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Mortimer Snert and the Square Baler

It was an agricultural day in the neighbourhood when Mortimer Snert arrived at the farm. Now as we all well know, Mort was not a farmer, nor did he pretend to be, nor did he desire to be one, nor did he want to have anything to do with farming, but tragically enough, he was the son of farmers, and therefore, by default, was involved with the more unpleasant aspects of such a fine profession. Things like putting ear tags in cows, or sticking the thing in their nose so they could extract massive amounts of blood from their necks, or hooking chains up and stretching new calves out, or lifting hay bales in 120 degree weather because it’s going to rain, or working on a multitude of worn out obnoxious farm machinery. Worn out obnoxious farm machinery was what had precipitated his visit to the farm this fine weekday. Mort was not in the habit of visiting the farm during the week, unless he absolutely had to. But this was one of those instances. It started off with a phone call from his mother. She had left a message on the answering machine, which said in no fewer words, call me when you get here for lunch. Now Mort knew this was Not A Good Thing. His mother usually left these long rambling messages on the machine, hoping that if he were there and heard who it was leaving the message, that he would have time to pick his way through his uncluttered living room and talk to her. No, messages like this usually meant something real serious had happened, or was about to happen. Like someone croaked, or his dad had gotten run over by cows, or there was a broken piece of machinery. So it was with great trepidation that Mort returned his mother’s phone call. He was in formed that the Baler Needed Worked On. Now this was a message that Mort could well have done quite without. It was akin to We Need To Take The Cooler Out Of Grandma’s Window, or Help Us Put Up The Xmas Tree. No, these were not the kind of things that Mort wanted to hear. Especially after a long day of visiting grade schoolers and hearing Cowboy Roy slaughter the Spanish language, and sitting in the office trying to enter data into the computer while Typhoid Nancy had the stupid tv playing in the other office so loud that it made his ears hurt, and interjecting comments of a judgemental nature about everything. But heard it he did, and when he asked when the Baler Needed Worked On, he was told that it could probably wait until he got off work. Gee, thanks, ma, thought Mort to himself. Now the Baler That Needed Worked On was just not your ordinary run of the mill baler, either. As with every other piece of farm equipment Mort had ever dealt with, this one was ancient and well used. Very well used. Now Mort and his dad had been screwing with this particular device for the past 10 years or so. And, being typical farmers, they could not spend any money on the thing, even though it was about to fall apart. A piece of baling wire (which, by the way, there was plenty of in this case) here, a bolt the wrong size there, maybe a quick spot weld once in a while, and it was back to the field. Well about 2 years previously, Mort had thrown up his hands and told his dad that there was nothing he could do with the baler, he needed to take it to the baler store and have them look at it. Now the original problem with the baler was that it would intermittantly not tie one side of the wire, so bales would come out with one wire tied, and one not, or one wire tied and the other looped once, so when you lifted the bale, the wire that was looped would come loose, and hay would fly everywhere. Now the mechanism which tied the wires was really simple. It had 3 moving parts, but all 3 were worn out. And Mort’s dad would not buy new ones, because it cost too much. And there was not much adjustment that could be done to the thing, after all, it was worn out, you could adjust until you were blue in the face, and it still wouldn’t work. This, compounded with the fact that the adjustments could not be made in a nice clean work area made it all the much better. No, to adjust the thing, you had to be right out in the big middle of the alfalfa patch, with wind blowing 37 mph and dirt and bugs and 125 degree weather, and the baler had to be baling, complete with 5 tons of alfalfa dust, which, by the way, Mort was deathly allergic to. So Mort had refused to work on the baler, and his dad had reluctantly hitched the thing to the back of the pickup truck and driven it to town, down the highway at 35 mph, to the baler store. So he left it off, and the guys at the baler store, which, by the way, was in Enid, looked at it, and being the mechanical geniuses that they were, pronounced there to be Nothing Wrong With It. So Mort’s dad retrieved it, and proceeded to bale with it, and gee, what do you think happened. Well, certainly not the same problem that it had had since the dawn of time. Nope, not at all. So this time, when Mort’s dad asked him to look at the baler, Mort had insisted that he replace the 3 moving parts in the tie mechanism. They took all 3 parts off, put them in a bag, and Mort told his dad that either he bought new parts for the thing, or Mort was never looking at it again. Well, it seemed that his dad had just cut the alfalfa down, and since Mort had dissected the baler, and his dad had no idea how things went back together, he decided that it would not be such a bad idea to maybe go by the baler store with the baggy of parts and see if they could give him some new ones. So the next day, Mort assembled the baler, and adjusted it as much as he could without baling anything. His intention was to have his dad bale a few bales, and see if there was any adjustment that needed to be tweeked. So they hooked the tractor up to the baler, and Mort’s dad started out through the field. Now Mort had given his dad explicit instructions to only bale a few bales, and stop so they could tweek anything that needed it. But once his dad got started