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Dog Days

Agriculture.com Staff 08/04/2008 @ 7:28am

During these dog days of summer, I take the dog for our walk early in the morning when the air is cool and saturated with the sensuous aroma of sex.

Plant sex, that is. The corn is now lustily pollinating; all around our house, millions of corn plants are "getting busy" with each other. Tassels jut skyward at jaunty angles, proclaiming their vegetative studliness. Golden silks dangle seductively, miniature Rapunzels displaying their luscious locks, inviting their paramours to clamber up and enjoy the lascivious delights that await at the top of the tower.

Walking along with the sweet corn-like smell in one's nostrils causes one to ruminate. I recall that a man walking covers 2 1/2 to 3 miles an hour -- slow enough to count the obscenely green corn stalks as they slip by, but not as slow as First Gear on a John Deere "B."

The reason I know this is because we once owned a John Deere "B" and an A-6 Case combine, a team that was pressed into service for oat harvest at about this time of year.

By today's standards, the A-6 was a puny little combine. Powered by a Wisconsin V-4 air-cooled engine, it probably had as much horsepower as the starter motor on one of today's self-propelled harvesting behemoths.

To say that the A-6 was underpowered would be a gross understatement. This lack of snort is why it had to be paired with the "B" and its extremely slow Low Gear.

We owned the A-6 together with our neighbor Martin. Martin was a nice guy, although a bit eccentric. He was also as tight as the bark on a tree.

Every year, after the end of oat harvest, we would put a soup can atop the A-6's muffler and carefully park it out in the trees. We had no machine shed, so the A-6 had to sleep outside all winter.

On my 14th midsummer, we hauled the A-6 out and began to prepare it for another oat harvest. Starting the engine was first on the "to do" list, mainly because it wouldn't be much fun to crank the combine's threshing mechanism by hand.

The Wisconsin engine, however, was cranked by hand. Ever the innovator, I learned how to crank the Wisconsin with my foot, as if I were kick-starting a huge clunky-looking orange motorcycle. I thus cranked the engine with more vigor while avoiding a broken arm should the engine opt to kick back.

I slipped the crank onto the crankshaft and gave the Wisconsin a mighty kick. Nothing! And I mean absolutely nothing. The crank didn't move; repeated efforts produced not even the slightest hint of a budge.

Investigation revealed that numerous holes had formed in the muffler. Rainwater had entered the engine, fusing it into a solid clump of lifeless, rusty metal.

Copious amounts of WD-40 were administered through the spark plug holes. Only after the engine had absorbed about a gallon of WD did it grudgingly yield to a kick of the crank.

But did it then start? Ha! The Wisconsin merely laughed as I spent hour upon hour kicking it over, sweating so much in the process that my shoes squished when I stomped off.

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