If you did anything outdoors this past weekend, you probably noticed it was a little on the muddy side.  Mud can be tough on a farm. Here in Wayne County, where I live, we had a February-thaw. All the snow and ice melted and it made for a real mess.

Sometimes the best thing to do when it’s like that is to stay inside, or at least stay out of the fields. No one likes to track up a field and cause ruts. But at the same time, if you’ve got a job that needs done, it’s hard to deny the itch.

Going for it

I couldn’t deny the itch this weekend, and neither could my dad. Both of us ventured out to a distant woods on a neighbor’s property to cut firewood, and not surprisingly, we got stuck.

What a bunch of fools were we! But not really.

We clearly saw the moisture in the ground, and the greasy soil that resulted. We saw it the whole way to the woods. But we thought we had it beat. We drove a pickup truck along a hard-packed gravel drive as far as the gravel extended and then transferred our saws and gear into a small wagon that we attached to a Farmall Cub.

The Cub is a very small tractor, and very light. It weighs less than 2,000 pounds, and it’s a handy little cuss for going over fields where other tractors would easily sink. If you keep it moving, you can usually pass over mud and light snow just fine.

And we did just that, at least for 90 percent of our trip. But then all of a sudden we hit a spot where the ice broke, and down went the rear right tire, into a hole that just kept getting deeper and deeper. We had the tractor leaning pretty good by the time my dad decided we were stuck. He wanted me to push from the front, but that did no good. The thing that wasn’t supposed to happen, happened. And the worst part was, we were on the neighbor’s farm.

Pride issue

No farmer likes to get stuck, and it’s even worse if it’s seen by someone else. So, the first thing my dad did after he realized we were stuck, was walk back to the truck, and head for our machinery shed to fetch a chain and come-along to get us out. It took him a while because he was covered in mud and not in a very good mood. Even when he returned, we had our hands full stretching the chain and come-along cable from the tractor to the nearest tree.

I cranked on the come-along for as long as I could, with my dad steering the tractor wheels my direction, to make it easier. Occasionally he’d pop the clutch and try to let the tractor dig its way out, but it was no good. When I got too tired from cranking, I switched turns with him and climbed up on the seat of the tractor myself.

He hollered at me to hold the left brake, because that would keep the left tire from spinning. I tried that but it didn’t get us anywhere. I argued with him that we needed to hold the right side, not the left, and he told me it would never work and I was crazy. But, because nothing else was working, I did the opposite of what he told me, and I was right, the tractor slowly started to get a grip.

Clever call

On the final try, I held both brakes, going back and forth, based on which tire spun the most. And when I did that, the tractor came out of the hole so fast that I almost bumped my dad’s foot. We would have never have done this with a larger tractor, because the risk of injury would have been far too great. But we got ourselves unstuck and we spent the rest of the day cutting wood.

The hole we dug was no more than a couple feet long and when conditions dry, we’ll back-fill it in a heartbeat. I’m glad he was the one driving when we got stuck, because if it had been me, I would have never heard the last of it.

As we enter the first part of March, we’re sure to see a lot more mud before we see dry soil. Things freeze over pretty well at night and early morning, but when daytime temperatures reach the 30s and up, the topsoil gets greasy very quick.

It’s a guessing game, really. You can guess safely and not go out at all, or you can give it a try and deal with the consequences.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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