A Flat Tyre

Sep 16, 2020
It was 1982 - our first year in Manitoba, time to get our new farm operational. We had purchased a 1/2 section of land (320 acres) in the beautiful Assiniboine valley 5 miles NE of Virden. We had to sink a well, have Hydro connected, build a house and hog barn, purchase all the machinery to crop 200 acres (the rest was bush or valley hill sides) and get the farm producing as quickly as possible. Time was very precious, lots to do and very little rest.

I had purchased a Class Matador combine from a farm auction in Cartwright, Manitoba (122 miles from Virden). As we were new in Manitoba and had not built up any connections, I failed to get affordable transport to ship the combine home. So no option but to drive her home, with a top speed of about 12 mph this would be a long day. My wife Pat helped me load up all the tools I might need in case of any break down into the back of our old Ford Supercab. We had spanners, jack, blocks, grease and oil. A flask of tea, water and sandwiches completed our load, Matt and Lizzie, our only two children at that time completed our party.

The combine had been fuelled up by the previous owner, and I had previously checked the main drive belt and that was good so we were all set. Having no cab I could at least check behind for other vehicles. Pat followed me in the truck. I soon realized that this was going to be a very long and boring drive, or so I thought.

We were nearly into Killarney when a rear tyre blew and that was only 22 miles into the trip. I stopped well off the road, jacked her up, removed the wheel, it was obvious a new tyre would be required, so we headed off to Killarney. We found an agriculture dealer who could fit a new tyre to the wheel. Everyone was rather surprised at this strange sounding couple who were attempting to drive a combine across Manitoba; to me it was just another day in my exciting new world.

The lad fitting the new tyre seemed to be taking his time, so I went into the shop. He was having trouble getting one side of the new tyre to come out onto the rim, despite lots of tyre lube. The side with the valve was seated on the rim OK, but the other side was been stubborn. We laid the wheel back on the floor and the lad connected the air line, fortunately we had both stood upright, and just as he squeezed the "trigger" on the airline there was an almighty KABOOM!

The tyre blew off the rim on the underneath side, the wheel rose vertically and stove in the plywood ceiling 14 ft above us smashing a fluorescent light fitting that showered me in broken glass. The poor lad was blown backwards, he was sitting on the floor, his mouth wide open and his eyes as big as saucers with a bewildered look on his face. I hardly had time to register all of this as the wheel came down, smashed into a wooden packing crate of cultivator shovels and launched it self at me. I had barely turned when it hit me in the ribs sending me head over heels.

We both sat looking at each other, a layer of dust was slowly descending, everything had gone into slow motion, our ears were ringing, we couldn't hear a sound. Heads suddenly appeared over the counter, at the windows and bodies appeared in door ways, Pat and the kids among them.

A little dazed we stood up. Dam I thought - two tyres in one day, this could put us behind schedule, I wonder if warranty would cover this one. Lots of excited voices, were we alright? Yes of course we were, no real damage done, I just needed a couple of plasters for my fingers cut by that dam light glass, if that hadn't had been there, we would only have been bruised.

A new tyre was fitted, that also would not come out and seat on the rim. Everyone was cursing this dam metric combine. I couldn't understand it, I had repaired and fitted new tyres lots of times in the UK with no problem. Time to pay our bill and move on, yes I would take the wheel as it was, no worries about not being seated correctly. In fact it was still like that when I sold the combine many years later. I refitted the wheel and carried on. Pat scouted ahead and found a sympathetic farmer where we could park the combine in his yard for the night, and we went home. I remember Pat snuggled up to me that night and said, "you need to be more careful" "Why?" I asked, the reply was that only cats had nine lives and I wasn't a cat! Looking back, I think Pat was correct but at the time it was just another day. We went back the next day and we completed the trip with no further problems.

Many many years later I was idly reading the Western Producer when I came across a report, which was warning people about fitting North American manufacture tyres to some European farm machinery. Apparently they did not always fit correctly despite having the correct size marked on them.  I just smiled to myself, a little late I think.

Keep your powder dry.
Mr Wolverine 

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