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OPINION: Manuals are becoming entertaining to read

Have you ever noticed that the equipment you buy these days comes with a manual that's almost as thick as the manual for understanding women? Manuals have come a long way due to man's penchant for using his machinery, implements and power tools f...

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Have you ever noticed that the equipment you buy these days comes with a manual that's almost as thick as the manual for understanding women?

Manuals have come a long way due to man's penchant for using his machinery, implements and power tools for purposes they weren't invented for.

From what I've witnessed and stories I've heard, I'm certain men in agriculture are to blame for the textbook-like manuals that come with anything power related. Since the invention of gas and diesel-powered machinery, ranchers and farmers over time have experimented with other uses for their machines and implements. Now, every time a new and unapproved activity is tried and the manufacturer gets wind of it (or sued), it gets added to the precautions, warnings and safety section of the manual, which is always located in the front. All warnings and precautions are also designed to be the easiest material to understand by using pictures.

The illustrated icons in manuals are for those who don't take time to read the warnings. Pictures like triangles with an exclamation point in the center or circles with a slash line drawn through a stick man attempting a taboo activity. Pictures grab an ag man's attention since he's used to pictures like silhouettes of rabbits and turtles. Manufacturers do this to cover all of their bases with consumers who go rogue with operating machinery.

Back in the day, when a guy got a new tractor it came with a manual that was more like a pamphlet with basic information about the machine. Then guys started coming up with different jobs for their tractors besides farming and it's had a ripple effect with equipment ever since. Now, there's more than one manual available with any kind of machinery purchase: quick start manuals, owner's manuals, operator's manuals, reference manuals, user's manuals, repair manuals, and service manuals; not to mention the user guides and user instruction guides. Each manual is equipped with instructions for all levels of readers, from pictures and icons to detailed information written in intellectual language that practically needs a college course and professor to go along with the big, thick book.

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Even though a lot of the warnings and precautions appear to be common sense, a manual's content is starting to include more of what not to do with your equipment and less instructions. Ag men have common sense except when they have an opportunity to do one simple little job with their tractor, power tool or whatever. Taking risks with their health and well being is standard, especially if they have cows.

Take, for example, the time I found out that my husband used his bucket loader during the building process of our calving barn by raising it as high as it would go, then added a ladder for our son to climb the remaining height needed to reach the trusses. One time I drove by a ranching operation in south central South Dakota and noticed a tractor's loader was being used to hold up one end of the floor of a loading chute to meet the floor of a cattle pot for loading cattle. It's not uncommon to see a tractor's bucket being used for scaffolding either.

Ranchers explore their equipment's capabilities because they are constantly looking for ways to get the most out of their money and their equipment.

Apparently, some of the things men have tried didn't work then they wanted their money back or a new part because new precautions and warnings seem to continually get added to the manual's safety and warnings section. Manuals are becoming entertaining books of dumb things guys have already tried.

If any of you guys haven't read your manuals yet, I highly suggest checking them out. For one, it's pretty unlikely you "invented" whatever it is you've wanted to try. Second, you should see if your experiment is shown in your manual's safety precautions and warnings section.

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