Jerry Nelson: Tired

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
While using a tire iron, this man was dubbed the "Tire Guy" by columnist Jerry Nelson.

It was a wrestling match for the ages. A young upstart was pitted against a grizzled old veteran who had remained in place, unchallenged, for decades.

The young guy eyed his foe warily, sizing things up. He knew that his cagey opponent wouldn’t give up without a fight, that he would need to use every trick in the book to win.

Things quickly became heated. Within moments, the young guy had thoroughly jacked up his opponent. As the weathered old veteran dangled helplessly in the air, the strapping newcomer used a handy chunk of steel to dislodge the hoary warrior from his perch.

And that was just the beginning of what happened recently when the Tire Guy came out to our farm and installed new tires on my John Deere 3010 tractor.

The Tire Guy – I never caught his name so he will remain a heroic stranger, not unlike the Lone Ranger – was extremely competent at his job. Within a matter of minutes, he had raised the tractor’s rear end off the ground and had broken the tire loose from its rim. He then began the arduous and methodical process of using tire irons to ease the old rubber from its roost.

There is no doubt that the Tire Guy could have accomplished the tire swap without my supervision. But I have always enjoyed work. I can watch it all day.

There was also no doubt that the tractor needed new tires. The old tires’ lugs had been worn down to mere suggestions of their former selves. The traction surface of the tires closely resembled the slicks that are commonly seen on top fuel dragsters. Their sidewalls were also extremely weathered and cracked. It was obviously much too late to give them Botox injections.

As he wrested the tire from the rim, the Tire Guy remarked, “They haven’t made this model of tire since the early 80’s. These things are at least forty years old.”

This caused me to recall when, as a kid, I witnessed my first on-farm tire swap.

I don’t remember exactly what year it was, but it happened sometime in the early 1970’s. Some sort of weather disaster had occurred, and President Nixon had signed a bill that authorized payments of up to $2,500 to affected farmers.

Back then, $2,500 was real money. For example, it was almost enough to purchase an exciting new pickup truck. That is, as long as you didn’t choose such effete options as a heater or foam padding for the seat.

You could tell who the well-off farmers were that year because they suddenly came into possession of new pickup trucks. Dad, being a practical guy, chose to pay bills and buy new tires for our farm’s workhorse tractors, our John Deere “A” and Farmall “M”. Being practical often means being decidedly unexciting.

Changing a rear tractor tire isn’t a job for the effete. It involves copious amounts of swearing and grunting and sweating. And that’s just to write the check.

The Tire Guy took full advantage of his pneumatic power tools. Even so, the swap took no small amount of physical effort. It was enough to make me glad that I was a spectator and not a participant. I feel the same way about triathlons.

At one point there was some concern about getting one of the new tires to seat properly. Ever so slowly, the bead crept outward until it finally settled into place. This type of high drama is why I find changing tires so fascinating.

Despite the suspense, the outcome was foreordained. Man and machine triumphed over the large and flexible black donut.

It felt good to see the tractor outfitted with new rubber. As my Grandpa Nelson often said regarding such things, “You should shoe the horse all around.”

Horsepower will now be transmitted to the ground with increased speed and efficiency. Next winter when I move snow, I will be able to scalp our lawn with increased speed and efficiency.

As soon as the Tire Guy – who, by the way, looks nothing like the Michelin Man – left, I fired up the 3010 and used its loader bucket to level out the truckload of gravel that had just been applied to our driveway. It was the first new gravel on our driveway in 35 years, so we’ve gotten by pretty thriftily until now.

After all that time and expense – purchasing the tractor, its loader, the new tires, the gravel – our driveway was the picture of perfection.

Sparkles, our cat, sauntered over and inspected my work. Then she carefully chose a spot on the driveway’s flawless new surface and dug a hole.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at jjpcnels@itctel.com. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.