“I don’t know how this is going to go but I expect this is where you will spend several hours of the day,” Toby said. “The trucks will unload the grain here and we auger it up to the top of the silo.” Jack had lived in the middle of thousands of acres of grain his whole life and knew how grain got into silos but he had never had the responsibility of throwing the levers and running the engines so he listened carefully. “After lunch you’ll help me back the tractor in and we’ll run a few test runs.”
Lunch went quickly. Toby had a pot of red wheat and vegetable soup they reheated and ate with blood red toasted bread. Jack’s diet had never been so rich in the red grain and he felt he grew taller and stronger with each bite.
Jack backed the small tractor to the point where the three-point hitch would connect to the shaft that would turn the auger. The tractor slowed to less than walking speed and then just creeped backward as Toby guided, the noise of the diesel engine making it necessary to speak sign language, “ just a little to the left, just a little more,” making motions with his right hand. When the tractor was in the proper position he made a fist, which indicated stop. Jack shut down the tractor and set the brake while Toby made the connections to the drive shaft.
“The trucks will need guided so the hole in the back of their tailgate lines up with this funnel,” Toby paused and considered who he was talking to, “you’ve seen this before.”
“Sure I’ve seen it,” Jack said, “but how do I know just where to stop the truck driver and how far to open the gate on the truck?”
“I’ll be here for at least the first dump but it’s just trusting your judgment. The grain comes out in a arc so you need to judge how far it will push past the back of the truck and then as the truck’s dump bed rises the outlet gets closer to the back wheels of the dump and there is less of an arc. The drivers all know this and will creep backwards as they dump but you’ll have to let them know how far and how fast and how high to lift the dump bed or you’ll be shoveling grain long after the truck is empty.” Toby grinned at the consequences of a misplaced dump truck thinking back to the first time he had taken over the job of spotting the trucks. “I’ve been there,” he added. “Put the tractor into gear and we’ll grease a few things.” Jack made double sure he had the proper gear and let the clutch out slowly until he heard the auger start to turn within its tin housing. Toby grabbed the grease gun and lubricated joints with access points. Jack watched the simple machinery turn and knew that if he took his time things would go well. Toby had him shut down the tractor. They moved to the access panel in the side of the silo wall.
“This is where you can spend the rest of the day while I go inside for awhile,” he said as he loosened the fasteners and pulled the panel away. Inside the very last of last years grain still covered the floor of the tall almost empty silo. “Put the grain into the barrel in the barn then sweep the inside until it’s clean enough to eat off of and I’ll see you first thing in the morning,” he leaned toward Jack and gave him a real man to man handshake and then Jack was left alone with a task he had done many times before on several different farms. It was cool inside the silo and the reverb was great for singing. The last part of the day went quickly and Jack was back on his red bike and pushing toward town before Toby finished his nap.