Sweat poured down my back and I wiped my brow with one grease stained hand. This mower, oh, this mower. I was pretty certain that Satan himself had come to life and went to work for Case IH as a disc mower design engineer. The Case MDX91 is his gift to the world.
A single 3/8" roll pin had snapped on Tuesday causing the whole lift assembly to crash to the ground, popping apart like a can of Pringles and shearing the all thread that held the spring on. The mower was neatly immobilized, a beautiful piece of red and white pasture art popping up against the muted browns and greens of the hayfield.
Captain America texted me when it happened. His succinct text messages said more about his frustration than a dictionary of curse words.
I arrived the next day with some spare parts from the local hardware store and watched him attempt to loose the all thread from the cast iron jaws of the now seized spring assembly. It didn't work, and for the next morning neither did I as I hauled the spring to the repair shop. The little old farmers opened the door for me and did their best to reassure:
"Farming is only 5% farming, and 95% fixing the stuff that breaks."
"I'm gonna try to hire her."
"Me? Oh no, clearly I'm just good at breaking things!"
"That's fine." He motioned to the broken PTO shaft in his calloused grip. "I'm pretty good at that too. I just need someone to blame it on!"
"We have those springs too. They lock up all the time. These guys will get it extracted for you."
Guess what, they didn't. One new spring assembly and three days later CA and I were headed out, convoy style, when he pulled the big blue bulk of the tractor off the road and walked up to the door of the truck full of tools. I turned down the radio. I should have known then that this was the Devil's clever design.
"We don't have the replacement bolt for the roll pin. It's in my car."
"Oh, you want me to run to your house?"
"No. My car. At your house. An hour and a half away."
But that's fine I thought. Silly me. I believed I could just leave him in the field and run to the closest hardware store, only an hour round trip, and wouldn't even have to get dirty. Oh, I was so sure of my plan as I jammed out in the air conditioned truck. He'd surely have it mostly put together when I got back.
And that was how I found myself sweaty and blackened with grease and hydraulic fluid, repeatedly rocking a cast iron piece of metal over its seat over and over, and over again. We tried to beat it on by hand. We beat it with hammers. We beat it with the front end loader of the tractor. I kicked it. Nothing worked. We took it off, and put it on. I stood up and walked my pretty little head right into the bale spear, slipped on a grease gun and fell flat on my back. I couldn't tell if the water seeping from my eyes was from pain, frustration, shock, or laughter. We took it off, and put it on. Off and on. Our muttered cursing melded with the dull thunk of the hammer into a beautiful song about the human condition. The sonnoffawitchingmothertruckinggoshdanged whatchamadoodle kept jamming for absolutely no reason other than to be contrary.
Which is how I know that Case's signature red color shows their allegiance to the Underworld. Crafty, crafty.
I called for back-up. They couldn't figure it out either. There were no burrs, no reason whatsoever that the one pipe shaped piece would not fit over the other pipe shaped piece. None at all other than this being a test of fortitude. A divinely administered trial designed to plumb the depths of our resolve, break our spirit, drive a wedge in our hearts, and tarnish our souls.
Or not. As Heinlein said, the purpose of laughter is to keep from crying. It also helps keep you from killing your mate as you work towards a seemingly unattainable goal on a 90 plus degree day with about 500% humidity.
"You can call me doctor if you want. Punch."
"Yes, doctor. Punch."
After four hours of repeating the process, the incessant beating with the front end loader worked. The part slipped on like a glove. I cheered. I laughed. I cried. I thanked the Heavens. Hallelujah. There is a God and he answers prayers. The disc mower was my Moby Dick and CA and I had just harpooned the crap out of it. Suck that, Devil-mower.
We didn't stop to question why our relationship had needed to be so rigorously tested through heat and frustration, our love tempered by the fire of both. It wasn't until later that the thought crossed my mind that the Devil-mower was a test. It wasn't my Moby Dick, it was a brief blink of our book of Job.
We merely did a happy dance and went to work inserting other pins and adjusting parts and pieces.
We merely lifted the 30lb spring into place and connected it.
CA merely told me to stand there and depress the hydraulic hose button so that I got a face full of hydraulic fluid, not even a courtesy tap. Seriously. But through laughter we overcame even that, and came out the other side with minimally clogged pores and remarkably silky skin. We freaking persevered.
And that is the story of the time Satan sent a disc mower to test my relationship.