Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ice-Road Truckin'

My dad likes to watch this show where the truck out supplies to oil rigs in big semi-trucks over the frozen sea-ice. I decided to try some of my own ice-road trucking this morning with disastrous results:

You see, with the overnight temperatures at something like 26 degrees, the top of the ground (which is completely saturated from recent major rains) was frozen. I figured, I could haul some round bales up to the upper pasture where the cattle are at by driving OVER the frozen ground. I hitched up to the trailer (see below) and immediately hit a snag - the trailer was totally frozen into the ground.

Those bales are somewhere around 1,200 to 1,500 pounds each
(by the way, how do you like my new trailer?)

I guess it should have served as fair warning, but I rocked it back and forth for a few minutes until it popped loose and I was able to pull it all the way up to the upper pasture. As we went, I could tell trouble was coming...
You see, the gate was closed, so I was going to have to stop and park to get out and open it before trying to get going again. Sure enough, after I opened the gate, I couldn't get going again. So I backed up a bit and tried again, nope. Backed up a bit more, nope. Again and again until I was really stuck with no more room to back up.
I called Jessica and asked her to bring out the suburban (assuring her that it would not get stuck.) Unfortunately, the Suburban is (or should I say was?) in an extremely rare state of having just been washed. Unfortunately, the temperature was climbing and things were melting. Unfortunately, she got stuck.
Long story short, I pushed her out (then stood helplessly as she showered me with a roostertail of mud as she drove off), then unhooked the trailer where it sat and spent another 30 minutes getting my truck unstuck before heading inside in cold muddy dejection, having failed miserably in my attempt to get the hay unloaded. Will someone please slap me the next time I try to buy a 2WD truck?

Friday, January 29, 2010


Just a photographical update on the longhorn situation with an emphasis on the new bull:

Pre-Bid Meeting

Ever wonder what a pre-bid meeting for the City of Arlington Janitorial Services bid looks like? Behold!The funny thing was there was a very large man of african american heritage sitting in the back who kept falling asleep. OK, that part wasn't really so funny, but when he would start snoring loud enough that everyone turned around to look at him...yep...that was pretty funny.

For today's bonus round: If all the contract terms are clearly spelled out in writing, and any verbally disseminated information is non-binding, what is the point of a pre-bid meeting where they read through the bid documents? I would think, that if a vendor can't figure out how to read the specs in a bid, the city would be glad to know it and would promptly DQ them. Am I too much of a cynic?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Dad

Dad & I just came in from a wrench-o-thon in the shop (involving the removal of the transmission & engine from our 'parts' car) and I feel great. It is so cool to work on stuff like this with family. I really wish all of us (brothers & father) could get together a little more often. Maybe some day....
Tomorrow a guy is coming to pick up the engine and now I can get the transmission installed in our other metro, and get the parts carcass removed from my shop (where it has been sitting for months).

Friday, January 22, 2010

A compliment

Received today from my (former) boss in the course of discussion about my personal growth:

"The rough edges get ground off as we tumble through life. Then you reach my age and they all pop out again."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The News (Hey!!!)

I arranged with a guy from Craigslist to deliver four of the big round bales of hay to our house this past Friday. He later called to report his tractor would be broken and that he would have to deliver them on Sunday. At that time, we were nearly out of hay, so I said that would be fine and to call me when he was ready to come out. Well, he called my while I was in church to tell me he was in Leonard and ready to deliver the hay. What that meant is that I had to tell him to just drop them in the field (as opposed to showing him exactly where I wanted them placed.)

In other news...
...I have no way to move these round bales (which weigh over 1,000 lbs each dry) so last night I finally decided to do a backlogged project and weld up a hay spike that would fit the three point hitch/lift on the back of my tractor. I started welding and hit a point where I really needed the use of a cutting torch to finish it (which I don't have) so I quit that project (temporarily) and decided to try to see if I could just use straps to strap a bale to the front-end-loader on the tractor to see if I could move one that way. I aired up the tires, (one of the tires is so trashed from UV rays it is literally falling apart, but it will hold air for an hour or so) and jump-charged the battery (the alternator is strong enough to keep the tractor running, but too weak to keep the battery charged) and it ran for a few seconds before shutting off. I couldn't get it restarted and on a whim, I checked the fuel level (it had at least 4 gallons of gas in it the last time I parked it) and discovered it was empty. What that means is that the gas has drained down into the oil pan (again) and that the tractor is completely unusable at this time. I wrote the night off as a total loss and went to bed.

In other news...
I woke up at 4:00am this morning and drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma to check on my employee there, deliver some tools to him, etc. On the way, I decided to check the Tulsa craigslist to see what the hay situation looked like. Bingo! They had lots of hay up there for cheap, so I called a guy and we set up a tentative meeting for this afternoon to get some hay. Here's the thought; if the bales are in my truck, I can push them out by hand right in the spot where I want them. So, you see, a round bale (or two) in the truck is worth 4 on the ground - at least when you don't have any way of moving them... After work, I drove over to this dude's place and he loaded two bales (I guess they are rolls really...) in the back of my truck with his front-end-loader.

