Rick Houser: Bring the chain; I did it again

Clermont County's Rick Houser has released a second book, this one titled "Memories from the Heart."

I have something to tell. You probably won’t find it as interesting as I do but I just have to tell it. It has been several years since I left the farm and felt I was out of the woods so to speak about this topic. The thing is I was wrong. Saturday afternoon I got my riding mower out of the shed where it has rested all winter and after walking around the yard a little bit I decided it was dry enough to give the lawn its’ first mowing of the year. Halfway on my second round of mowing I felt the rider slowing down and saw I wasn’t going anywhere. I looked at the wheels and they were spinning and covered in mud.

As I sized up my situation I thought to myself “Oh no, I can’t be stuck!” It has literally been decades since I was stuck. On the farm it seemed that getting stuck could almost be a daily event. As I sat there going nowhere I was thinking to myself there just couldn’t be any way this could happen. (I guess I hadn’t grasped the fact I WAS going nowhere and yes it could happen. As I turned the mower off and I headed towards the house flash backs from my farming days rushed up to remind me of times stuck in times gone by.

Our farm was a farm that was rolling ground. This had its pluses and minuses. The plus was we could almost always find a ridge that drained well and we could get out on the area and work the land worry free of getting stuck. But as we worked nearer to the lowest part of the farm the odds of needing a pull had increased greatly. So every spring when we went into a field we took our chances. All I could think about Saturday were those long walks from the fields to the house where I would find my dad or brother to bring the other tractor and a log chain that my dad had wisely bought many years before.

I always felt that having to walk back to the house was a punishment for maybe being careless and allowing the tractor to get too close to a swampy spot. Most of the time getting stuck was just the chance you took as you worked on the farm. However there were also times when the whole mess could have been avoided. I must tell you the walk back to the house became long for a couple of reasons. First was as I walked I would think about the mess I was in and get steamed up about it and of course then was when I would think of all the coulda and shoulda things I forgot to do. The other reason it took so long was it never failed that I was in a field about as far away as it was possible to be from home.

I think spring was the most prevalent time to sink your tractor but I have found that just about any time of the year and also weather conditions can find you in need of a chain and another tractor. Most times getting stuck would only be only stuck enough that you didn’t have any traction and a small pull would get you out. The times when you would hit what we called a wet spring or something had blocked an area from draining as usual you would find the tractor and all the equipment attached to it sunk deeper than you had ever imagined anything could sink. These times were major problems and put all that equipment into real danger of getting damaged beyond repair. I recall one year when dad sunk the tractor and disc so deep on a new spot in the field that he had to call a tow truck to UN stick them and with a crane pull it all to solid ground. (Dad said that one couldn’t be helped I think since he was driving.)

One year we hired a man with a self-propelled combine and when he headed into a low spot he sank the combine to where it took two tractors and a bulldozer and most of a half a day pulling that combine out of that mess. We never plowed that spot of the field again. It was decided it was better to skip a quarter of an acre than to sink into the abyss again. The most bizarre time for me was one summer I was baling hay and was on the highest ridge on the farm when the hay balers’ wheels began to sink. I somehow got it out of trouble before I sank but I still don’t understand just how could I sink on a high ridge. I always guessed it was just me and maybe the good lord didn’t want me to bale hay that day.

Whatever the reasons or how stuck I got I dealt with it and moved on with what I was doing. So when I got stuck on my riding mower Saturday it really bothered me. I thought I had left the farm and the getting stuck behind me. It is safe to say I was wrong about that. I learned that I don’t have a rope or chain or cable to use to pull me out with. That was when I ask myself why did I let that big ole log chain go? Working in the fields was always a risk and still is today I’m sure but mowing my yard? I never saw them as having the same thing in common but today I stand corrected.

I have always talked about my life on the farm and how much I enjoyed it. I still do. But I must say here that getting stuck was and still is a memory that fails to rate as a fond memory. The getting stuck was bad enough but having to walk that distance and then find someone and having to tell that person why you are needing them does humble a person. I know it did me and guess what? It was the same feeling again Saturday.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.