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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.


Aug 03, 2009
 Anthropomorphism is defined as seeing human attributes in the behavior of animals. In other words, we think our dog acts like a human, or think our favorite old cow reminds us of Aunt Gert. There's a whole segment of science trying to figure out if animals actually think, laugh, or have human-type emotions. I'll leave that debate to scientists, but I'll add another wrinkle to their studies by inventing a new classification: mechanopomorphism.

Mechanopomorphism is the tendency to view and treat machines as if they have human characteristics and behaviors. As a mechanic, I can attest that no two machines perform exactly the same, despite having identical mechanical components and settings. Some machines are sweet-running, reliable, and rarely break down. Others, with identical parts and operated in identical fashion, run rough, perform poorly and are constant problems for their operators.

I'll venture into dangerous waters and note that mechanics and farmers tend to refer to machinery as feminine. Such as, "The ol' girl is running rough today," or, "She hasn't been starting very good."  There's a chance that this feminine reference is an accidental tradition, but....I'm thinking it has more to do with unpredictability and mercurial behavior.

The reason for this venture into machine psychology is the recent departure of my beloved 1991 Ford F150 pickup. Her engine was tight and didn't burn a drop of oil in 3,000 miles, but her tranny was weak and she had terminal body cancer. I'll admit I felt a strong pang of remorse when I drove past the dealership yesterday and saw her sitting in the "junker" row, waiting for a trip to the crusher. She served me well, performed loyally. We battled many a snowy, drifted gravel road, visited many farm ponds and rural streams on fishing trips together. How can you not develop an attachment toward someone you spent hundreds, maybe thousands of hours with over the years?

Okay, maybe I'm a little nuts. Maybe it's a little odd to feel emotion toward a machine. But I miss that old girl. I can't say that about an uppity, somewhat persnickety Nissan truck I owned 20 years ago, or the satan-spawned Isuzu SUV witch that my wife briefly drove 8 years ago. But I know that my dad kept the first Farmall 450 tractor he owned until the day he had his farm auction--and I know it bothered him to watch somebody else drive her out the driveway. 

Maybe it's just an odd quirk of our family to mechanopomorphize our vehicles and machinery. Whatever the case, I'm taking a different road to town until my old truck isn't sitting there watching sadly, accusingly, as I drive past in my new ride.
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COMMENTS (1 Comments)

Great article. My father still calls the first tractor he bought, a J.D. 4640, Brutus.... This coming from a grown man that has farmed for 35 years. It still brings a chuckle to me to hear him say that.....
10:14 AM Aug 3rd
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