. It holds it's shape and is relatively easy to work with..

Tools recommended, Chop saw, large and small squares, welder, preferably mig, a protractor or angle finder of some sort. An assortment of clamps and vise grips, die grinder with cut off wheel is handy as is a ninety degree die grinder with 2 inch 3M Rol-Loc 36 grit sanding discs

Overview of problems to resolve.

Mounting the cab.

I decided to keep contact between the cab and the tractor itself to a minimum. The lower front of the cab mounts to the loader frame down low. The only other point of contact is the rear mounts which are GM rear wheel drive transmission tail-shaft mounts, PartsMaster Part # 2378.

By limiting the cab to tractor contact points to four I hoped to keep the cab isolated from picking up and amplifying vibrations. No through a very hard winter this seems to have worked well. I figure if the rear mounts settle I can easily put some steel shims under them to regain the proper height.

The door.

Although two doors would be nice with only a door on the left side I was able to make the right side, and the cab itself, much stiffer then had a second door been added.

The door is the most challenging part of the build as it's opening must hold it's shape and space is very limited in particular at the bottom between the frt. of the rear tire/fender and the loader mount. The odd shape dictated by the limited space makes getting a good stiff door opening difficult.

How Wide

Another design issue is how wide to make the cab. The fenders on the L 3000 DT flare in towards the front. It is tempting to narrow the cab up so that you can follow the line of the fender all the way down By moving the cab outboard the cab runs out of fender to follow as it drops down towards the bottom of the door.

I decided to make the cab wide and by using good weatherstripping was able to fill the gap between fender and cab. I am very glad I chose the extra width as it is hard to find room for everything inside as it is. For sure mounting the heater and leaving room for my small dog would have been tough had I narrowed it up.

Windows.

I chose tinted automotive glass which has a film of plastic between two pieces of glass. This can be glued in or mounted with rubber molding as used in older cars and trucks. The glass shop had the molding in bulk rolls. As my cab was constructed of square tubing I used 1/8 by ½ flat steel spot welded inside the window openings to slip the window molding into. Most of the tack welds on the ½x1/8th inch flat steel were kept on the inside.

The outside seam where the ½ flat attaches to the square tubing needs to be sealed so it does not leak air and water into the cab.

For this I used a epoxy body sealer, Evercoat Maxim, 710822. This fits into a caulk gun. There are two chambers in the tube each holding one part of the epoxy, when you squirt it out it goes though a special end where the two parts are mixed together before they hit the end of the nozzle. I put rubber gloves on using a finger to spread the sealant into the seam. This did work although if doing it again I would try a Popsicle stick

When dried I sanded some and am happy with the way it turned out. You do get two of the special nozzles with a tube of the sealer they being one shot deals due to the epoxy quickly setting up in them. Plan your work accordingly.

I did not make the rear window as large as the opening instead tacking in some pieces of 7 inch wide 1/8 steel in on both the top and bottom to shorten it up. Having been is use for a winter I will report I am happy with this small rear window. I did cut out for lights on the top seven inch piece. Had I to do it over again I would have left the lights off and simply relied on the factory lights which I moved from the fenders to a light bar.

Fitting the windows was more complicated then I thought. For starters I had assumed cardboard would be the perfect material to make the patterns. The glass shop asked I make the patterns the exact size of the opening they then would deduct the margins required to compensate for the width the molding. I tried this on the first window a small fixed side one and it came ¼ inch short. Frustrated but early in the build I simply replaced the piece of ½ inch flat steel with ¾ inch to allow it to work.

In preparing the next pattern, a much larger one, I noticed the cardboard was hard to hold and keep straight. Afraid of getting more glass which didn't fit I chose instead to use some light,and cheap, luan wood floor under-layment. . This I could rough cut then slip into place and mark with a pen. Cutting it closer yet I then used a hand plane to get a perfect fit. I asked the glass company to keep the patterns for me.

Now, if a window did not fit, we would have the pattern to verify it was not I that screwed up.(-:

Of course my windshield was next back from the glass shop and did not fit. Turns out the cutter had forgot he was to allow for the margin and had cut to the exact size of the pattern.

I will add that even the floor underlayment was wobbly, on a couple of the larger windows I screwed some two by twos to the back of them as stiffeners. This all sounds like a big deal but is not, the wood cuts and planes very easily and time spent getting good patterns is invaluable.

This windshield molding is nice stuff to work with and pretty forgiving. I had last worked with this style of window retention in the beginning of my carrier as a mechanic when installing windshields in old Ford pickups.

The one difference between then and now is the moldings I used on the cab have a flap on the back side which when the glass is in place you roll into place to lock the molding into the glass and opening. This works well but takes a knack to roll in and get properly seated. I used a short cotter key puller. If you get everything just right it goes in pretty slick. Certainly helped to use soap water in a spray bottle to lube it up. All I can say is it takes some dinking around to catch on to. The whole time I did it I was thinking there should be a neat little special tool which rolls it in with less effort. Completed I asked the people I got the glass from and found they too use a cotter key puller.

Typically this molding runs the entire distance around the glass with only one butt seam. Normally the corners are curved and you can scoot right around them. I also saw on some cabs they put 45 degree angles on the corners and are still able to use but one piece of molding resulting in a single seam or butt end.

I choose to make the front and back window openings with 45 degree corners and on the side glass went with straight corners which dictated four separate pieces molding for each glass. The front side windows are rather hybrids due to there odd shapes using some of each.

