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Adventure of Ron Huckleberry...#9-1 Accident with Uncle Hardie’s Combine
Uncle Hardie allowed Ronnie to accompany him one day while he using his huge combine harvester on the fields. In fact, Ron got to sit on a very small seat next to Uncle Hardie on top of the biggest tractor Ron had ever been on.
This was an exciting day from the moment his uncle peeped into the bed room and asked Ron if he would like to spend the day with him. Ron was out of bed like a strike of lightning. Auntie yelled for him to wash his face and teeth real quickly and join them for breakfast, because Hardie is running late.
Within minutes Ron was sitting next to his uncle as they drive down the long gravel drive way, turn right on the busy highway and then drive a mile to the farm. It’s only about seven a.m., but it is already hot. They park near Father William’s large house and go directly to say good morning to his uncle’s parents.
They too are up and eating breakfast as Ron and his uncle enter the dining room. It was nice to see his 38 year old uncle give his mom and dad a kiss and hug. Mother Williams insisted that they take just two minutes and sit with them and have a glass of orange juice.
In 120 seconds Ron and his uncle were walking towards the larger barn. Uncle Hardie explained to Ron that this was going to be a very busy day and that Ron had to stay near him at all times, because the big machinery can be very dangerous and the workers might not see little Ron as they do their busy jobs.
Uncle Hardie climbed onto the largest tractor and directed Ron to sit on the small seat and not move around or stand up. In fact, Uncle Hardie continued to give little directions to Ron all day.
Uncle Hardie carefully backed the tractor to the front of the ‘combine’. The combine is a piece of machinery that the workers feed the cut hay into. This hay is a mixture of short straw, hulls and chaff. The combine’s job is to save the grain that is separated from this straw, hull and chaff. This is the year 1942 and the farm equipment, including the combine, was very crude compared to modern combines.
After connecting the combine to the tractor they were soon on their way to Mr. Sam Green’s farm. The rich noise of the tractor and the squeaking and clanging of the old combine was exciting to Ron. When they arrived Ron could tell that this was going to be a big job. The fields were vast and many people were already on hand and working.
The weather is great and Uncle Hardie had cut the hay on all of the fields several days earlier. When the weather is nice it’s always better to allow the cut hay to lay a few days to better dry.
Eight wagons, each pulled by two horses or two mules were slowly moving behind one another along the edge of the nearest field. Workers, mostly black men, were using pitch forks to pile the cut hay on to the wagons.
Uncle Hardie selected a place to park the combine. He then parked the tractor near the rear end of the combine and began to give directions to some workers as they prepared to attach a huge, wide, long belt between the combine and the tractor.
A small solid wheel was attached to a long metal rod. This rod was pushed under the tractor. “What are they doing, Uncle Hardie?” Ron asks.
“Ron, there is no motor on the combine, so the combine will operate from the tractor’s engine. The workers are attaching the rod to the crank shaft.
Before Uncle Hardie can continue, Ron is asking, “What is a crank shaft, Uncle Hardie?”
“The crank shaft runs from the tractor’s engine to the rear axle. It’s the crank shaft that makes the rear wheels turn and move the tractor. So we use U ‘bolt” to attach a long metal rod to the crank shaft. The other end is attached to a solid wheel on the side of the tractor.”
“Uncle Hardie, why isn’t there an engine on the combine?” Ron asks before Uncle Hardie can finish his explanation.
“Ron, engines are very expensive and since combines are seldom used it would be a waste of money.” His uncle explains.
Four workers have laid out the long heavy belt along side the tractor wheel towards a similar wheel on the side of the combine.
“Ron, one end of the long belt will be looped over the wheel on the side of the tractor and the other end over the wheel on the side of the combine”, his uncle explains.
With effort they raise the belt and lap it over the small wheels at both ends. The belt sags and is too loose, so Uncle Hardie slowly and carefully inches the tractor backwards until the belt is tight and he is told to stop.
The workmen then place a small log against the forward edge of the tractor wheel and behind the rear edge of the combine ground-wheels. “Uncle Hardie, why put wood by the wheels?” Ron asks.
