You Talk Funny
Jul 27, 2008
One of the challenges of being a mechanic is communicating with the engineers who build farm machinery and customers who use that equipment.
For example, the engineers call the auger that transfers corn into the grain tank on combines a "loading auger" in all our tech and parts books. Some of our customers call it a "bubble-up auger." Most of us mechanics call it a "fountain auger." That's three terms to describe the same element on a piece of equipment. Just like some customers call the slatted conveyor chain in their combine's feederhouse a "rattle chain." Which is different from the "bicycle chains" (which mechanics and engineers call "roller chains") that power various drives on the combines.
Add the varying terminologies of different generations, and agricultural communication becomes even more challenging. My Uncle Francis often sent me in search of "burr nuts" when we were repairing equipment. I eventually figured out that those were different from "acorn nuts" used by engineers in specific situations, and learned to ask the parts man at the hardware store for a plain ol' "hex nut" in order to deliver Uncle Francis the parts he needed.
Regional variations in terminology have complicated composition of stories I write for Farm Journal. I grew up turning equipment on "headlands," while guys I met in college reversed direction on "turn rows" or "end rows." The same multiple nomenclature extends to "point rows" and "guess rows." Some farmers contend that point rows and guess rows describe different aspects of field layout. Kind of like the way that "back furrow" and "dead furrow" meant different things to those who were experts with moldboard plows. I never grasped the difference but still managed to get the plowing done.
Terminology confusion extends into my marriage. My wife is a city girl, and no amount of teasing, harassing or explaining can convince her that we live on a gravel "road" four miles from the nearest town. She insists we live on a "street," and that it doesn't matter whether north is "up", south is "down" and east/west is "over" when giving verbal directions. If you want to see a farmer go cross-eyed, give him directions to go north, then east, by saying, "Go down that road, then up the first road you come to..."
Between the different terms we use to describe machinery, field layouts and rural life in general, it's surprising we get our messages across. If you don't believe that, spend time near a parts counter at a farm equipment dealership during busy season and listen to the counterman and customers try to communicate. It helps to have a sense of humor. We've got a parts person who, when a farmer gruffly says, "I need a belt for my combine," our parts person cheerfully asks, "North or south side...?"