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Terror in the Mud


by Bev Berens

Published: Friday, June 7, 2019

Telling Your Story

We surely don't need to dwell on the depressing business of rain that just won't quit, fields that are saturated and seed sitting in bags.

As we well know, mud can come on either end of the growing season, and it seems that when I was growing up, mud in the fall was the norm. Maybe it seemed worse because equipment was smaller and less able to maneuver the mud.

Maybe the memory of years of mud-slogging harvests is worse than the reality; I don't know, and it doesn't matter. It was a long time ago. Ditches that spilled over to create temporary mud bogs in the '60s and '70s are now grass waterways that filter drainage water as it slowly and merrily escapes to larger and faster moving drainage systems.

However, the memory of having to pull Dad out of the mud as he tried to harvest corn near those mud bogs is still very real. And vivid. And still terrifying.

Dad seemed to think two pieces of farm equipment attached to each other with a log chain in the mud was fun—like a carnival ride or something. I recall his face as I looked behind to see if there was any movement; I could see a wide-open toothy grin. I took it as a smile. Maybe he was shouting directions? Maybe he was as terrified as his pre-teen daughter on the rescue tractor?

Now that I think about it, he should have been terrified. A tractor, pull-behind two-row combine and wagon—all connected but moving in different directions at the same time while a panicking 12-year-old is struggling to pull all that metal to higher ground.

The pre-trip instructions were little help. "OK, put the tractor in this gear. When I am ready to go, I'll give you the signal. Go slow, don't snap the chain, but when all the slack is out, then give it the gas; but not all the gas at once. Move the throttle up fast but not too fast. But don't move it too slow, either."

Sure. Got it. This gear. Slow, then fast, but not too fast. And not too slow. And what exactly is the signal?

Does leaning hard in the direction that everything needs to go help? Of course, it does, because I leaned toward the high spot with great commitment.

Maybe praying would help as I grasped for every prayer, Bible verse and catechism answer I could think of as the equipment struggled, slid, slipped and teetered along a ditch that was trying to suck us in like a shark after a swimmer. We would really be in trouble if the ditch won. Well, mostly I figured I would be in trouble for not handling those crystal-clear operating instructions just right.

Eventually, the battle was won. The mud wars seemed like hours but lasted only minutes. The victory wasn't even that sweet, because all I could recall was mud-flying adrenaline filled moments of wailing engines and grinding metal. But they are minutes that left lasting impressions and important lessons:

1. Make every effort to stay out of the mud.

2. Listen carefully to instructions.

3. Lean your entire body into the job. It helps you get where you need to go.

Bev Berens is a freelance writer and FFA parent from Holland, Mich. She can be contacted at uphillfarm494@yahoo.com.

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