I will note on the lower side windows I chose to use ¼ thick poly carbonate due to some inside corners. I figured cutting the inside corners would be too much of a challenge for my glass shop and that any scratching from use would not be terribly noticeable so far down the belt line. The poly I was able to cut with a jig saw without problem.

As far as cutting the rubber molding I had the best results using a fine toothed hack saw. I made a point to engage the back flap of the molding into it's little groove then lay the molding flat on a wood bench and saw thru it. I found a hacksaw to work just fine. I had much better luck with this method then using a razor knife.


The frame

Back to the square tubing frame. I used 1&¾ by 1/8 inch thick square tubing for the main frame and 1&¼ by 14 gauge for the door and window frames. I considered using 14 gauge for the main frame as most of us, myself included go to thick when using square tubing. Concerns about the integrity of my door opening holding up caused me to opt for the 1/8 inch. No regrets at this time.

The heart of this build, and most likely yours is the front of the cab and how it ties in with the tractor cowl and dash. In my case I was able to come straight up from my perch on the loader brackets then angle the tubing forward and then angle it back this combination let the lower bar which supports the bottom the windshield run straight across the top of the dash panel.

Neat trick.

Setting this front corner up is tricky, mine comes up 22 inches, then angles forward and then angles back. Here I stumbled on a trick I found to be of great aid.

To make a pattern for you corner post grab a piece of scrap square tubing, mine happened to be a length of rusty 1.5 inch 14 gauge. Now do some eyeballing and determine just how far you want to go up to your first angle. . Now take your pattern piece and put in the the chop saw and cut it clear thru with the exception of the very back side. You can now easily bend this to the angle of your choice. Do the same for the next angle joint, being careful you cut on the proper side so you can bend it the direction it needs to go..

Now you have a nice pattern stick you can bend as you please. I was able to clamp mine to the lower leg of the loader brackets and then see just how close I was to being able to cross the dash panel where I wanted and tweak it as needed.

Also now I could stand back and visualize how the cab would look. Once bent you are able to cut the pieces of your corner post out and then laying the pattern right on top of it tack it together, the second corner is made by simply using the first as a pattern.

Two frt. corner posts made you can position them then add the two frt. cross pieces to form your front windshield opening.

A note about chop saws. I recently got a new DeWalt. On this saw I am able to move the back stop forward. This allows one to center the square tubing up exactly under the blade so when you cut thru it comes straight down making it very easy to cut thru the entire tubing without cutting into any of the bottom wall. Without this feature it would have been harder to make the pattern piece as my old saw would have came in at an angle.

A tip on the door and and any opening windows, build the openings first keeping them as square as possible. It is important to keep the margin between the door or window frame and the opening the same all around. I would suggest clamping or tacking into the inside of the opening some 3/16 or ¼ inch , as you see fit,steel plates to act as temporary aids. Now you can fit the individual pieces of the door or window into the frame clamping them to the shims you just installed. Pieces all fitted and clamped you can tack weld them together and when firmly tacked on all corners you can pull it out on the bench for finish welding.

For what it is worth when I built the window and door I did not miter my corners instead simply butting them together. I did cut small pieces of steel and close off the holes left by the open ends of the steel tubing.

For dressing the welds I used a small 90degree die grinder with two inch 3M Roloc 36 grit sanding discs. These work well. They are flexible, fit into tight spaces and give a nice finish to the welds.

With the front end formed up you can start adding the rest of the cab being careful to keep everything as square as possible. One word of caution. I made a simple perch on the ROPS to mount the aforementioned transmission mounts. On my tractor the ROPS is not square with the world. Looks square but is not. I found it best to ignore the slightly out of kilter, 5/8 inch off, ROPS and keep the cab square.

Cab built you will want to fill in all the gaps left between the cab, tractor cowl and fenders.

I used 16 gauge steel to build panels which were then bolted to the cab to fill in between the cab frame and the cowl and pedals ect. This is not so hard as it may seem. Use cardboard to make your pattern. A friend allowed me the use of his plasma cutter, this made short of work of making the cuts. Had the plasma cutter not been available I would have used the die grinder with a cut off wheel.

Weatherstripping.

While making the cab I spent a good deal of time Googling about trying to find a source for weatherstripping which would work well. I came up empty.

However, while taking the wiper motor and transmission out of a friends junked 93 Dodge Dakota I noted a piece of nice four foot weatherstripping between the hood and the cowl. This worked perfectly to fill the gap between the frt. panels and the cowl. Searching for more I visited the local junk yard and found a variety of different styles. Some worked perfectly to seal the door and window openings, others worked well for sealing the cab to fender gap. Most of what I used came from the hood to cowl . Also noted some of the trunks had nice pieces.

You should be able to see in the pictures how you can lay a piece of 1/8 by ½ flat steel on the inside of the door or window, tack it into place and then slip the weatherstripping onto it This worked far better then I could have imagined. On the hinge side of the door and window a simple household adhesive backed weatherstrip worked fine.










Door latch

Looking for a door latch I thought to try a storm door handle. I thought this would be rather chinzy but for lack of something better gave it a try. Very happy with it so far. Also used storm door closer to dampen the door. This also worked out better then expected also.The rubber weatherstripping used has a cushion effect so that with the latch adjusted the door stays nice and tight and the combination of the stripping cushion and the dampener give it a nice vault like feel.

Hinges

The hardware store was also tapped for the simple steel screen door hinges. These were welded on and have removable pins so both the door and window can be removed.

