In the Shop
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.
Personalities Are Tools
Jan 30, 2013
One of the most important tools a mechanic can have is an innate ability to understand mechanical things. Some mechanics are incredibly gifted--my old friend Stolzie could literally assemble a simple four-speed transmission blindfolded, and savored the challenge of figuring out how to work on equipment without a tech manual to guide him.
Other mechanics---me included--are fascinated by how things work but not especially gifted with an innate understanding of how it all fits together. So we read a lot of tech manuals. We ask a lot of questions. We take apart junk equipment just to see how it all fits together. And we eventually learn how things work, why things don't work, and how to fix them.
The one characteristic many mechanics share is that we're back-shop people. We're most comfortable out of the limelight, in a back shop. Surround us with greasy equipment, give us a tractor tire to lean on and other mechanics or like-minded farmers to talk to, and we're as glib as teenage girls at a slumber party. Force us into a gathering with lots of people we don't know or don't know well, and we clam up. Next time you're at a meeting at your local dealership where staff and farmers are all in one room, notice that the mechanics are all at the back, nervously shuffling their feet, glancing at the clock and gauging the distance to the door.
At that same meeting, notice that the salesmen are mixing with the crowd and having a great time. Thank goodness for salesmen who are "people persons." If it was left up to people with mechanics' personalities to sell farm equipment, you'd still be farming with horses.
It goes without saying that I'm talking about extremes in order to make my point. There are plenty of mechanics who are totally comfortable at parties and in crowded rooms. After years of being drafted to give presentations about combine maintenance at our dealership's annual combine clinic, I've finally become pseudo-comfortable in front of a crowd of local farmers. But I always feel better if I can give my talk in the shop where I've got a combine to lean on. Or hide behind.