No-tillage is a wonderful development for many reasons. One of the big ones is that we have fewer pieces of machinery to repair, wear out and move from place to place. However, even with the great advantages of no-tillage, it is still necessary to drive planters and combines from field to field. That means some huge modern machines will be meeting small cars on narrow country roads. It's good for your non-farmer neighbors to know the etiquette to follow if they come face to face with what first appears to be a house on wheels. Here, from personal experience, are some dos and don’ts for drivers during harvest season in farm country:
1. DO NOT lose patience during the 30 seconds it takes us to get past each other. You will spend more time than that at the McDonalds drive through. Most people who meet farm machinery are extremely courteous and make every effort to be helpful. Thanks to each one of you thoughtful, friendly drivers. You are the salt of the earth. There are a few, however, who are clueless. They act like a calf looking at a new gate. Wide eyed with panic and not thinking clearly. Stay calm and think. We wish you no harm.
2. When meeting a wide machine, please, DO NOT stop directly across from a mailbox or a deep road ditch. There is almost always a nice wide spot just a few yards ahead. The space between you and any obstacle must be wide enough to let the machinery get through. Otherwise, everybody loses.
3. DO NOT give the center-fingered salute to the combine driver. We just assume that is your way of advertising your IQ or your score on the SAT exam, perhaps both.
4. DO NOT ignore escort vehicles or flashing lights. If you see 3 pickup trucks pulling 3 headers, you can be sure there will be 3 combines following them. Don’t jump back into traffic after the first or second combines are past. Patience is a virtue.
4. When meeting a pickup truck with flashing lights, DO NOT drive faster in the mistaken belief that more speed will get you on your way faster. It won’t. Unless you like crumpled metal and talking with policemen, go slowly and think clearly. Combines can stop quickly, just not immediately.
5. If you ride bicycles, DO NOT mess with an implement and its escort vehicles. Combines don’t have a magic button marked “Dodge Small Unseen Objects."
6. DO NOT put trash containers on the pavement of narrow country roads. When faced with the choice between hitting a herby curbie and going off a deep road ditch, the curbie loses ever time. They arc upward beautifully when hit at 20 mph.
7. If you are driving an expensive shiny sports car, DO NOT play chicken or play dumb. Your sports car’s value is only about 20% of the combine unless you have a suitcase full of $20 bills. Then it is worth half of one combine.
8. DO be courteous, even it seems we are being road hogs. We are trying our best to get off the road quickly and make a living. Only masochists look forward to moving down the road with large machines. This is as fast as we can go.
9. DO remember your next meal, and all your meals, are served thanks to those large machines. No farmers, no food.
10. DO please accept our thanks for your consideration and patience. We really appreciate it when cars move to a safe place for the few seconds it takes for us to go on our way to the next field.
So now you know. Let’s all have a safe and happy harvest. We really enjoy feeding the world one bite at a time.