“That’s what we do here – we fix things,” said Eric as we packed up the tools from our latest repair job which happened to be on the lawn mower.
We’d spent the last two afternoons putting the baler back together, to be ready to begin haying next week. I’d just finished fixing a plumbing leak. Eric had sharpened the blades on the 3-point tractor mower. Last week we’d repaired the broken chain on the seed drill. We’re always fixing things.
I’ve told the story of my grandkids who were raised on a feedlot over in the Gallatin Valley, where there are four implement dealers within 10 miles. When something breaks down on their home turf, the first question is whether the equipment is still under warranty.
Those boys haven’t spent much time up here on the West Boulder, where the nearest dealer is miles away.
On our ranch we put up only one-tenth the hay that their father does – and thus we can only spend one-tenth as much on equipment. This baler on which we’ve been working is a 1991 model – the very last of the self-propelled small square balers. When it breaks down we don’t have a question about the warranty – what we want to know is if we can still get parts!
The lawn mower we’d just repaired was a fairly new Craftsman. I’d said – purely in jest – that we should just call Sears.
But the local Sears store has recently closed. A repairman would have had to come out of Bozeman - an hour and a half away – and we’d have been charged mileage both ways. He’d likely have ordered a replacement for the bent part; it would take a week to arrive; and we’d have to pay for another trip out.
Instead, we put a toolbox in the Polaris and drove out onto the lawn where the broken mower sat. We picked up the front end, set it on an empty 5-gallon oil bucket, and took off the damaged steering sector. It took an extra trip back to the shop for the big punch, which we inserted in the hole. Prying down with a big wrench, we returned the bent mounting plate to its original angle.
Before long, we had the mower running again. No wait, and no bill.
This ranch was homesteaded in 1896 by my wife’s grandfather. It’s only a half-hour drive to the machine shop now. But a hundred years ago it took a sharp team 3 hours at a long trot to make it to town. Grandpa had his own forge and blacksmithing equipment. He survived because he could fix his own stuff.