Exhibit A - One dirty, beatup old pickup with 2 roundbales in the back

Note how the bales (which are 5 foot in diameter and 4 feet long are loaded that the rolling side is NOT positioned to roll out the tailgate for easy unloading. It was a compromise we had to make in order to get them to both fit in the 8 foot bed of the truck.

Can I just take a moment to say that for all the problems my truck has, there is certainly a very satisfying feeling to be able to load it down like this and then proceed to drive something like 300 miles with it and have it act like it was made for carrying this sort of load (which it was.) I was cruising up fairly significant Oklahoma hills at 70 mph on cruise control and this truck didn't even downshift or lose any speed. It just plain handles it. There's the best argument for diesel I guess.

In other news...I made it home tonight at 9:30pm and proceeded to spend about an hour going through the following process (which has apparently become my official modus operandi for round bale logistics:)
  1. Get truck stuck in mud
  2. Say some quick prayers and then sling a lot of mud getting unstuck while tearing up the pasture and increasing dramatically the chances for getting stuck again in the future
  3. Spend 5 minutes repositioning truck for the optimal angle and location so that when the round bales come out, they are in the right place.
  4. Spend 5 minutes positioning straps to various stationary objects in a vain attempt to pull the bales out.
  5. Resort to brute strength and back-injury risk level 10 and push them out by hand in a brutal battle for progress that comes inch by inch (or less) with each herniating push
Like I said, it took about an hour, but in the end, one of the bales is strategically located and is locked away behind bars to prevent the cattle from spoiling it prematurely, while the other is successfully placed in the cattle pen in a round bale ring (it prevents the cattle from pulling the bale all to pieces and trampling/spoiling it.)

In other is now nearly midnight and though I have been going strong for approximately 20 hours non-stop, I am now typing this for your viewing pleasure because the "medication" I took to keep me awake and safe during the drive home has not worn off yet. Tomorrow is going to come at me with a vengeance - I can feel it.

In other news...the cattle are all stoked to be grubbin' on some tasty new hay (all of them except for the little longhorn bull calf who was smart enough to be standing under one of the round bales when it came out of the back of the truck and proceeded to roll over him - he got up quick and seemed to be fine, but I imagine he'll be feeling that one in the morning.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Duck Hunting

It is 6:25am and I am sitting here waiting on some duck hunters to show up so I can collect their contract/liability waivers and then show them out to the hunting area. These guys are a little late and were plannng on getting here around 6:00am. Just a few thoughts:

  1. These guys are hard core! They are coming out in the middle of what will likely go down as the coldest weather of the year and they said they are planning to bring a sledgehammer to break through the ice (if needed) so they can sit around in the cold and shoot a few skinny little mud ducks.
  2. I am cool getting up at 6:00am to wait for them because 'early to be early to rise' fits in nicely with my "new years resolution(s)"
It is now 6:42am and I just came in from collecting contracts and $$ and showing them where to go. It is COLD out there! The cattle have frost on their hides and my fingers are having a hard time typing this even though I was wearing gloves and I was only out there for a few minutes.

I give the hunters a guarantee that if they don't shoot at any ducks, they don't have to pay. It is a fun guarantee to give because they are always asking about it when they first come out to hunt, but I have NEVER had to refund anyone their money. The fact is that the ducks come in to this lake every morning and if a hunter is dedicated enough to come out here and set up before first light, it would be hard to find a way to not end up shooting at some duck.

This year there has been about half the quantity of ducks there was last year, but from what the hunters are telling me, having any ducks at all this year is really something extraordinary. It may be the pricing (I only charge $50 per hunter per day) or it may be that the guys who belong to the high-dollar hunting clubs aren't getting the chance to shoot any duck at their club lakes, but I only posted one craigslist ad and from it: I booked out the entire season, developed a large list of backup hunters, and keep getting requests for next year to lease the place out "for the season."

In summary, it is real nice to make a couple hundred dollars before 9:00am (which is when they usually head out of here) and it is also kind of fun for me to meet all these different hunters and watch how differently they all operate. Last week the guys that came out didn't bring a retrieval dog and they were using our boat to retrieve their ducks and decoys. The problem was that there was a stiff wind and they looked like they were performing a comedy routine out there trying to get that boat to go against the wind. They finally gave up and used a lead line to manually pull the boat all the way around the lake. This week the hunters actually came out with a portable blind made of hay and I think these guys (or at least one of them) must know what they are doing. They were talking about the direction of the wind and ice-breaking like they do this all the time. I have a feeling the ducks are going to be in trouble this morning.

It is now 6:51am and if today is anything like the last few weeks, we should be hearing the first gunshot(s) within 10-15 minutes.

It is 7:07am and they just took their first shots. Good times!