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The Beast

"The Beast is what I call our old grain truck, let me tell you about it."

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The Beast is the older of our two grain trucks. I better describe it , so that you have a picture in your mind of what it really is like. Its a 1968 Dodge grain/dump truck, built like a tank, unlike the newer converted grain trucks that have been used on the highways. The capacity of the box is 16 tons and it has 20 gear shifts.

The PTO runs the hydraulics that hoist up the box when you unload the grain. Don't tell anyone, but the brakes are practially non-existant now, but lucky me, still get to drive it! Oh and the driver's door dosen't latch anymore, making it very interesting when turning a corner. So now you know why I call it the Beast.

We have two farms, about 7 miles apart. At harvest time it is my job to unload the grain and drive the truck back to the field again. Ed usually fills it up and then calls me at home to come unload for him. It usually takes about 20 minutes to unload.

By the time I get there, he has backed the Beast up to the hopper bin, and hoisted the box up and the grain is flowing into a hopper and up the auger to the top of the bin. A hopper bin has a cone-like stucture at the bottom that makes it easy to unload the grain, so it can be trucked to the elevator for sale at a later date. I hope you get the idea.

The auger which is a big long tube thing, has a rotating part inside that lifts the grain up the tube . It is powered by a tractor's PTO, don't ask me how all this works, I am a city girl, just doing what I am told.

As soon as I arrive , with a book to read mind you, don't want to die of bordom. Ed takes the pickup truck and heads back to the field. He will be combining again, hoping I get the truck back into the field before he has to stop and wait for me. We didn't have the second truck at the time of this story.

I sit with my back against a bin side and read my book, looking up every once in a while to make sure the grain isn't over flowing onto the ground. I notice that the box should be put up some the grain will flow faster. I walk over to the side of the truck and hold the makeshift leaver that Ed had made ( the leaver inside the cab quit a long time ago ). Then I walk to the back to see the flow, oh no...its running too fast now, I run back to lower the box again . But, now I have to shovel some of the grain back into the hopper. Geez!

As I am finishing cleaning up the mess , the box is now empty. I shut the trap door that allows the grain to flow out and walk over to the tractor. I pull myself up to the cab, it doesn't help to be a short person. I climb in and sit down, looking for the lever to shut the PTO off, and pull a knob out to cut the fuel to the engine, then shut the key off. Don't ask why, I just do as I am told. Now I climb down out of the tractor, why don't they make them for shorter people?

I go to the Beast and move the lever so the box is lowered. I notice the sun is getting lower in the sky. I want to get moving, since I don't have the greatest eyesight in the dark. Its not like the city, with all the steet lights, it really gets dark in the country.

The box is finally down and I go to the cab and pull myself up and sit down. Now I have to push the PTO knob in before I drive, its on the dashboard. But its way too stiff for me to push it with my hand, so I have to lift my foot up to it and push it that way.

Then I start it up and put it in first gear, I always look at the little map of the gears on the visor. Taking my foot off the clutch slowly as I can, with my short legs , I sit forward on the seat. The truck starts to move well more like jump. Then when its going well , I fight to change it into second gear. I don't call this truck the Beast for nothing you know.

I drive down the lane and into the field, turning a corner to the right. Since the door doesn't latch anymore, I have to hang onto the handle with one hand, while driving the huge wheel with the other one. It swings open anyways, cause I am going too fast. I must look quite the sight.

I hang on and straighten out then now shift gears again getting more speed. There are alot of shadows out now, and I can't really see where I am going. I just hope I am going towards Ed, the field is big , but I do see some dust way ahead of me, as I bump along.

All of a sudden there is a big bang, and my head hits the top of the roof, the truck has stopped. I am stunned, and can't see what has happend. I push the door open , and climb down, but as I step off the running board, there is no ground where it should be. I fall into what seems like a hole, and get up. I still don't know what has happened, so I step back more so I can have a better look.