Roof

Now to the roof, I had originally planned on purchasing a formed plastic cab top built by Westendorf Manf. called the Cool Cap. However my son got involved in building canoes which got him involved with fiberglass resins and cloth. As the cost would be much less I opted to simply build the roof from wood, when done we lay two layers of glass cloth across the top to seal the roof and then coated the sides, front and back with fiberglass resin. The underside I coated with polyurethane varnish to seal it up and finally coated the top and sides with a poly-urethane white paint.

Where the wood top contacts the top bars we used the same weatherstripping used to seal up pickup truck camper shells.

I also welded in 45 degree angle braces in the corners of the top roof cage to stiffen it up. These are about a foot long.

Wipers.

A friend had a junked out 93 Dakota pickup which had just what the Doctor called for. As you can see in the pictures the motor mounted nicely into the upper corner the wiper arm fitting into the right lower corner.

Some points on the wipers, be sure to use a motor without the hideaway park feature. On the Dakota one wiper pivot had a long drive arm, one had a short arm. You want one with the long arm. Use the short arm and the lever will go past center. To clarify, the wiper arm off the motor is going to go around in a circle. If the arm on the wiper pivot is as short or shorter then the wiper motor arm it wont go up and down but around and around,or, get pulled to the top and stall at top center.

Also, pay attention to the length of the rod between the motor and the wiper pivot. I cut mine long and then overlapped it playing around with the length clamping the two together with a vise grip to fine tune my wipers down position ect.

Careful on locating your motor . See where the motor parks, when parked you want the motors arm pointing straight away from you wiper arm pivot, if not your wiper will not park at the bottom of the windshield but part way up and then duck down when started before sweeping back up.

There is a lot of geometry in wipers. Rome was not built in a day, study it out before welding anything permanently.

I also swiped the Dakota's wiper switch which mounted nicely onto the Kubota's steering column and also borrowed the washer tank and the delay wiper module.

One other modification to the wipers was the wiper arm itself. As with most arms it is bent to allow the wiper to lay flat along the windshield when parked. My wiper arm originally was mounted on the left side and then swept to the right. This left my angle backwards so when at rest the wiper stuck up at a sharp angle. To fix this I had to pull the bent arm out of the arms base and flip it around. There was rivet holding this outer arm into the base section. I found a short screw to take the place of the rivet and all was well.

Another wiper tweak I went from an 18 inch blade to a 22. Trouble was the holes the arm snaps into are different from 18 to 22 inch blades. This was resolved by snapping the plastic insert from the 18 to the 22.

Yet another wiper tip, pay attention to where you mount the lower pivot arm, play around with how the blade lays against the bottom when at rest and how square it is when at full up and against the right cab corner. By moving the blade pivot location right or left you can find the sweet spot where it works and looks the best.

As for wiring the wipers, I suggest whatever you use go to a friendly auto repair shop and beg, borrow or steal the correct wiper wiring diagrams.

To recap, the TOP six reasons I liked the 93 Dakota wipers.

#1 Park is park, they are not hideaway park where the wipers drop under the cowl out of sight.

#2 The shafts the wiper arms slip onto are not indexed, you can put the arms on any position you want.

#3 The rod which runs between the motor and pivot is easily cut then overlapped, clamped into place, and played with till the length is perfect.

#4 The wiper switch/TS stalk is easy to take off and remount on your tractors column.

#5 Both the motor and the pivot are easy to mount.

#6 You can't beat free. (-:

The point is, certainly there are many used wiper setups that will work. Just make note these are the features you are looking for. If you don't have access to some other used ones and are going to call a junk yard to get one the Dakotas should be plentiful and you know they will work.

I should also note if you are spooked by the wiring and don't wish to wire in the factory switch and have the park feature and intermittent you can simply wire the motor up as on and off.

Heater.

I inherited a little fleet store heater from my father, a Maradyne Model 8000.The pictures pretty much tell the story here. I will note it is drawing outside air from the underside which keeps the air much drier and less likely to fog

On the Kubota there were no taps for hot water instead you take off the bypass hose which is just a short loop and hook the hoses up to those nipples. Important to note you can not put a shut of valve in this line, the bypass circuit has to have water flowing at all time or your in danger of overheating.

You can install a H valve which will prevent it from being blocked off when shut off. I won't go into the details of how an H valve works but if your going to use one some research is in order. At this time I am not using a water valve of any kind.

Defrosters

As you can see in the pictures 1&1/2 PVC was used to fashion defrosters. I am not saying they don't work but believe they should be larger to really get significant air to the glass, this being said I have had absolutely no trouble with the windows fogging, which I credit more to using outside air, and the dryness of our winter air, then to the defrosters themselves.

Blower speeds.

Searching for the easiest way to control the speeds of my heater fan I found a place on line listing a simple three speed switch with the blower resistor required to give multiple speeds hooked right to the back of the switch. Part number for this unit is 119-9910. Believe it was originally used on early Mustang after market AC units. Quizzing some AC friends on the internet Glenn from La. had one in stock and was kind enough to donate it to the build.

Several storms into this winter I have found the heater to work very well. I have had no problem with the windows fogging up. Coming in from my daughters acreage the other day I had the heater turned to low fan speed with the outside temps about 5 to 10 degrees and was comfortable in shirt sleeves.

Headliner.

For a headliner I simply used a square of ½ inch chipboard which I was just barely able to slip in place around the wiper mount and door closer bracket. A trip to the carpet store yielded a piece of light gray outdoor carpet which is easily glued and stapled onto the chipboard .