baling, there was no stopping. For anything. And Mort could tell by looking at the ties, there would be problems. But there was no stopping his dad, so Mort threw up his hands and went home. Now while it was true that the baler worked through 100 or so bales without having serious problems, it was still mis adjusted, and Mort knew that there would come a day when he would have to be out in the lovely dirt again adjusting the damned thing. Well, that day wasn’t too far in the future. As was pretty typical with these type of things, Mort heard about it after the fact. It seems his dad had baled a field of hay, and every other bale had only one wire, and alternating bales had 3 wires. Now every good farmer knows bales should have 2 wires, both of which are tied correctly. But baling hay is a life threatening occupation, and if you don’t get the hay baled in a specific time, there’s no telling what would happen. So instead of calling for help, his dad just picked up the broken bales and fed them in the front of the baler to have them tied with 3 wires. Now while this may not seem like that big of a deal, there was a small problem with the third wire. Since it only tied on one end, there was something like 6 feet of extra wire on each bale now, with one end loose. Now this was not a problem until the baler spit the bales out on the ground, at which time the third wire extended to it’s full length. Now the next step in baling hay involves picking it up and loading it onto a truck, which involves an automated bale loader. This fine device, like everything else was ancient, and used a chain drive with teeth to grip the bales and haul them up onto the truck. So the third wire, as soon as it hit the bale loader, would became entangled around the chain, and the sprockets and anything else that moved, and would bring the bale loading process to a screeching halt. The only way to rectify this was to go around to each bale with a pair of cutty pliers and cut off the 3rd wire at the knot. So basically what happened here was that a process that should be fairly quick and relatively painless (well, as painless as anything involving farming and farm machinery goes) took an eternity. So after this episode, Mort’s dad decided he’d better have Mort come out and adjust the baler one more time. So he had Mort’s mother call Mort (since he didn’t deal with asking for help) and it was this process that caused Mort to be visiting the farm on this fine day. Now this particular day also was one of the worst allergy days of the year so far, and not only that, the wind was blowing 73 mph, and there was dirt for days. And Mort had visited one of those classrooms that had a teacher that felt the need to have some wretched smelling collection of dried flowers or some such crap which Mort was also allergic to. So Mort had been sneezing his butt off all day, and was in none too great of a mood when this happened. That plus the fact that he had 27 things to do that night before it got too late. So Mort had hoped too be able to bolt out to the farm, tweek the baler, and come back in short order. This is what he had hoped for. This was not necessarily the case. So he took off work a tad early, dropped car parts off at the machine shop, and drove to the farm. To find nobody at home. Now in the back of his mind, Mort had almost expected this to be the case. Whenever he tried to do too many things at once, this always happened, and it usually frustrated the Hell right out of him. So after making a quick check of the house and all the barns and everywhere else he could think of, Mort took a deep breath and decided to chill. This was a first for him, but he had been doing pretty well about not stressing here lately. And the stupid baler was not going to ruin this for him. So he spent the next half hour looking at magazines, and the next half hour after that playing fetch with the dog. Now the dog was tireless, it would play fetch all day if you let it, and Mort was getting quite into the game when his mother drove in. For some reason she seemed surprised to see him there. Hadn’t she just called and told him to be there right after work though? Anyhow, as they were standing there discussing things, Mort’s dad drives up on the tractor. Not the one with the baler on it, this one had been parked in the driveway for days. It was the other tractor. For some reason, every good farmer has several tractors. So his dad gets off the tractor, puts the can over the muffler, and heads for the house. Mort knew what was coming up next, and also knew there was no way to avoid it. It was coffee break time, something that farmers observe religously. So Mort followed his parents into the house, and sat there while they made coffee, and ate blueberry lush and discussed how much water pumps for john deere tractors cost. And Mort just chilled, because he knew there was no way of averting this. So finally the coffee was done, and the dishes washed and they were ready to bale some hay. So Mort followed his dad to the field, still sneezing his ass off, and they got all the things done that you have to do to balers to get them to bale hay. And they started off. Mort was perched precariously on the back of the baler, with the hood up, so he could see what it was doing. Well, it didn’t take long. In fact, it took 2 bales, and Mort knew what was wrong with the thing. There was a piece that was bent out of shape, and it was causing the wire to miss the twister hook. So Mort flagged down his dad, and they got out the giant channel lock pliers that every farmer keeps in his tool box on his tractor just for occasions like this, and bent the piece around, and started the baler up and tried it again. It worked. So they baled 20 bales or so, with Mort still on the back watching, and when none of them failed, Mort called it good. So he went home and washed all the dirt off, and his dad baled his heart out. And it had been 3 days since this had happened, so Mort assumed that the thing was permanently fixed. He sure as hell hoped so.