This is a biannual event, and one that goes MUCH smoother than it used to. During the spring, summer and fall, the tractor’s hydraulic loader carries a 4-foot bucket for moving dirt, etc. But in the winter, it’s time for the big boy, an 8-foot bucket capable of scooping up LOTS of snow. We should have changed buckets several days ago, when we knew snow was predicted, but I managed to be too busy to help, and since this is a 2-person job, Melissa had to wait for me.
I finally found the time to help put the snow bucket on today during the actual snowstorm. Great. And some people think procrastination isn’t a good idea.
Here’s Melissa driving the tractor with the 4-foot bucket, lowering it to the ground.
Here’s the 8-foot bucket. See those little holes, about 1 inch in diameter? Melissa has to drive the tractor forward and line up matching holes on the hydraulic loader, and I’m standing there ready to jam the bolts through the holes when they line up.
The first year, I yelled loudly over the tractor, “Forward an inch. No, back an inch. Now raise it two inches. Down an inch!” I grew increasingly frustrated when Melissa didn’t do as I asked. She finally climbed down off the tractor and stood close enough I could hear her. “This is a tractor,” she said tersely. “It doesn’t just move an inch.”
The second year, when Melissa was bent over the bucket tightening the bolts, I stepped back and slipped on a 2×4 hidden under the snow. I went down and ended up on my back, head down on a slope, bundled up in heavy overalls, coat, boots, mittens, etc. I couldn’t get up. I flailed about, looking very much like the Michelin Man trying to make a snow angel. The more I moved, the more snow leaked down the neck of my jacket, and the deeper the hole I made for myself. I literally could not sit up or roll over or anything.
I yelled for Melissa, only 8 feet away, but she had on ear protectors, and did I mention the tractor is loud? By the time she looked up, I’d totally given up and was just laying there, almost totally covered by the falling snow. She wondered why I’d stopped to take a nap. Luckily the steam coming out of my ears tipped her off I was not napping, and she came to my rescue. Damn, but that was humiliating.
Each year we get better. We’ve been switching buckets twice a year for twelve years. Now Melissa drives those waiting arms right up to and nearly into the correct spot. We’ve removed all 2x4s that might be waiting to bring me down. I’ve stopped yelling, and instead use hand signals to indicate up, down, etc. I push and wiggle and finesse those loader arms, and when I’ve successfully driven the bolt through the hole, I raise my arms for a touchdown to let her know we did it.
There are no photos of the 8- footer successfully connected. One, because my hands were busy with bolts and nuts and wrenches. Two, because the camera battery died.
But connect it we did, and even though it was now dark, Melissa turned on her headlights and drove happily out into the snowstorm to plow our driveway. I went inside, poured myself a big glass of Rosemount Estates Traminer Reisling, and curled up by the wood stove.
The amazing thing is that we were both doing what we love to do.