The headliner did quiet the interior up somewhat. I had planned on a car radio but instead chose a simple set of ear muffs with the radio built into them. This makes the long trips to my daughters much more bearable. With a regular radio and speaker setup I think the thing would have to be turned up so high to overcome the interior noise it would be annoying.

Sealing it up.

A cold wind will certainly highlight any shortcomings you have in sealing up your cab. I am including pictures of rubber matting I used to seal the area under the seat, around the side levers and also the floorboards. This has been both cheap, easy and effective. The matting is the stuff they use to protect pickup boxes. Got mine at the fleet store for 50.00.

Planning ahead for this matting I welded a1/8 by 1 inch flat bar across the back inside of the cab to bolt the rubber to. This allowed me to attach the matting to the bar and then drape it under the seat and down to the floorboards. This was easier done with the seat out of the way. In the process I built some extensions and raised the seat 2&7/8 inch. This made it much easier to fit the rubber under the seat and also at 6 ft. tall I like the higher seat better. I should note it is still low enough my 5-8 daughter has no trouble working the pedals.

You will note the rubber matting is also used around the clutch pedal and steering arm on the left lower side of the cab. This was a problem area. When pushed in the clutch pedal breaks the plane of the 16 gauge steel panel, when the steering arm, which is right beside the clutch pedal is full back it also breaks the plane but in the other direction. I tried a couple different methods to seal this up finding the rubber matting attached on two sides and loose on two sides was by far the simplest and most effective.

Paint.

I had planned on using aerosol cans of Kubota orange available from the dealer but at the last minute decided to take to the body shop and have done professionally. As is so often the case, with time running short everything promptly went straight to hell.

Although only one Kubota orange the body shops supplier booted it mixing the paint five shades to light. With storms approaching and glass to put in I choose to go with what we had and if it bothers me I can strip it back down next spring and put it right. As it was the last piece of glass was put in on a Friday night and the first big storm hit that Saturday.

How doe's it work​?

I love it. The door opening and frame, a big concern, are holding up well. I like the way the door feels with the damper and and might add the little locking collar on the door dampener is handy for holding the door open at times. At the end of the dampeners travel the door is open 90 degrees.

Getting out with snow boots on is a little awkward due to the narrowness of the the door opening down low but certainly manageable. Once in plenty of room. The heater does a fine job. The last storm I was driving around in my shirtsleeves with the fan on low, outside temp. was 5 degrees.

The cab is a little noisy as I earlier mentioned, lots of transmission noise and engine noise comes in, the radio headset resolves this. The cab itself is very quiet, no rattles, hums or buzzes.

The cab is perhaps a couple inches higher then it would have to be but with the raised seat I am very happy with it, visibility is good. I had thought I might want to install a small window above the clutch in the 16 gauge steel panel but having put some hours on it do not feel it is needed.

The wiper works very well. Couple days I used them to good effect.

Cost?

What did it cost to build? I made no effort to keep track of the steel costs. The glass, poly and rubber molding came in at about 700.00, which was less then I expected. The body shop bill was 350.00 This could have been cut had I painted it myself. The wood for the roof, fiberglass resin and ect. I don't think would be over 150.00. The heater, wipers, odds and ends were freebies but I think 250.00 would be fair. With steel maybe 1750.00 or 1800.00 total.

Time

No effort made to keep track, I would guess 150 hours although I am certain a second one could be done much faster.

What is it worth?

I looked up a new cab and believe the Simco was 2500.00 and then you start adding the options, wipers, heater, extra for hard sides ect. When we priced a Kubota cab for Dad's old 520 articulated loader I recall it being well north of 5K.

For me, it was a very enjoyable project which gave me a good deal of satisfaction during the build and once completed and in use I just love it. No comparison to moving snow without a cab as opposed to with one. I actually find myself looking forward to foul weather.

I will list some of the dimensions below.

Main frame square tubing, 1&3/4 by 1/8 inch

Door and window frames 1&1/4 by 14 gauge

Door at narrowest point, 8”

Door at widest point, 26”

Height of door opening, 65”

Front to back at longest point,50”

Seat to headliner, 31”

Height of windshield, 31” width 37”

Height rear window, 22” Width, 37”

Overall height of cab from ground, 91”

Height from ground to floor of cab 22”

About welding on that ROPS.

I believe on my tractor there is a warning to not weld or alter your ROPS. I did. It is as simple as that. You do not have to and I am not telling you to. You can bring up a frame independent of the ROPS to attach your cab to.

For me it seemed like make work to ignore a nice stiff mounting area and I could not see where my welding would weaken the ROPS. You need to be aware of the risks and make your own choices when it comes to safety though. My cab is a one off design, I have done no safety testing of it. I make no claims about it's safety. I am not selling plans, I am simply showing what I built and how I built it. You are in charge of you.

I thank you for listening, Copyright, Roy Gage 2/10/11





Monday, August 31, 2009

A Sunday Drive

The last few years organized tractor rides have become quite popular. Someone sponsors it, puts out the message and a bunch of old duffs on even older tractors show up and tour the area, some even stretch out into two dayers.

The local Elks lodge has been putting one on for several years, as it is held on a Sunday which was my day to take care of the folks I always missed it arriving back in town about the same time they were dispersing.

With the folks now gone there was nothing holding me back, I plunked down my thirty bucks and spent Saturday afternoon building a bracket for the back of my tractor so I could carry some essentials, tools, extra clothing, a chain, along with me.

Sunday morning came after a restless nights sleep.

When I am doing something special I think Dad would enjoy or approve of I like to wear something of his. Today seemed to be one of those day's, I put on one of his old plaid shirts,his big gold truckers ring and lastly his good brown leather jacket. I felt great.

