In light of our near miss with a bale fire caused by a lightening strike close to one of our wheat fields last night, I thought today would be a great time to put this post together! Can I just say, I have NEVER, appreciated Terry & his aversion to, fascination with, and preparation in case of fire more than I did a few days ago. It's harvest time on the Farm, and the first crop ready this year is the field peas. That's not always the case-- some years the winter wheat or lentils are ready sooner-- but this year, it's peas. It's been a challenging season already to say the least--lots of miscellaneous breakdowns & rain delays. But we finally had things up & running smoothly and both combines cutting away.
The crop was thick, so we were moving slowly & the machines were working hard. If you've ever seen peas growing in a garden, and the way the vines all tangle together--causing half a garden plot to move when one plant is wiggled-- imagine acres and acres of that, all being fed into the header, an area 25 feet wide and 2 feet deep, on the front of the combine.
A few hours into the day, I started to smell something hot. 95 degrees outside makes everything smell hot,... but this smelled too hot. Like something burning. Not a good thing when you're in the middle of a tinder dry field that holds a quarter of this year's paycheck. I radioed back to let the guys know I was coming in & thought I had something smoking. My plan was to get the hopper full of peas I had on-board unloaded.... so if the combine went up in flames, at least I didn't loose the crop too. That plan was short lived though. As I slowed down to come into the truck, I could see the smoke coming out from under the cab-- just below me, and also from the engine block to my right.
Terry will tell you I'm a little prone to panicking,...and darned if he isn't right! Let's just say I was really glad to Uncle Gerry. (Terry was at the home place unloading a truck.) 60++ years of experience, wisdom, wit, patience & grit. Truly priceless.
Gerry stopped me just short of the truck and met me at the bottom step of the combine. (Because I bailed-the-heck-out!) He nonchalantly confirmed that there was indeed, a little smoke coming from the engine. Huh, okay. A little less panicked now. He said maybe he'd climb up & take a look. And just as nonchalantly, made his way to the platform in front of the engine compartment. Hmmm.. he didn't seem too worried. Maybe I shouldn't be either. He opened the door to the compartment, looked around & announced that yes, there was a little fire.
Holy cow.....FIRE! That's it. All bets were off. Definitely panicking now. And to be fair, a fire at harvest time is something to get a little rattled about. Not only does a producer with a combine fire stand to lose their machine--meaning they will have a delay getting the rest of their crop cut-- but the entire field, any other equipment in the field & resulting pay day from the crop as well. And that's just the logistics.Crop fires burn hot & fast, leaving anyone in their way in danger--farmers, firemen who respond,... farmers wives who can't figure out which way to run.
But Uncle Gerry calmly, almost conversationally, suggested that I get the fire extinguisher. Well. There he was again. Seemingly unflappable. All right then. I ran around to the other side of the combine, & behold: the fire extinguisher. Placed strategically on almost every field vehicle we own. Nothing has ever before shone so brightly. A beaming beacon in the dark. (Whatever. It was broad daylight-- and there really wasn't that much smoke). Just the sight of it made me feel better though and I was actually able to unstrap it from the step, carry it back to where Uncle Gerry waited, & hoist it up to the platform.
Adrenaline is a good thing. It took him all of 5 minutes to put out the few little flames, & stop the chaff that had landed on the hot exhaust pipe from smoking. (Chaff is dust & pieces of chopped up plant. Translation: fire starter) He handed down the fire extinguisher, & reminded me to look and make sure none of the smoking chaff had fallen on the ground below the combine where it could start another fire.
Another 5 minutes and I had the combine unloaded & back in the field. Still a little nervous, acutely aware of the least hint of the smell of smoke, but no worse for the wear. I was also wiser, thanks to the matter-of-fact teachings from the voice of uber experience (Thanks Uncle Gerry!) and hopefully...a little stronger.
Nobody said when I married a farmer it would be easy. Nobody told me there would be days I'd be at my wits end, or scared out of my mind. But then again, no one told me that sometimes... I'd be pushed way outside of my comfort zone... and that there, I'd find the richness & fullness that comes with loving the land, this way of life, & my Farmer. And I'm glad they didn't. Because the journey in finding it for myself has me running at it with arms wide open. I'm coming in hot!