Outstanding In Their Field

Outstanding in their field Stng Head-WEB

Note: This column is reprinted from Oct. 15, 2014.

The combine is the piece of machinery used to harvest grains. When harvesting soybeans, the plants are cut by a sickle about 2” above the ground. Everything is conveyed towards the middle of the machine.

A narrow conveyor called the feederhouse delivers the crop from the cutting platform to the cylinder and concave where it is threshed. The cylinder is equipped with rough edges and spins just fractions of an inch inside rows of metal bars called the concave. The spinning cylinder, grating the crop against the concave, threshes the grain from the plant.

This process usually goes smoothly, unless something enters the combine that is not part of the crop.

Modern combines have a hollow space in front of the concave and cylinder to catch any rocks that try to enter, aptly called the stone trap. Recently my combine also consumed bicycle parts that someone threw into the field. The bike frame did not make it through the concave, nor did it fit into the stone trap. The 160-horsepower engine firmly wedged the bicycle in the feederhouse against the cylinder and concave.

Harvest experienced a 30-minute delay while the blockage was removed and repairs were made.

In years past, my combine has also eaten hubcaps, mufflers and a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was the worst, a 2-hour fiasco. Once, I had to use a large crowbar to remove a rock. Moments later, I stopped again to remove the crowbar that became stuck in the combine; I failed to pick it up.

The bicycle ordeal led me to quiz other farmers as to what odd obstructions they had found in their combines. Some were so severe, it makes me feel lucky, so far.

Don had several hours of repair after a propane tank from a gas grill wedged in huis machine. Another Don had the task of removing the bones of a skeletonized deer from his machine. Dave’s combine was halted by a VCR player once and a tire another time. Tom once caught a tree stump with the combine’s sickle. The impact caused $3,800 in damage.

Jeff farms near many subdivisions. Some of his neighbors dump piles of leaves and grass in the field. The piles block the sickle as well as plug the feederhouse and cylinder. He also fights plastic, house wrap, insulation and other construction debris that blows into the fields.

His planter once lost a large part, which the combine inconveniently found at harvest. His combine also ingested tomato cages and was unsuccessful in passing them all the way through. In one of his fields, a sewer was installed, and a pipe was left sticking 12” out of the ground. Unfortunately, he found it while harvesting soybeans and did some serious damage to his machine.

None of my farmer friends reported finding that bag of money from D.B. Cooper wedged in their machine.

To the owner of the bicycle: Sorry I could not save it. If you will contact me, I can return the pieces along with a repair bill.

For the duration of harvest, we hope everyone keeps their garbage out of our fields. Feel free to throw all the bags of money you want, though.

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