Do you smell smoke?

It has been a couple of breezy days here on the prairie. Actually, it’s been stupidly windy, but sometimes it’s hard to draw a line between one and t’other. You just get numb from being buffeted about, so I try to go with the old sailor adage of “one hand for you, one hand for the ship” but your mileage may vary due to living on dry land.

Spring is here, and has been since around February, so I have been working on spring things. Like getting my Ford 2N tractor ready to do some brush hogging and mowing. This particular tractor has been with us since last summer when we did some wheelin and dealin, and spent a day driving up to South Wichita to purchase a well used 18’ flatbed trailer and continuing on to Hutchinson Kansas and buying a sweet little Ford 9N. One deal was dependent on the other, and without even consulting our ducks to see if they were remotely interested in being all in a row, by the end of the day, we pulled in the drive with a new, to us, tractor, which was 60 years old to the rest of you. What made the trip memorable, was that my stalwart truck, which has taken us hither and yon for the last 16 years, was in between having brakes. Sure, we could stop, eventually, if we faced into the wind.

So now, I had 2 tractors. You city folks are scratching your heads, wondering why a guy needs 2 tractors. Well, the obvious reason is, I have more than one implement. I’ll wait while you process that. For those of you still wondering, a gentleman does not want to be messing with swapping out, say a brush hog, for a finish mower. It wastes time and your fingers get dirty. No sir. A savvy rural type will have as many tractors has he has implements. That is, if you can run that line of reasoning past your wife and she buys it.

2NI had gone out to get the 9N ready for some work, did some poking about and came to the conclusion that what we had here was not a 9N but a 2N. It is all very confusing with the naming convention that Ford set up. 9’s are older than 2’s and the other tractor I have is an 8N and that is the youngest one of the bunch. The 2N, which I thought was a 9N, was built around the end of 1946 and my 8N was built around 1950. The 8 was not running at the moment, it had some deferred maintenance issues, but the 2 had been running quite nicely last fall. Everything clear? When I tried to st8Nart my 2, it fired up, ran for around 30 seconds or so and quit. Hmm. Maybe I should freshen the gas. And so it went. I eventually got quite an education on whys and what fors of antique tractors and the damn thing was still not running.

I got ahold of my mechanic and he told me to bring it down and he would take a look at it. I got the old girl loaded onto the trailer and spent an hour with him, coming to the conclusion that something ain’t right with the distributor. He gave me some instructions on what to do next and I pulled it home. Driving south to his shop, I had to have overdrive engaged to keep the truck from laboring at highway speeds. Going north and home bound, I practically didn’t have to use the gas pedal. The wind had been howling out of the south.

I got my wrenches out and did what he told me to do and no joy, we still ain’t firing. So, I left my tractor on the trailer and had a beer to contemplate my next move. That was followed by sipping another frosty brew and musing on why it was so dang windy. Eventually, around 7PM, the wife and I were at the kitchen table, she looked at me and asked, “do you smell smoke?” I did. I looked out the window and the whole area was covered in smoke. Seriously covered in smoke. Like visibility down to a quarter mile and you were squinting because you got smoke in your eyes. I told the wife to hop in the car and we took a drive. We drove South 6 miles and smoke was everywhere. Came home and the Mrs starts to query the internet to see what’s up while I had another beer and pondered that. Turns out, they’d had a controlled burn down in Oklahoma a couple of days ago that decided to get uncontrolled and head to Kansas. All this was about 150 miles from us and the smoke was like they were burning the pasture next to us.

We live right underneath the blue number 34, in Cowley County, Kansas.

We live right underneath the blue number 34, in Cowley County, Kansas.

When we were living in New Mexico, spring time was wildfire time. We spent a lot of time listening to the emergency scanner, because we lived in the forest and wanted to know if we were going to live or not. One day, we were listening to the firefighting boys working a fire to the South of us, on the scanner. Somebody was asking for an update on the fire and the reply was “The out of control controlled burn, that got controlled, is out of control again.” The response was “Uh huh.” I think that is what the Oklahoma boys were thinking when their fire crossed into Kansas.

Oklahoma Prairie Fire 1Oklahoma Prairie Fire 2

It stayed smokey here until around midnight, when the winds shifted to the North, and now it’s snowing about 60 miles north of us. And my running tractor is sitting on the trailer, still not running. Never a dull moment out here on the prairie.


  1. …..and you will fit right in back at Reflection Farm when you move back north. Unfortunately, it sounds like a typical day before lunch.

    1. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Looking forward to fitting back in.

Comments are closed.