TOWNER, N.D. -- Most folks who know me know I'm not too concerned about what I drive or the age of the equipment I run. Sure it's nice to have something that's dependable, but I've learned to adapt to regular breakdowns.

Last winter, I had a weak moment in the middle of our daily winds and 10 feet of accumulated snow. Nearing a breakdown, the psychological kind, I called up an implement dealer and had him bring out a nearly new front wheel assist loader tractor.

I told myself I'd just try it out for awhile and return it. But I became addicted to not getting stuck and sitting in the comfort of its climate-controlled cab. I tried to put off the inevitable decision, but after a month or so the dealership either needed the tractor back or needed a check for my down payment.

Just the down payment was six to seven times more than I'd spent on my first tractor, the 460 Farmall diesel. Of course, that tractor required an act of Congress and some divine intervention to start in the winter, so I guess you get what you pay for.

Interest free

One of the promotions that greased the skids on my purchasing decision was the limited time offer of zero percent interest financing. I noticed after I bought the tractor that the limited time was extended, but I bit the bait to help the company bring in the needed month-end sales.

The zero interest has been a breeze, but the principal is a little tougher to muster. I'm trying to focus on the benefits of not being stuck, being comfortable in the cab when the wind is howling outside, and having something dependable to feed the cattle, spray the weeds, make the hay and haul it in.

The boys like the tractor. They can come with me in the new tractor and be a lot safer and more comfortable than they could be in any of our other tractors. And that means my wife likes the tractor too if it helps reduce the kid population in our house for awhile.

Ledger losses

The cost of the outfit kind of hit me, though, when I went in to the accountant's office for a little pre-tax planning at the end of the year. We plugged in all the extra feed and diesel and trucking to get the cattle through last winter, plus the usual high expenses and the unusually low income for the year.

"You could take in a lot more income this year," he advised me. I told him that was a fine idea and I asked if he had any good ideas on where a guy could find some of that extra ranch income. We didn't really come up with anything, but I'm going to make one more pass between the couch cushions to look for spare change.

The year 2009 was long on expenses and short on income. That nearly new tractor probably didn't help the ledger out any, and it's not nearly wore out enough to fit my broke down rancher style. But with another couple feet of new snow to mess with, I'm willing to keep my style updated a little.

We'll just run a little harder and hope to catch up with the depreciation in 2010. Here's to the new year.

Ryan M. Taylor is can be reached at cowlogic@srt.com.

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