Ok, now I see it looks like the truck has done a nose dive into a drainage ditch. I had no idea it was even there. As I am pondering what to do now, Ed drives up to me in the pickup truck. He says, “What did you do now? Didn't you see the ditch?” I looked at him and said, “No it was just getting too dark and I was in a big rush to get to you . You know I don't see well in the dark!”

He shakes his head at me and leans over, puts his hand inside the cab and turns a knob, and the headlights go on. I stand there with my mouth open and then I say, “Well I didn't know where the lights were, having never had to drive the truck in the dark before.” What could I say? I just shrugged my shoulders. Meanwhile something or other is bleeding onto the ground.

Ed was able to back the truck out of the shallow drainage ditch and drive it over to the combine. I then drove the pickup truck home. Glad my work for the day was done.

As it turned out, I did a little more damage to the Beast then we first realized. The radiator ended up haveing a small crack in it and had to be replaced. But that wasn't the last thing that I did to it, as I will now tell that story here too.

Part Two of the Beast

Another time, Ed asked me to go to the other farm, we call it the Martin farm, for the previous owner. He had finished the combining over there and needed to move all the machinary to the home farm. This time, Ed went first, pulling the auger behind the pickup truck.

I got the job of driving the Beast home, what joy! So I climbed up into the cab, checked which way the gears were, ( had to do that every time, since I didn't drive it very often ) Truck gears are arranged in a different pattern then tractors and pickup trucks. Don't as me why, seems stupid to me.

So making sure I wasn't in rear gear, I lifted my toe off the clutch, the truck jumped and I was off. I got it into second gear , which isn't easy, trying to get the clutch all the way down and at the same time, move the gear since it resisted me. But I did it and drove along the winding lane, hanging onto that pesky door as I went along. I slowed down at the end of the lane, but didn't change gears, it was just too much trouble. I turned right and headed down the gravel road.

As I picked up speed, I even got it into the fourth gear, and thought that will do. So I settled down for the 7 mile trip. There was a few more turns, which I had to hang onto the door, but I just let the truck slow down put it into a lower gear and made a wide turn. Ed had taught me well ,when it came to turning with a big vehicle.

As luck would have it, I had to make another right turn, (hanging onto the door again), then a left before I was on the home stretch. I gave a sigh of relief and smiled as I bumped along the gravel road.

All of a sudden I sniffed, and noticed a slight smokie odor. I thought the engine must be getting warm, no biggie and I carried on. But the smell got stronger and stronger, it was definetly smoke. I wondered where it was coming from and if I should stop and have a look around. But I was only about 1/2 mile from home, so I kept on going. I just wanted to get the thing home and get cleaned up.

Well, I kept on going and finally I saw smoke inside the cab. Now I knew something was really really wrong. So I slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. I was just so close to home, maybe 1/4 mile. I got out and looked at the front end, sure enough the smoke was coming out of the engine. I figured this can't be a good thing, I should have stopped when I first smelled the smoke. But it was too late now.

I started walking, home, it was getting dark now and as you know , I don't have the greatest eye sight in the dark. I hadn't gotten very far, when I saw headlights coming towards me, it was Ed. I thought to myself, “Oh Boy” how am I going to explain this?

Ed stopped, picked me up and we went back to the grain truck. He said, “ What did you do?” He has a way of saying this phrase that really means ( what fool thing have you done now?). That was his stardard question for me. I Told him what had happened while he opened the hood. Smoke came billowing out. Turned out, I had fried the engine and Ed had to go back to the farm to get a tractor to haul the Beast home.

Ed was really good about the whole thing, blaming himself for not checking the antifreeze level. The engine had overheated. But I have to say, I should have stopped as soon as I smelled smoke. A new engine had to be installed , and I won't tell you what that cost!

I still have to drive the Beast at times, but only into the fields now. It still gives me alot of trouble changing the gears and now there is hardly any breaks, and the door still flies open. But thats farming for you .

PS; Now Ed remembers this story differently, but since it's my story, I have written it the way I remember it going down.

Written by Kari
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