'A Christmas Carol' plays out on the ranch
By RYAN M. TAYLOR
For the Capital Press
I'm really getting into the Christmas season. Yesterday I trudged through the snow with a log chain around my neck, just like Jacob Marley in the Charles Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol."
I wasn't really trying to be the ghost of Christmas Past, I just needed to get some chain hooked up to a tractor to try and pull it out of axle-deep mud and water that my associate and the ghost of Christmas Present thought was frozen. It wasn't. It was quite a predicament.
All four tires were sunk up to the hubs. The temperature was heading towards 20 below zero that night and as bad as things were, it'd be even worse if that tractor froze into the hole it made for itself.
None of the horsepower I had here could budge it. Pulling with my front wheel assist gave us a few inches of hope, which just encouraged us to spin it down deeper.
I dug out Dad's triple block and tackle, the pride of the ranch for getting stuck things unstuck. It was half buried in the sand and father time had not done it any favors.
This was heavier than Marley's chain as we drug the six cables, pulleys and hooks into position. Dad once pulled a big four-wheel-drive tractor out of the manure pile with our block and tackle. He pulled it out with an A John Deere and didn't even give it full throttle.
I was ready to relive the glory of physics when we hooked it up to our latest mud-bound machine. I don't know the exact formula, but I know six pulleys in a block and tackle gives you exponentially more power than you'd have on a straight-out pull.
It didn't really matter because the rusted steel cable in our block and tackle was pretty rotten and broke about as quick as we hooked up to it. Drag it back out of the way, Marley.
We needed a big, long cable. We should be able to locate one. North Dakota is in the midst of one of the hottest oil plays in North America. No drilling here in my county, of course, but plenty of hard, high-paying work for those who'll travel west a ways.
And, when you've got oil activity in an area, ranches have a chance to recycle discarded drill stem pipe, sucker rods and big steel cables. I located 100 feet of that big steel cable, and I don't know what it weighed but dragging that into position was 10 times the burden drug by the ghost of Christmas Past.
Thanks to the goodness of a neighbor with a four-wheel-drive tractor, eight good tires, a couple hundred horsepower, and 100 feet of good, strong cable, we got my tractor jerked out of its hole.
Let's quote a little of Dickens' ghost of Jacob Marley. "I wear the chain (cable) I forged in life! I made it (found it in the oil patch) link by link and yard by yard! I girded it on (to my tractor) of my own free will and by my own free will (and a neighbor's really big tractor), I wore it (and got my tractor unstuck)!
That's a little Taylor Ranch version of "A Christmas Carol." Be careful where you
drive and you'll be visited by more cheerful Ghosts of Christmases Yet to Come.
In the words of Tiny Tim Cratchit, "God bless us, every one!"