6:30 found me airing tires, checking fluids and packing up. Half way to the Elks I ducked into a convenience store and picked up a pair of cheap brown jersey gloves.

Having forgot when it started and always in fear of missing events I arrived early, lots of banter as the other participants arrived. All interesting people. Of special note was the fellow from Kossuth county with the 504 International. Most tractor affectionadoes strive for stock, although, with the newer paints many look much shinier then the day Grandpa hauled them home.

This one stood out, on top of a super paint job this fellow had chromed everything he could get to the plater's, not cheap chrome either, deep deep chrome, big bolts, big nuts, little nuts, carb linkage, the supports for his umbrella, if he could get it off it was plated.

Next was his tandem Alum. trailer, he sanded and buffed the entire trailer until it was shinier then a proud truckers set of front buds.

Then there was the tow car, a two tone green 56 Dodge or Plymouth four door, push button trans, little three hundred something CI V8, again, over the top perfect. Chrome,what else, Cragers, couple of ever so small flames on the frt. fenders.

I wondered to myself what his shop looked like? His pickup? His other tractors? His dog? Did the man ever sleep? Did he buy his Mothers and McGuire's in 55 gallon barrels?

Moving on the other stand out tractor was a 43 MM R from Jackson Mn. with the factory cab, one slick nickel. Not only sharp but on this rather cool day I envied the man his cab.

Brunch was served followed by take off, I was in the first flight of fifteen the other two groups leaving at ten minute intervals. First off was a run thru our local state park then south to Lost Island Lake via blacktop roads. Courtesy dictates we travel no faster then the slowest tractor, which thankfully is not as bad as it could be as most pick a fast mount. Fast in this case being a relative term, one of the old boys had a little Ford equipped with a GPS, at the days end he proudly announced we posted a 11 MPH average speed.

Having gone five miles our convoy came to a stop, nobody seemed panicked, being at the rear I worked my way forward on foot to see what was broke and if I could be of assistance, turns out couple of the guys had to visit a cornfield and get rid of their coffee.

Bernie was in our group with his little B. I kid him a lot at tractor pulling time but but he takes his beating well and I have grown to like him, he has had many health problems, heart trouble ect. but always bounces back. He is quite proud of his little B as it has a aftermarket road gear allowing him to travel twenty if the need arises. We slowly make our way to Lost Island.

Following the flight leader we all pull into the lot of a resort at the lake, my good friend Dave and his wife and kids are standing there watching us dismount, I go over to visit, they have just finished their family vacation and are loading up to leave. Our visit is interrupted when fearless flight leader discovers we are in the wrong place and we all have to remount, fire up and travel another mile or so down the road.

Finally arriving we stumble from our tractors to drink pop, eat cookies and chips and make use of the restrooms. I walk around checking out the rest of the tractors spotting a nice MM UB. Oddly there are 48 tractors and not an Oliver in the bunch.

Fed and de-watered we climb up and head out, nice drive around the north end of the lake, many lake homes and everyone seems to be out on the back stoop to wave at us. Another mile and a half and we are back in the country homeward bound working our way through sloughs and government ground.

Tractor ride participants for the most part don't like gravel roads, flight leader had joked to one fellow we had one mile of them enroute. He lied, we had eleven. I don't mind them, even prefer them, certainly those traveling by car that had to work their way thru us would prefer we had used them exclusively. I had to wonder though as we wandered back how the fellow with the 504 felt about it.

County gravel roads are A,B or C. Most are A meaning they get regular maintenance and plowing, A roads are not marked as such, you are safe to assume an unmarked road receives normal plowing and work and offers no unwelcome surprises. Perhaps ten percent of the roads are marked B, these have no one living on them and receive no plowing and minium work, expect some surprises, in particular in the winter or very wet weather.

C roads are few and receive nothing, they are simply a right of way, many no doubt once held a couple of farms in their arms back when a family could scrabble a living off 80 or 160 acres. Now they are just there, barely, a couple of ruts stumbling between fields. We drove right by a peach of one, it beckoned me, take the road less traveled Roy it seemed to say. I badly wanted to wanted to turn off, to see what lay down it.

And therein lies my rub with organized tractor pulls, as pretty the country, as nice the day, your line dancing, move out of line, and, your out of line.

I finished the ride OK, 48 miles the Ford guys GPS said. Everyone is looking forward to next year, me, I am thinking of putting a double wide seat on my home built and just me and Rose taking a little cruise, I know right were that C road is waiting.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pulling the Rock- 09




Again how good it felt to be on the road in my old 88 Chevy homebuilt tractor in tow. Rose was occupied with a family reunion but 11 year old Briana was game and welcome company. We stopped at Cheryl and Rogers place to pickup second cousin Jordan, a happier bunch never graced the cab of the old Chevy. Grins and high hopes all around.

Learning from past mistakes we arrived early, I always get butterfly's though the stakes are rather low for me, at worst I bust and have to push back onto the trailer. This year is no different, I weigh in, 3230, sign up for two pulls, thirty bucks. Lot of pullers, nice crowd, weather is perfect, dry and cool. I pace, visit with some old friends. My sister Laura arrives along with nephew Travis and husband Darold, and lunch. Offered a sandwich or cookie I decline and continue to pace. I warm up the engine, if they had a drivers meeting I missed it. 3500 lb class is first off, I can not find the order posted, a modified B John Deere makes a run, sled looks tough to break loose but he has a good pull once rolling. I finally find I am pulling last in my first class and then coming right back to pull the second time.

