Hillside Combining Part 2
We had a reader in Washington state suggest that we try to explain how steep some of these hills are that we harvest in this area. Unless you have been on a combine harvesting a steep hill, it is hard to explain just how steep these hills are.
I know that as a child with my two siblings, we decided to go sledding down our “steep hill” by our house. It took us about 15 minutes to walk up to the top of the hill. We then put the sled down and all three of us got on it and away we went. It only took about 100 feet for all three of us to get knock off the sled since it was so steep, we could not control it.
Another steep hill we had, the combine would start up the sidehill to get to the top. At the bottom, we were cutting a full swath and by the time we got halfway up the hill, the combine had slid half way down the swath area and by the time we got to the top of the hill, we were lucky to be cutting a 5 foot section.
We had Caterpillar crawler tractors then and I remember riding with my dad around 10 years old and we would be coming up this same hill pulling the plow and as we got toward the top all you saw was blue sky and just as you crested the hill, the crawler tractor would continue to climb up into the air and then gravity would take over and the front end of the crawler would plunge back to earth. Now, that was what I called a great amusement ride.
On a slightly more tragic note, we had purchased a brand new International 453 combine. This was my second year of driving the combine during harvest and normally I would have been operating it this day, but had spent the night a friend’s house and my dad said he would drive it that morning. We were cutting a field with moderately steep hills, but not too bad. My father was going up hill when the transmission gears blew up and back then you spent most of the time standing up while driving. Once the gears went, the combine immediately started to go backwards down the hill. This caused my dad to grab the steering wheel and turn the combine into the hill which caused it to tip over pinning my father inside of the cab.
He was pinned inside the cab for over three hours while the emergency people worked on getting him out. The gruesome part was that the combine’s throttle lever went through his leg pinning him inside of the cab. He had use a hacksaw to cut himself out of the cab.
But being the tough German he was, he was back helping me combine the next summer.
There are many YouTube videos out there of combining on steep hills, but they do not really show you how steep these hills are.