Start Me Up
December 30, 2011 § 2 Comments
It was just a tick or two above zero this morning, so I duffed around for an hour or two, hoping it’d warm up a bit before I headed outside to replace the starter on the tractor. I would’ve waited for a warmer day, but the tractor had already been down for better than a week, and the projects are piling up and tomorrow we’re killing pigs and by gum it’s handy to have the loader to hang them from. So today it would be.
At a little after 9:00, fortified by a second cup of coffee and with the thermometer nudging a full ten degrees, I swaddled myself in multitudinous layers and waddled down to the tractor. I’d remembered the old trick of bringing two pairs of gloves; I’d tuck one pair under my overalls to stay warm, and swap them every five minutes or so. It’s amazing what a luxury such a simple thing can be under the right circumstances: I’ll take a half-warm pair of gloves fished out from my overalls while lying on my back under a tractor on a late December morning over practically any other extravagance I can imagine.
I tell you right now, I am no mechanic. Replacing a starter is a fairly simple task, even if whomever designed your machine saw fit to wedge it so tightly against the power steering pump that said pump must be removed, along with hydraulic lines feeding it, along with the fuel filter and a couple of fuel lines and… you get the picture. The bolts for the starter itself came off in about five minutes, but to actually extract the beast necessitated another hour’s worth of knuckle bashing. Then, install the new one and commence reassembly, cursing the fact that so many of the bolts must be threaded into ungenerous nooks and crannies that accommodate no more than a couple of ungloved fingers.
I’m a little ashamed to feel so dependent on our machines, grateful as I am for the toil they save us and gratifying as it can be to harness their power. But there’s a dead-endedness to them that nags at me, and it’s one of the reasons I end up crawling under them on a 10-degree morning: I just can’t bring myself to invest serious money in something that feels like such a backwards and callous way of interacting with the world around me. I recently read about someone who gave up cars for 17 years, and I swear just reading about it made my breath feel lighter. Over the holidays, we didn’t leave our land for three days straight, and it felt as much like freedom as any trip I’ve taken.
Still and all, it felt damn good to get hear that old diesel engine purr again, both for the personal satisfaction in having overcome both the elements and my mechanical ineptitude, and for the very real comfort in knowing that I again had so much sheer capacity at my command. Someday, perhaps, we will have figured out how to do without it. But for now, and at least until the next breakdown, I’m damn grateful for it.