I have often described myself as a recovering dairy farmer. There have been some minor stumbles marring my recovery, such as acquiring a handful of Jersey steers that we keep in our cattle yard and, eventually, in our freezer.
A seismic setback occurred this summer when a sleek and slinky John Deere 3010 tractor caught my eye. The moment I saw her, it was almost as if I could hear her purr, “Where have you been all my life? Climb aboard and take me for a spin!”
I did and was instantly smitten. She brought back fond memories of our 3010 from my youth, of carefree summer days, the warm sun on my back, a cool wind in my face as she and I hauled wagonloads of oats down a gravel road at a heady 14 MPH.
After nearly 40 years of marriage, my wonderful wife — who has a developed a keen understanding about my many weaknesses — agreed to let the 3010 join our family. I was supremely happy when the tractor arrived at our farm.
As terrific as the tractor was, there were areas where I could see room for improvement. For example, her factory headlights were approximately as bright as birthday candles, so I bought her a set of LED lamps that could illuminate an entire football stadium.
The tractor had a small yet annoying clacking noise at the front of her engine. Experience taught me that solving this problem would simply involve installing a new set of rubber bushings. This straightforward little project should take about ten minutes and cost about ten dollars.
A chunk of metal dropped to the ground when I removed a coupler. It’s never a good sign when a piece of your machinery spontaneously falls off.
The words “pull” and “pulley” might seem innocuous. But put those two words together the phrase “pull the crankshaft pulley” and you evoke epic levels of misery.
I won’t bore you with the details other than to say the next steps involved working in a very tight space and boring into hardened steel with an even harder drill bit. Imagine reaching through a keyhole to disassemble a piano. I’m a klutz, so it looked like I had stuck my hands into a cage full of angry feral cats. It could be years before my knuckle skin fully recovers.
Eventually, with the use of some creative mechanical techniques and a lot of creative cursing, a successful repair was completed. When the 3010 was finally reassembled, I cranked her up and she hummed like a well-oiled sewing machine.
Many of my old tractor mechanic pals recommended that the tractor’s ignition be upgraded to a modern, solid-state module. This made sense. After all, the breaker-type ignition system in the 3010 was old enough to have been used by the Flintstones. And nothing is too good for my new paramour.
I ordered a computerized ignition module and installed it in the distributor. The engine ran fine, although I couldn’t tell any difference from the original system.
I turned off the engine and tried to restart it. And tried. And tried some more. Nothing! I scoured the internet and studied the ignition module’s troubleshooting instructions. None of them made a bit of difference.
I consulted with my old tractor pals. They were mystified. They all said that the new ignition module should have made the tractor run like a cheetah. It was suggested that I install a new cap, rotor, wires, and spark plugs. I was essentially told to throw money at the engine until it gave up and decided to run.
I followed all of the advice given to me by the old tractor repairmen. Still nothing! Perhaps my wife’s hunch was correct. I hadn’t purchased a tractor; I had acquired a money pit.
At long last, after hours of fruitless and frustrating troubleshooting, I gave up and reinstalled the original points. The engine leaped to life in a matter of seconds.
It seems that my efforts to upgrade to a pointless ignition system were all for naught. It wasn’t the first time that I’ve done something pointless. It’s probably not the last.
I later tried to explain the situation to my wife.
“Let me get this straight,” she said. “You spent a bunch of time and money on that fancy new thingamajig and it didn’t work?”
“I’m afraid so,” I admitted, shamefaced.
“And the old one is better?”
“Good! You should keep that in mind the next time you see something sleek and slinky.”
She is right, of course. And so it goes as I totter along on my road to recovery.