Sagaponack Community Notes, September 26

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My tractor had an accident. I did not start it and drive it up on top of the disk harrow, but there it was—three tires off the ground, yet miraculously unscathed, with no one claiming responsibility. So, with a large forklift, a small excavator, my brother and some friends, we got the tractor back on terra firma.I kept counting my blessings—especially that no one was dead. Whoever had done this might not realize how close they were to rolling the tractor. And, true, then I would have known whom to blame, but it would have been an ugly chapter in my short farming career.

The tractor would not start. I looked for a blown fuse, a broken safety switch or a disconnected wire, but, alas, it was the starter, burned to a crisp. This added a new level of mystery to the initial incident and an additional repair for me, but I’ve removed starters before and I looked on the bright side. It was another opportunity to develop and hone my limited mechanical skills.

My brother quickly reviewed what I needed to do: “First, disconnect your battery.” I nodded—this much I remembered. He pointed to the bolts I had to loosen and the potential things that might get in my way, like hydraulic lines. Upon leaving me, he cursed again the vandal responsible for wasting my time like this.

It is a common occurrence in farming that one job turns into two, maybe three. I have the privilege of working with people who know a lot more than I do. The wisdom and know-how they impart is invaluable. However, the adage that we learn by our own mistakes still reigns supreme, and this is why you’ll meet a lot of farmers who say things like, “If it wasn’t for hard luck, I’d have none at all.”

I pulled the shields and started to disconnect the battery. I realized that I was on the positive terminal, and an inner voice, not my own, told me to always undo the negative side first. Switching sides would have taken me five seconds, but my wrench was already on the bolt, so I boldly, stupidly, proceeded. My wrench then slipped, made contact with the radiator—there was a fantastic spark and then a stream of antifreeze.

My outer voice spewed all kinds profanities, but the inner voice, the one that had hazarded me in the beginning, was not my father’s, my brother’s, Jimmy Baker’s, Jigger’s, Kenny Schwenk’s, or Click and Clack’s. It was now my own.

Lesson learned.

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