I study every pull and find all have trouble breaking the sled loose but once free all make it to mid track and a couple make full pulls. I back up to the sled , they drop the hook into my clevice, I check for the uptenth time to be sure I am in low range then pull the slack out of the chain, I watch the starter, the flag goes from red to green. , I ease out the clutch, rev the engine, front tires lift everything strains, Damn but that sled is heavy, ten foot out and I am hooked up and on the gas.

The track feels a little loose I detect some slippage and am drifting right, dang I hate to lift but if I don't I am going out of bounds, I ease off just enough for the frt. tires to get some dirt and and ease back to the center, to my great surprise I get straightened up in good shape. Giving it the gas I can feel the big wheels churn and she pulls right again so I back off slightly playing with the throttle keeping just enough power on to hold to the track and not bust loose.

I have never had a track like this before, it is wonderful. If I go wide open the tires churn and I start to drift right, by just playing with the gas and keeping the right balance of power I can pull the load and keep everything straight. My straight pipe belies every move I make on the gas, I feel like I am playing a saxophone, what a pretty tune. The pull seems to last forever, like I am stuck in a good dream which just keeps on going, I look down and see the big tires turning, can see the slippage when I give even a tad more throttle then they will hold, everything is in slow motion, and perfect.

At two hundred feet it starts to pull down, no nuances now I bury the pedal and the motor screams the high notes as the front wheels wag up into the air. At 208 I the flag goes red and I ease it down..

Second hook was same although we were able to stretch it to 231.

The rest of the evening was very relaxing, Sis left early taking Briana with her, Rog and Cheryl came and picked up Jordon while Travis and I stayed till eleven just walking about and soaking up the ambiance. Saturday morning I taught Travis how to handle the little homebuilt and then let him drive it through the parade.

Sure wish Dad could have been there.



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blue Dress, Red Barn - Epilogue



















Now, the rest of the story. What was it about this painting?
Why was I so strongly drawn to it at first sight, went back to it a couple times during our first
visit and then again when I went back to buy the small
piece?

I had mentioned the artist had two pictures of the same subject
this one being the more abstract. As nice as the
other picture was, this one is the one that seemed to hit a
chord down deep. . I really am not a big art fan, neverdid understand the draw of the Mona Lisa, what was it then?

As promised the painting showed up Friday, upon opening the box I again felt moved, why? Why this painting?

The one that got away and what could have been? Is that it?
Could it be so simple. I search my inner self but that is not it.

My mother, is it her on the farm when she was first married
to Dad? Again I look inside, I feel around, no, maybe a
little this time but no that is not it.

What about Grandpa? Yes, hit pay dirt, where the feeling is
coming from, my connection with Grandpa and the old family
farmstead. Let me explain.

Grandpa was a young man when he moved to Northwest Iowa from
Streator Illinois and started farming in 1889. Once established he returned home for his sweetheart Rezina, they married and had two little
girls. At 25 she took ill and was gone, he married
again, Minnie bore him five more girls before illness took her
also. Lastly he married my Grandmother who gave him two
boys, Uncle Charles and my father Duane.

I am the youngest son of the youngest son and only knew my Grandfather briefly before he passed on. I have two remembrances of him, one of
him holding me in his lap showing me the inner workings of
his pocket watch, the other of him sick in bed his family
gathered around. I recall clutching my Moms skirt and
watching intently as he joked with my Aunts and Uncles.

Even though I knew him only briefly something in him passed
to me, I have always had that sense, that connection. Dad
told of how he and Grandpa re-shingled the old corn crib,
as they were doing it Grandpa told when first built his first wife had helped him shingle it.

Dad said Grandpa cried as he told the story. I can feel
the pain he felt, the sadness of losing his first love.

Grandpa is buried in Lester next to his third wife, my
Grandmother Mattie, his first two wife's lie in Rock
Rapids sharing the same monument, just their names, a verse
I can not quite make out and a statement that they are the
wife's of Charles Gage. When his daughter, Aunt Alethia who
never married died she too was buried there . Every Memorial
day Dad would make the trip over to Rock Rapids and put
flowers on their graves, a week later he would pick them up.

Last year Dad passed away, the duty, no, honor fell to me, I placed the
flowers, then tried in vain to read the weathered verse, it seemed so sad they should
be all alone, three woman Grandpa had so deeply loved.
Two I had never known gone long before I arrived on
this earth. My heart went into my throat, tears ran down my
face. I could feel his immense sadness and sense of loss..

And that is the place this painting takes me, why it
is so much more powerful in it's more abstract form,
Because it makes me feel, just like I felt at the graves
that day. Yet it offers hope, a shrouded glimpse into a good life long past.

A powerful bittersweet feeling.











Monday, July 6, 2009

Blue Dress, Red Barn, The critics speak


While taking care of Mom our favorite hangout on Sundays was
the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. Not only a lot for
the kids to do but it also houses an art gallery. I am not a
big art fan but it was something to do and on occasion I
spotted something I liked. Fun to look anyway.

A couple months ago we are at the pavilion with the grand
kids so Rose and I check the gallery's out. On display were
a number of paintings by a Tim Vogl from Rapid City S.D. the
title of his show was, Into the Red Barn, most of the
paintings dealt with his memories of growing up on a farm in
Mn.