“Ron, watch what happens when I start the belt turning. The turning belt will actually try to pull the tractor towards the combine and the combine towards the tractor. It’s this strong pressure on the belt that moves the combine gears and devices, which separate the grain.” His uncle tries to carefully explain.
Uncle Hardie then starts the tractor and lets it run. He joins the others as they carefully check to insure that all combine is operating correctly. All seems OK, so the first wagon of hay is directed to slowly and carefully pull up along side the combine.
Directions are now flying left and right. “Ron, stand near the rear of the tractor and do not come near the belt or combine.” His uncle instructs. “Jake, pull your wagon forward about a yard.” A workman is yelling.” “Tommy, tell Dave to bring his wagon along the opposite side of the combine.” A workman is yelling.” “Tommy, direct that all full wagons begin lining-up nearer the combine, so we don’t waste any time.” Tommy, get the empty wagons lined-up behind Dave’s wagon.”
Ron can see that this is one huge operation. Workers are still busy in the field piling hay onto wagons. As usual, arrangements have been made to utilize most of the wagons in and around Little Town when it’s the day to use the combine.
Uncle Hardie and Mr. Tom are constantly climbing under the combine and over the top of the combine as they inspect to insure that everything is functioning properly.
Jake’s wagon is properly positioned and two workers with pitch forks begin throwing hay into the large receiver-pit. Ron watches with amazement. Suddenly there is a new strange noise on the opposite side of the combine as grain begins pouring out of a pipe into Dave’s parked empty wagon.
Ron wants to ask Uncle Hardie some question, but he obeys the instructions of “don’t get in the way!” It doesn’t take too long to empty the hay wagon and Jake carefully drives away from the combine and returns to the field to get a refill.
Uncle Hardie walks back to where is standing. “Ron, would you like to sit in the tractor seat, so you can see the operation better?”
“That would be great Uncle Hardie. Oh, Uncle Hardie, how does the combine get the seeds out of the hay?” Ron quickly asks.
“Ron, I’ll explain that later. Give me your hand and I’ll lift you upon the tractor. Promise that you will sit still, don’t leave the seat and don’t touch anything. Do you promise?” His uncle asks as he rubs Ron’s head.
“I promise.” Ron says.
Two horses pull the second wagon forward and position it to begin unloading the hay into the combine. Ron watches this operation from his ’grand stand’ seat. All goes well and the wagon is soon empty. It’s getting hot and Ron is thinking that he must ask Uncle Hardie if he brought any water.
The wagon driver begins to pull forward and away from the combine when suddenly there is a commotion such as Ron has never heard in his life. The horse nearest the combine jumps, struggles, and falls to the ground. It is making the most awful screams of pain Ron had ever heard.
Ron had actually witnessed the saddest and most awful scene anyone can imagine. “Oh my God, the belt pulled the tail and back bone completely out of the horse’s body. “ Ron screams.
The wagon driver had misjudged and allowed the horse to get a few inches too close to the combine belt. The horse had swished its tail and it got caught in the belt. Naturally Ron screamed as the belt snatched hold of the horse’s tail and ripped out the horse’s back bone. The poor animal screamed and screamed and quickly fell to the ground, almost turning the wagon over. Ron watched as the poor animal kicked a few times and then lay so very still.
It seemed that every one was screaming some kind of instruction. Uncle Hardie ran quickly to the tractor. “Ron, for goodness sake, please don’t move from the seat. All will be OK in a minute. I’ll be right back. “He quickly said to Ron.
His uncle then opened a small metal box below the seat and grabbed a large pistol and quickly checked to see that it was loaded. He then rushed back to the dying horse to put it quickly out of misery. The gun shot sent a shock through Ron as he watched the poor animal relax.
After yelling some unrepeatable words at the wagon driver, Mr. Tom instructed the nearby workers to unhook the dead horse from the wagon and for someone to bring forward a horse and pull the dead horse away from the work area.
Uncle Hardie rushed back to Ron and grabs him into his arms. “Ron, I’m sorry you saw such a horrible accident. I’ve only seen this happen once before in twenty years of farming. This is why everyone must be careful every second. One careless second can be deadly.” He said as he held Ron close and rubbed his back.
Within minutes the dead horse was dragged to a far end of the field and the combine operations was back to full swing.
© GENE HUDGENS
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