Fixing a grain-feeder with Jordan Green

by Jordan Green

On Saturday around 3 o'clock, I got a call from my good buddy Patrick. Now, of late, I've been hesitant to answer his calls. For those of you who remember, he's the one who had all the escaped cows in November. We spent weeks chasing them, and we're still missing three.

That wasn't easy work. Truth be told, nothing he ever needs help with is. But, reluctantly, I answered the phone. Sigh.

He told me was needing help putting a grain-feeder on the back of his truck. This magical device stores grain and other tasty food for cattle. To use it, you put it on your truck and drive over by the troughs where the cattle eat, dumping the grain in the troughs automatically. You never have to get out of your truck, which keeps you out of the weather. It also keeps you from getting trampled by the herd and having your head stepped on. In my case, though, having my head stepped on wouldn't do too much damage. And it's not because I'm hard-headed.

So, back to the story. I told him I would be on my way out to help. But, of course, it wasn't as simple as bolting the box to the bed of his truck and putting it to work. Oh no. We first had to fix everything else associated with it.

To fill up the box, you have to drive the truck under a grain auger and fill it up with feed from a silo. We had the feed, we had the silo, and we had an auger – two, to be exact. But each auger was about as useful as an icebox is to an eskimo.

The first auger, which stuck out from the side of the grain bin, had been hit with a tractor years earlier. It was bent, and the electric motor on it wouldn't turn it. Add in the fact that it was home to pack-rats and wasps, and you've got yourself a recipe for a really nice piece of crap.

The second auger was on wheels – whitewall tires from the 1950s – and probably hadn't been used since about that same time. It was powered by a small, one-cylinder engine that was somehow not locked up. For a man of impulse like me, it was temptation enough to start working.

First, I cleaned out the fuel tank, which still had gas in it. The best way I can describe how that gas smelled is by telling you to get a dirty sock and stick it in a can of varnish. Not exactly what you want in an engine. Then, I put in a new spark plug. That was, of course, after I cleaned about 15 wasp nests out of the fan.

Finally, I cleaned out the sediment bowl, which is a glass cup that acts like a dinosaur-era fuel filter and works about as well. It's directly connected to the fuel shut-off valve and the line going to the carburetor. If it's plugged up, you'll get no fuel. And if it's not, you better have the shut-off valve where you can reach it.

I cleaned and cleaned the bowl, but I just couldn't get gas to flow. Finally, I thought I had it: I proudly put it on the tank and poured in the gas, and then … still no gas.

I took it off again. Not wanting to waste any gas, Pat held his finger over the outlet on the fuel tank to keep the gas in. I went back into the barn and used a nail to poke the rust out of the valve, reattached it, and then it worked! A little too well.

Gas started flowing. And flowing. And flowing. With the way we mounted the bowl on the tank, we couldn't reach the shut-off valve. We just couldn't figure out how it had been put on the first time.

Nevertheless, we tried and tried to start the engine, but we couldn't get it. Then, gas began running out of the carburetor like water down Niagara Falls, and then the air-cleaner, and then the exhaust pipe. That meant that the carburetor would need to be replaced, and so would all of the brand new oil we put the engine. Think Looney Toons: “Back to the drawing board.”

Needless to say, we couldn't get it to start at that point. And then we realized why we couldn't reach the shut-off valve: we were supposed to have run the fuel line behind the tank, not in front of it.

So after hours of work, we didn't get a darn thing done. We replaced parts and cleaned parts until our hands were as worn-out and broken-down as the engine we were working on. We ended up with a problem that will take even longer to fix.

And we never even got the box on the truck.

But hey, at least we found out the fuel line wasn't plugged.