I was drawn to the paintings, bought one very small one for
50.00 bucks but had to wait for a couple months for the show
to be done to collect it. Fifty dollar painting in hand I
asked him by e-mail if he had sold another larger more
expensive painting I really liked, he had not so I bought it
also, got it this Friday, love it, I am including it for
your review.(-:

Friday morning Miss Connie calls up and tells me she is
setting a extra plate for me, noon I grab my new picture and
head out to the little Acorn. When the main meal was done
and dessert was being served I brought it in and set it on a
chair for review. John glanced at it and simply stated he
was not much for abstract paintings, John is nothing if not
honest.

The rest of the crew comes in, Will gives it a eyeball and
says can't tell what it is, Connie's first comment is the
lady is standing on the downwind side of the line and no
self respecting woman would hang clothes with them blowing
in her face. Barb agrees.

Will exclaims he didn't know it was a lady hanging clothes,
he thought it was picture of a statue or something.

I comment Rose had told me she didn't see the chickens till
I pointed them out, Will exclaims he would have never
thought them chickens, all he could see was the barn.

Connie cocked her head, grinned, and inquired, "what barn"?

Tough Bunch.(-:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Teasing Miss Connie

First, I need to give you, the reader, the lay of the land. My small acreage filled with horses and goats is on
the south edge of town. By good fortune and due to the fact
the last owner had sheep it is grandfathered in as farm land
even though it lies within city limits.

To the south of me, right across the railroad tracks, is
Will's place. Mostly pasture and river bottom land, actually
several chunks strung together, Shakey, the Trailer House
place, Elwoods, the Pond pasture, No Mans land. Go far
enough and you hit Wills folks place, Little Acorn Ranch.

When I am needed and when I can I help Will with his
cows and calves, we chase the occasional bull, fix some
fence when we have time. Not bad work when you can get it.
And, on a good day, we get to eat dinner at the Little Acorn with
Will's folks,John and Miss Connie.

This is good old farm noon meal eating, porcupine balls,
maybe Spanish rice, other day we had tator tot casserole
without the hamburger or tater tots just hunks of steak
with sliced potatoes on top baked in the oven, fresh
asparagus when in season, on a good day fresh rhubarb crisp. And then, "Roy finish up this, Roy have some more spargus"

When you think your all done Connie
rolls out a cart with ice cream and two kinds of topping,
butterscotch and chocolate, and nuts, can't forget the
crushed nuts. "Roy, would you like some tea".

As good as the food is the table banter is even better. Although
both in their seventies Wills folks act much younger, lots
of joking and kidding around. I should have known I couldn't
keep it for myself long.

You remember my son Alan the 31 one year old erstwhile
mechanic. Alan decided he liked being a auto tech as good as
anything but that as much as he liked it anything over three
days a week was simply too much of a good thing. He sold all his
crap, bought a cabin "trashed out trailer house" in the
woods, got his electricity usage down to thirty kilowatts a
month and started working for Miss Connie on Mondays and
Fridays, me, I get him Tuesday thru Thursday.

So what does he do at Miss Connie's? Oh they have funerals
for dead woodchucks the dogs kill, walk in the woods and dig
up protected flowers to plant in the garden, dig up shrubs
and plant new ones, make shade gardens, mow the lawn, wash
the motor home, clean the garage, hang bird feeders, study
birds and catalog bugs. In short they get along just fine
and seem to enjoy each others company. Miss Connie is
nothing if not a mother and like any good mother she makes
sure Alan is well feed. In short, the little fart cut into
my noon dinner franchise. John who buys the grocery's
grumbles but seems to tolerate the situation. Certainly
makes for some lively dinners.

The sting

So my best friend Jerry the parts man from the local GM
dealer retired and I lined him up to help Will pickup round
bales and tote them to Elwoods. 10AM Will calls and asks if I
want to join them for dinner in town, sure count me in, he
asks if I would please pick them up, making sure he has his
checkbook with him I agree to pick them both up at Shakey. A
hour later I come back from a service call and Alan tells me
Will called and they are now eating at John and Connie's and
to please pick them up at Elwoods.

I ask Alan if he is coming, he replies, sadly, that no, he
was not invited. I call up Miss Connie and ask if it would
be possible for Alan to join us. She replies that he is
welcome but their is hesitation in her voice, it is too late
to put on more potatoes, the meat is limited, yes, he is
welcome but we won't be able to eat as much as we normally
do she cautions. Sensing her weakness I say I will tell him she said there
is not enough food and he has to stay home, she makes
some protest but I assure her it will be OK and hang up.

Chuckling I turn to Alan and give him 6 bucks to go buy a
meal at Subway instructing him to show up ten minutes late
with his sack lunch in hand looking all sad and lonely.

Picking the boys up at Elwood I tell Jerry about my plans,
Will is riding in the back of the truck his legs dangling from
the bed and remains oblivious to the plot.

I am no more in the house then Connie starts to apologize
for Alan not coming out, I explain to her is was not a
problem, I had told Alan she had said there was not enough food and he
had to stay home, "but he could have come, I just meant there
was not a lot of food, we could have got by, he could have
come, he is always welcome " her voice trails off. I act unconcerned.

We all sit down for dinner and dig in, Alan's absence comes
up again, again Connie says he could have come, she didn't
mean to say he couldn't. Again I shrug it off, no big deal.

We are ten minutes into the meal when the dogs start
barking, Will gets up to look out the window and starts
laughing uncontrollably, "It's Alan and he has a sack lunch
with him" he yells out.

Connie rushes to met him at the door apologizing and giving
him a big hug, looking for all the world like a lost dog Alan says no problem but could he maybe havea glass of water to go with his sandwich?

