A Crappy Kind of Day

Jun 04, 2019
Well we all have bad days, some are more memorable than others. I had a “bad day” today so it reminded me of a day when I was literally covered in it, crap!

When Pat and I arrived in Canada in 1982 we purchased a half section of land, dug a well (Now there is a topic for another musing!) built a house and a barn and started farming. We shipped 30 to 35 hogs to market every week and it only took us 12 years to realize we were headed for bankruptcy and were forced to change direction.

This tale is a true story, I know, because it happened to me, it probably took place in the summer of 89. It was something that at the time I did not make a note of, so the exact date is lost and very fortunately no photos were taken!

The part of the barn where we finished the hogs held a few hundred, it was constructed with a 75% solid insulated concrete floor and the other 25% was a slatted floor. This part of the floor had slots approx. 1 ½ inches wide every 6 inches and covered a concrete pit. This pit was approx. 95 x 8 x 6 ft deep and all the pig poop and pee collected here along with any water the pigs spilt when they drink. This “liquid” is referred to as slurry or “Honey”... why honey I have no idea. In our system the slurry pit had to be emptied every 4 to 6 weeks, for this job we had a slurry wagon; the “Honey wagon” as my daughters lovingly referred to it. My daughters often performed this job, it took a good half a day so they could earn some extra cash, they also learnt how to handle a manual gear box tractor and appreciate how pulling 6 tonne behind a little D17 Allis tractor forces you to think - driving skills that have stood them in good stead ever since, any way I am digressing.

On this day it was very hot so I was wearing my normal hot weather hog barn clothes; a pair of briefs under a cotton ‘Boiler Suit” (Coveralls to you North Americans) the sleeves had been torn off and on my feet a pair of Wellies. (Rubber boots to you North Americans). The Honey wagon was a 1100-gallon steel tank on wheels hitched to the tractor, on this occasion by beautiful highly cherished John Deere 4020, complete with power shift and cab. The controls were simple, on the front of the wagon was a vacuum pump that by moving a hand-controlled lever could be set to suck or blow. This pump was driven by the tractor PTO (Power Take Off) shaft, in the tractor cab, on the far side away from the door (a point to note) was a hydraulic control lever that opened and closed a valve at the back of the wagon, here a 6 inch suction pipe was connected by a hook and a simple over center latch. The suction pipe was dropped through a man hole cover into the pit, hooked on, PTO engaged, lever set to suck valve opened and then you waited the 12 to 15 mins for the tank to fill. The first load was always slow as the solids settled to the bottom of the pit, so it was normal to suck a load in and then blow in back into the pit to stir things up. Once loaded, jump into the door way of the tractor close the hydraulically operated valve and knock the PTO out of gear. Go to the back off the wagon open the quick release and drop the suction line off, hook on the discharge nozzle and as I walked back to the tractor I would move the suck/blow lever to blow so once in the field I would open the valve engage the PTO and blow the liquid crap (slurry) over the field, trying to keep down wind.

Something went wrong as about half way through the afternoon. She stopped sucking, you could always check by trying to lift the suction line off the ground, when full of slurry it was too heavy to move. When the pit was empty the wagon would act like she had hiccups and bounce up as she gulped in air. No something was wrong; she was not sucking. Going into the barn and peering through the slats with a flash light showed nothing. I started alternating between sucking and blowing, sometimes she would suck a little sometime not, I revved the tractor up to max RPM, I had lots of other jobs waiting for me to do and now I was getting annoyed. I opened the quick release catch on the pipe when she was sucking but making sure to keep the hook engaged, then I saw it, a scrap of plywood the pigs had chewed off the wall was jammed in the pipe. Now it always took about 90 seconds for the wagon to change from sucking to blowing. A plan formed in my mind.

I would change the lever from suck to blow, run to the back, unlatch the pipe completely on one side and pull out the offending piece of plywood. I could not close the valve as the plywood was sticking through the opening. I neglected to shut the tractor throttle, that may have given me the extra seconds I so desperately was going to need. I ran to the back, unlatched the pipe pulled out the piece of plywood but now everything was covered in slurry including my hands and I just could not get the hook onto the end of the pipe, it was to heavy and to slippery. Then I ran out of time and unbeknown to me the wagon must have been nearly full. Too stubborn to admit I was wrong and run to the valve and turn her back to suck I struggled in vain to engage the hook, no good a forceful jet of slurry hit me in the chest and knocked me onto my butt, it was literally raining pig shit! (Sorry slurry) I certainly was not calling it honey, I was nearly drowned in the stuff.

I staggered upright, from the waist down I looked like “Michelin man” the legs of my coveralls were ballooned out, full of slurry, I could hardly move, I pulled the pant legs out of my boots releasing the slurry. All this time the jet of slurry from the wagon was hitting the end of the suction line and spraying high into the air, everything was getting plastered. Finally, I got everything shut down. I pulled my boots off and poured out the slurry. I pulled them back on so I could walk across the yard to the house, squelch, squelch, squelch.

As I approached the back door of the house coming across the lawn not the deck, my wife Pat appeared, ‘What happened you? Quickly adding “Keep away” I need a shower I said. ‘You are not stepping in the house like that’. Pat grabbed the garden hose that happened to be by her feet. “Step away” I stepped away and Pat proceed to hose me down. “You can burn those ratty coveralls, they are not going in my washing machine. Take them off”! “But Dear what if somebody comes?” I asked. “Take them off” I did what I was told. “Turn around” I did what I was told. “Take your pants off” Wow enough was enough but to stand naked on the lawn was too much, what if someone was to arrive. “The longer you wait the more chance someone will see you”. Things were just not good; I was standing on our lawn but only 50 yds from the municipal gravel road. Now for any of you thinking that being hosed down by your wife on a scorching hot summer day whilst standing naked on the lawn is, well erotic, let me assure you that after having a bath in pig slurry and now hit with a jet of ice cold water which was forcing my man hood to hide, any thought of being amorous was the last thing on my mind. I did what I was told, turn around” I turned around. “Do you know you have a white bum?” Pat chuckled. That was enough, I fled in the house into the shower. When the warm water hit me the awful stench of pigs was intensified, it hung around me for days.

Now that is what you call a crappy day!

Keep your powder dry,
Mr Wolverine

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