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AMY KIRK: Thoughts from the hot seat

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Nothing provides a ranch wife with more time to ponder than sitting on a hot, metal tractor seat. When I'm raking, I have plenty of field time to clear my head and put life in perspective.

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While bouncing back and forth in the hayfield raking hay, different thoughts come to mind. The first thought is how I've noticed every haying season the "V" rake is hooked onto an open cab tractor and the baler is hooked onto the Case IH 5250 tractor. There's not much that can be done about our Farmall Hydrostatic 656 and '49 Ford 8N tractors' inability to be used with our high-tech modern baling equipment, but I've noticed the drivers who rake (usually the kids or myself) and the driver who bales (husband) never changes.

In true wife fashion, I still haven't let my husband forget the time we were finishing up a field when it started raining the last few windrows before we were completely done haying that field.

Every haying season I bring up how I was on the 656 and my hubby was inside the cozy and dry tractor cab. As I hustled to finish raking before the hay got too wet, lighting was fast-approaching us -- but I dutifully finished raking so he could bale it behind me. By the time I headed the tractor for the pickup, it was downpouring on me.

Raking has become my annual character-building time. It keeps me humble, modest and well-grounded. The following are some of my other thoughts while raking recently:

• My legs look impressively tanner whenever I decide to live on the edge and rake wearing a tank top and old cutoff shorts. After only a few hours raking in the afternoon sun, my legs get darker. At least until I take a shower and see my "tan" get washed down the drain.

• I've noticed that my husband doesn't get "tractor hands" when he's in the 5250. Tractor hands are when my hands turn black from the Farmall's or Ford's steering wheels.

• Surprisingly, I don't get heatstroke while on the tractor from the hot, cloudless sun. (I'm more likely to get heatstroke from the exhaust heat radiating from the tractor by my feet and legs. Where else is that heat gonna go on an open cab tractor?)

• There's nothing like being in the hot seat and not being in trouble. And there's nothing like an old-fashioned, metal seat burn on the backs of my bare legs when wearing cutoffs.

• Raking is a good time to practice keeping my mouth shut. I'm less likely to taste grit.

• It probably would not be a good idea to rake if I'm going to be an emotional wreck. Should the dust kicked up from the rake that coats my face, nose and ears get mixed with any femaleinduced emotional bawling, I would look like a Saturday Night Live Tammy Faye Baker crying without waterproof mascara. Black snot generated from dust the rake stirs up is nasty-looking enough as it is.

• I should never touch my face with my hands while raking, because untouched, my face doesn't look nearly as dirty; dirt smudges make it obvious and my family loves pointing it out.

• Most importantly, no matter how bad it needs done, I should never pick my nose with tractor hands and a dirty face. The Farmall and Ford don't have mirrors, and if I did, my husband would never forget to bring it up.

-- Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com.

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