“Don’t worry about it, Amanda. There is no way I’m getting this combine stuck.”
Those now infamous words came out of my brother Jeremy’s mouth while I was riding in the combine with him one afternoon. Harvest this year has been extremely sloppy wet. It seems like we have about 4 days of sunshine, and then two days of monsoons that drench the fields. We get so much rain, we usually have to take off a day before we can get back out there. The afternoon I was riding with him was the first day after letting the fields “dry out.” There was water standing in the fields, but he drove right through it.
In reality, Jeremy was (almost) right. The combine usually does a really good job of getting through mud, muck, and standing water. As my dad says, places where a person on foot would get stuck in the mud are no problem for the combine.
But a couple weeks after that afternoon, I was making dinner when my cell phone rang. It was mom. She was out in the field with Jeremy. She needed me to go down to the barn, where the grain dyers make it too hard to hear anything, and tell my dad that the combine was stuck. Initially, I didn’t think anything of it, but chuckled when I remembered that previous conversation. When they all got home, having decided that they didn’t want to try anything in the dark, I ribbed my brother about his previous assessment. No way it could get stuck; right?
Never say never.
Unfortunately, the situation was a little worse than originally expected, and definitely not a laughing matter. While the field was already pretty wet and muddy, the combine apparently sunk into some type of hole in the field. We suspect a drainage tile must have collapsed, which does happen occasionally. Not only was the back tire under mud, it was also under about a foot of water.
The other unfortunate thing is that combines don’t really have a good place to secure a chain or strap for pulling them. Dad initially thought pulling it backward might be the easiest way to get it out. However, there was so much mud and water behind it, the idea fizzled quickly. That turned out to be a bit of luck. As the mechanic at the local dealership warned, pulling from the back could literally pull the machine apart. But pulling from the front was also tricky because it has so many hoses and moving pieces that could be damaged. Complicating matters even more, the carriage of the combine was actually sitting on the ground because the wheels had sunk in so far.
Initially, the guys attempted to pull it out by hooking a cable around the front axle and pulling with one of our big tractors. On the first attempt, the cable snapped. This can actually be pretty dangerous because when the cable breaks, it flies toward the tractor — and person — driving it. Of course, the cable could swing out and hit anyone else in the area. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of other options.
After the cable failed, dad sent my brothers to purchase a towing nylon rope. Meanwhile, he brought over the backhoe and attempted to dig away some of the mud from the tires. But….then the backhoe got stuck. At that point, they stopped for lunch.
After lunch, they arrived back at the field to find a family friend was there. Andy does excavating and has lot of big equipment, so he was more than happy to help. Michael said it was quite a “morale booster” to find Andy out there.
They secured the nylon rope to the tractor and then to the combine with a chain. Each time they tried to pull, links of the chain would break. Two tractors were then linked with the combine. They pulled. Finally, it came loose and they were able to get the combine out of the mud and muck.
The activities did run over part of the corn crop, but we were able to finish the field and get the heck out of there.
Jeremy now wants to amend his original statement: The combine can drive through water; it cannot withstand quicksand.