Jerry Nelson: YouTube inefficiencies

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Jerry Nelson

YouTube is a marvelous thing.

Watch a few hilarious cat videos, and the next thing you know you’ve wasted half a day chuckling over how high Mittens jumped when that balloon popped or how Muffy puffed up when she saw that strange kitty in the mirror.

Many of the videos that YouTube suggests for me involve old farm equipment. I’m just a wild and crazy guy.

These days, with the advent of cooler nights and shorter days, my thoughts have turned toward the fall harvest. My video consumption includes outdated harvest equipment such as the John Deere model 227 mounted corn picker.

A mounted corn picker is a complex mechanical conglomeration that’s bolted directly onto a tractor. This meant that the operator had the big advantage of being right in the middle of things. A huge downside was that the operator was right in the middle of things.

The operator could watch, up close and in person, as the snapping rolls gobbled endless rows of crunchy, desiccated corn stalks. He was also assaulted by the deafening clamor of clattering chains and whirring gears, many of which were unshielded and located mere inches from him.

Clouds of dust and husks would swirl around the operator. Since the tractor had no cab, the operator became cold if it was cold out, hot if the weather was hot, and wet if it rained or snowed. Other than that, harvesting corn with a mounted picker wasn’t all that bad.

Dad had a 227 corn picker when I was a kid. Mounting that blasted thing on our John Deere “A” tractor was a torturous task that required more exertion than it took to build the Great Pyramid. It was a real pain in the “a”.

Dad eventually updated by purchasing a used pull-type corn picker, a machine that could be attached to a tractor in minutes. He would operate the picker and I would be the ear corn pilot; that is, I would “pile it” here and “pile it” there.

As a teenager, I harangued Dad about the inefficiency of harvesting corn on the cob. I eventually talked him into buying a used combine, a machine that combined the tasks of picking and shelling the corn. This greatly sped up our corn harvest. And because Dad was totally befuddled by the combine, I got to operate it and enjoy the comfort of its heated cab.

But harvesting shelled corn meant that we had to upgrade our grain storage system. The rickety wooden corn crib was replaced by a gleaming, galvanized dryer bin. In an effort to boost our efficiency, we purchased an elevator auger and a couple of creaky old grain trucks. We then felt that we had to plant more corn to justify the increasing costs. It seemed like the faster we went, the behinder we became.

As a teenager, our eldest son began to harangue me about our farm’s inefficient bookkeeping system which consisted of an assortment of shoeboxes. Filing our taxes at the end of the year was an act of torturous paperwork archeology.

I finally gave in and purchased a used computer. We then had to buy a printer to go with it and various programs that were stored on two sizes of floppy discs.

I was totally befuddled regarding the operation of the computer, so I entrusted this task to our eldest son. It wasn’t long before the floppy disc labeled Quicken was joined by others with names such as Chuck Rock, Full Throttle, and Duke Nukem. I didn’t understand much about the computer and simply assumed that these programs were essential for our farm’s efficiency and profitability.

It wasn’t long before I was told that our computer was hopelessly slow and outdated. We purchased a more advanced model, one with a larger display and what I thought was a retractable cupholder but was, in reality, a CD thingy. We also had to buy a new printer since the old one wouldn’t work with the new computer. I began to feel like a dog chasing its tail. 

The new computer came equipped with something called a modem, a device that had nothing to do with clipping the weeds around our farmstead. It instead connected the computer to something called the internet.

One day, I heard our eldest son chuckling while he was on the computer. Something told me that it had nothing to do with keeping the farm’s books.

“What’s so funny?” I asked. “And what’s that kitty doing?”

“It’s called YouTube,” he replied, grinning. “And the kitten just discovered that she has a tail.”

My efficiency has never been the same since.

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