I would imagine that anyone who has worked on a farm has had their fair share of screw ups. I have for sure! Fortunately for me, however, the above picture was not my mistake, really it wasn’t the mistake of my husband, either, even though he was the driver of the combine when this incident happened.
It all started as a normal, fall October day. My husband, Chad, had come out to the farm to help us with corn harvest. He had taken his position in the combine, I was in the grain cart and my dad was driving the truck. We were getting ready to finish up the day, my dad was headed to town with his last load for the day and our last duty was to finish filling the grain cart and then park the equipment for the night. I had jumped out of the tractor for a few minutes to move the pickup. When I got back in I headed towards the combine only to receive a call from my dad telling me I needed to take the pickup instead of the grain cart because a tire had fallen off the combine.
This clearly was not a normal statement that you typically hear, in fact, I can’t say I would have expected to ever hear it, but I jumped back in the pickup and made my way towards the combine. Of course, the combine just happened to be at the farthest edge of the field so I had to weave my way around the field to get to my husband and the combine. As I grew closer to the combine I soon realized that we had major issues, I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.
The combine was sitting on its back end with absolutely no tires giving it support. Both tires were gone! There stood my husband, just standing there looking defeated. As I stepped out of the pickup he took his hat off, combed his hand through his hair, looked at me and said, “I quit!” All I could think at that time was how pissed off my dad was going to be when he saw this, and I’m sure that’s what my husband was thinking too.
We surveyed the situation and had no easy clue as to why both tires would just randomly fall off, but with the sunlight fading, we knew there was absolutely nothing we could do about it at that moment so we loaded up and headed home.
On the way home, after my husband had calmed his nerves, he shared his story of the incident with me. He was combining along, all was well and normal. He reached the end of the row of corn and went to turn the combine around to head the other direction, just like he had down several times that day. As he started into his turn he felt a huge jolt come from the back end, instantly knowing there was an issue he threw the combine into Park and looked out his side window. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was going to see, but what he did see was a major shock. There, rolling, rolling, rolling was the back tire, speeding its way down the hill and settling itself at the bottom of the hill near the creek.
He shut the combine off, knowing he was done for the day and crawled down out of the combine. He reached the back of the combine to assess the situation and see if he could find a reason for the loss of his tire only to discover yet another shock, both tires had fallen off! Only one tire had rolled down the hill and the second tire had just broke off and was laying flat on the ground.
We went home that night, that sick feeling in your stomach you get when you know something bad has happened, hoping that the next day would be better, but in reality, we knew the truth, the next day was going to suck.
We headed out the next day, my dad, my husband, and I, to see what mess lie ahead for us. Of course, it was Sunday and the local dealership was not open so we were on our own in figuring out the problem and a fix. When we finally reached the combine, my dad got to see the full effects of what had happened and what damage had actually occurred. After combing over everything we set to work, we had a full day of work ahead of us and nothing was going to get done just standing around talking about it. We eventually got the left side tire back on (after we recovered it from the bottom of the hill). It took a sequence of jacking up the axle, placing a tie underneath and repeating this process. Once we got the left tire on, we set to work on the right, going through the same motions. It sounds a lot easier on paper than it actually was, taking most of the day to accomplish this task, but in the end, we managed to secure both tires back on with no major issues. My dad was concerned about the axle being bent, or some other major issue, but luck was “mostly” on our side and the tires falling off was the biggest issue that came out of this incident.
In the end, the conclusion we came to for the reason both tires fell off was due to someone, somewhere along the lines, over tightening the lug nuts on each tire. We could see where the lug nuts had been cracked, rust had set in over time, and that final turn was the last straw in testing their strength and they finally gave way. It was likely like a domino effect, once one broke, they all broke, and once the left tire broke loose there wasn’t enough strength on the right to hold so it broke as well.
This could have been so much worse than it was, we discussed what a terrible outcome this would have been if the combine would have been going down the road at its road speed, but we count our blessings that this happened when it did and that no one was injured. Looking back we can laugh about it, which we do often. No one got hurt and it was an experience we can look back on and joke about. Obviously, there was nothing laughable about it at the time, but it doesn’t hurt to take each situation after the fact and share the story, I mean it is funny to listen to my husband tell the story of how the tire went rolling by….