At the table again Connie begs his forgiveness and explains
her situation, Will had called late, she hadn't planned on
so many, Alan is playing it for all it's worth, all I can do
to keep from losing it.

After five minutes Alan gave it up and told her it was a
setup, what a hoot, the whole table is roaring now.
Recovering Connie tells us a story of checking cows at two
in the the morning back in the day, not thinking much of her
flashlight one of the cows had stomped her into the mud
leaving her to crawl back to the fence. She was determined
to sell the offending cow but the next day one her her
neighbors had came to the cows defense. Surly she could
understand the cow had been affected by a hormone imbalance
as she was just ready to drop her calf? Connie replies she
had two children and she never stomped anyone into the mud,
that cow was hamburger!

With this story as a lead nothing could save Connie from my
favorite joke of all time.

"Connie, know the difference
between a enzyme and a hormone"?

"No"

“Can't hear a enzyme”.

The table again roars, Connie keeps shaking her head saying
"that's terrible, that's a awful joke” all the while she can't keep
from laughing.

Things die down a bit Alan offers up he told that joke once
to a fellow, guy replied back he never heard a hormone, Alan told him in that case he must be doing something wrong.

Table again erupts.

It was a good day
Regards, Roy

Writers note, Those familiar with the Greigs land will note a error in that No Mans Land is on the Little Acorn Ranch, not Will's land, This is simply a case of it is too good a name to leave out of the narrative. I firmly believe one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Up and In, Stoneys big big day.

Highway Nine runs right past the front office of my shop, the door open I could throw a donut out and hit the street. Yesterday , Friday, they started pulling into town, funky little livestock trailers, cobbled up home made jobs, 35 year old horse trailers, paint faded if they had any paint left to fade.

Exotic animal auction at our fairgrounds two blocks south of me. Friday nite and Saturday till noon. Had to get hay last night, by the time I got there the goats were all sold, lots of birds selling though, chickens, ducks, every kind of pheasant, guinea hens, peacocks. the variety and color of the birds were only matched by the variety of people attending. They don't call them Hill Billy auctions for nothing. In my straw hat though I guess I am the pot calling the kettle black.

I was drawn to the miniature donkeys, they had about twelve or so , one had just dropped her baby earlier in the day, Mom was rather nondescript, what a flashy little jack she put on the ground though, white face, white rump, white rear leg, some other nice white splotches. There is just nothing cuter on Gods green earth then a baby donkey.

Only a couple horses, one was 12 hands, underfed and untrained, not enough time in my life, sorry, surly it will go cheap if it goes at all, horses are worth little unless trained. It is a shame, people just should not breed a horse unless they have a good use for them.

The other horse is a little sorrel miniture mare. I go take a look, I already have three minitures and enjoy them . Stands about 36-37 inchs high at the shoulders. I like this one, friendly, not head shy, nice proportions, not fat, hoofs look good, she lets me pickup her feet.

Saturday morning I take another quick look around, watch them auction off some birds, get a bidding number. Then I turn my back and start to get serious about work, have to get my trailer load of hay backed out of the shop and across the highway, feed my animals, run down Will and see if we can get the hay put up in the barn, no bad work, but work, a busy day.

I am headed to Wills when I get thinking about the little sorrel, they don't eat much, or poop much, I know it would like my farm, feel confident it would fit in. I swing the truck back into the fairgrounds, they have just started on hoofed animials, the longhorns are first up, then the donkeys followed by my little sorrel.


I call Will and he says to go up to 350.00 on the Jenny and her newborn Jack, it goes for 360.00. By now my daughter Audrey has shown up, she knows her horses pretty well, I had requested she take a peak. We both kick ourselves for not throwing another twenty in on the Jenny and Jack, would have been worth it for Will to have it, surly we all would have enjoyed it's antics.

Audrey liked the sorrel, shortly before it came up we met the couple that was selling it, they too had a hobby farm, found out shes was 5, no papers, name is Peanut, had kids on her but not broke to ride, nice couple, I figured at least if she got no saled it would go back to a good home.

The hammer dropped at sixty bucks. I put a lead rope on and led her the two blocks home, not without some excitment. She doesn't lead as well as she could, took twenty minutes to get her through the gate. We put her in a pen by herself at first, sure had all the rest of my animals worked up.


Later I came back and put her into the barn pen where she would have more room, briefly she was with the other horses and they beat on her pretty good, just the way horses are. Kayla my 9 year granddaughter though was pretty upset. Almost as a after thought I put Stoney our little Buckskin gelding in with her so she would have some company. Stoney shows great interest from the get go, lots of sniffing and some tender biting, well for Pete's sake, I think that mare is in heat.

Couple hours later we meet Audrey at the farm so we can go get her hay, we are all watching with bemusement as Stoney does his best to get the job done on his little sorrel, Peanut was certainly cooperating by standing nice for him.

Could of knocked us all down with a feather when he got it up and in.

Back on all fours Stoney gave a soft nicker, it was not easy to pick it up but it was clear to me what he was saying, " Thanks Boss,I needed that"


Sunday, April 27th update.


Looks like today is going to be Pistol the gelded Donkeys
big big day. A cold rain started last night and is
continuing this morning, felt sorry for the rest of my
animals by now dripping wet so opened the gate to the barn
pen letting them all back together. Everyone was out went
in, Stoney stayed in, looks exhausted. Pistol is following
Peanut the new mare around the yard in the rain, holding his
head sideways, curling his lips into a big grin giving
everything a good sniff.

I feel like I dropped a hooker off at a Boy Scouts Jamboree.