Tractor work for two?
April 19, 2015 3:22 PM   Subscribe

A teenage you works on a farm. A romantic interest visits and expresses interest in riding on the tractor but ideally you'd like to get some chore-like thing done at the same time. The two of you do what together on a tractor?

Background: I'm working on a story and I like the idea of the two characters doing something (farm work related) together on a tractor for an hour or so but I'm not sure what this would be or even if this necessarily makes sense (can two slender teens fit together on a tractor--are there two seater tractors than can also be used by one person at other times)? The story is set on a small farm in Nebraska which has dairy cows and produces corn and soy. Thanks in advance for any thoughts you may have!
posted by pie_seven to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Quiz each other on school work?
posted by ctmf at 3:30 PM on April 19, 2015

There are definitely combines in which more than one person can fit in the cab.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:39 PM on April 19, 2015

One seat means one rider (link to tractor safety review). And they would both be wearing ear protection, ideally, which might rule out conversation. But fixing the tractor? Hmm, how about help putting on the tiller? Or getting the rops unstuck? (I have my little tractor in mind; maybe you're thinking about a combine-style machine, with a cab?)
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:40 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As far as the work: hauling stuff on a trailer (hay, equipment, feed), or tilling/raking/dragging/plowing a field. You might be more likely to do the former with a truck, but you certainly could use a tractor.

Modern tractors are kind of designed to prevent two riders, but there's almost always room for two skinny people to sit tandem (like on a horse) in the seat. Someone could ride on the running boards, too, but that's super dangerous.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:40 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, and this may be outside your scope, but when I was a young teenager, riding in or driving the farm truck around the farm before we were street-legal was verrry romantic. Just in case safety concerns make the tractor impractical.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:42 PM on April 19, 2015 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Do you mean, like, what farm-related thing can they do on a tractor for an hour? It kind of depends on the time of year--you can use a tractor for plowing, or for fertilizing, or for planting, or for harvesting... Plus all the normal hauling, etc stuff.

You can totally fit two slim teens on a tractor together--maybe not super comfortably, but it can be done. Often one will sit between the other's legs, which has the extra tension of ~bodies pressed together~. What they probably can't do a ton of is talk, at least not comfortably--tractors, especially if you're using them with something to augment their use (like harvesting or whatever), are loud. Being in a *closed cab, noise-insulated* tractor is pushing the OSHA noise limits, if I remember right, and I'm betting that the tractors that you're thinking of are open cab, uninsulated.

I worked on a small farm for about eight years as a teen, and my feeling is that the biggest logistical hurdle to clear here is that someone's boss would just be like, sure, you can totally bring a friend to come hang out on the tractor with you.
posted by MeghanC at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

The lighter person sits on the lap of the driver, and they tool around an open field that hasn't be planted yet. The tractor doesn't have to pull a rake or anything--it's just transportation. And I don't know anyone who wears ear protection while just driving a tractor.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:47 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: driving the farm truck around the farm before we were street-legal was verrry romantic.

My next-door neighbor's kids have been tooling around their yard in an old, used golf cart -- in summer, the kids ferry things (buckets, tools, seed) from the shed to the garden. Teenage me at the wheel (had I not grown up in suburbia) would have used it to ride the fences, take hay/feed to animals, deliver tools to jobs about to start, haul buckets for rock-picking. I can't believe I'm saying this, but driving a golf cart with a potential sweetie next to me so we can go pick rocks out of the pasture sounds like a terrific date.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:49 PM on April 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: When I was a kid, a lot of my relatives farmed, and they had tractors more or less like this old John Deere. It's possible for a second person to ride next to the driver, standing kind of sideways and leaning against the fender over the big back wheel. I did this many times.

Some of the kinds of things my great-uncles did with me on the tractor included spreading manure, hauling hay wagons in from the field, hauling wood--basically anything that can be done with a regular utility trailer. Sometimes pulling a tiller.

Of course, this was the 1970s. We gave nary a thought to imminent death or dismemberment, or to the damage to our ears. And these were small farms of the kind that don't exist as much today, but I've seen some writers just place a story on one anyway. It's worth remembering as somebody says up-thread that there are lots of other vehicles around on a farm, as well. Usually at least one old pickup truck, a utility vehicle or two (this sort of thing). I hung out on a dairy farm down the road a lot when I was a kid, and utility vehicles like that were used to haul small load of things all over the place—milk cans, feed, hay bales, big bags of calf formula. The benefit of a utility vehicle or mule is that it is quieter than a tractor, usually has a bench seat that can hold two, can go into narrow places tractors can't go, and is used for the kind of low-risk jobs a "friend" could ride along on without causing too much consternation.
I see MonkeyToes got there before me, so yeah to what MonkeyToes said.

"Want to help me haul a couple bags of calf formula out to the other barn, and give the calves their afternoon bottles?" strikes me as the height of seduction for the right kind of country kids. Advantage: hayloft right nearby. But MonkeyToes' rock-picking scenario sounds pretty good to me, too. The engine's turned off so they can talk, and at least one of your characters gets to show off their muscles.
posted by not that girl at 3:55 PM on April 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I suggest that one drives the tractor and the other rides in the attached trailer putting out bales of hay for the cows. I vaguely recall when I was very young at least riding around in the trailer while other people did that.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:56 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Quick update: Season would be summer. I really like the rock-picking idea—is this a year round thing? And, um, what is it's purpose?
BTW-- you are all awesome, I totally braced myself for this to languish in zero answer land. :)
posted by pie_seven at 4:02 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you find the tractor too difficult, there's another scenario, and though there's a degree of danger in it that I *personally* wouldn't do it. . .now. . .you could get rid of the tractor and have them ride a four-wheeler. (Images here of how it would work.) They could haul something down the road to a neighbor's, or in a common scenarios in my neck of the woods, ride the property line to check the fence; ride down to the irrigation ditch to check for leaks or problems, lower/raise the headgate; check a sprinkler line or pivot, that kind of thing. Like the tractor, though, it's loud.

If you want something where they can ride together and talk. . .I don't know about Nebraska, it might be a little too wet for this, but we'd often drive old, old, old pickup trucks with big water tanks on the back to the edges of fields and park them in case of wildfire. So in that scenario they could drive the truck and then have a nice walk back.

Ah, on preview, if you like the rock pickin' thing, you could also have them ride around a small hay field picking up bales of hay and stack them in the back of a truck or on a trailer - the small bales - or go out to a haystack to pick up bales, or deliver some to the neighbor (or feed, or fertilizer - for example, they could drop off the fertilizer tank trailer or the spreader for the next morning.)
posted by barchan at 4:10 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I always stood on back of my grandfathers tractors, and a sister behind me if I was driving. But just to get somewhere.
posted by sammyo at 4:22 PM on April 19, 2015

Best answer: My experience with rock picking -- when the winter retreats, the pastures reveal themselves, and all of the rocks that have been heaved up by the cold. Removing rocks from a pasture to be tilled means that rocks aren't dulling the attachment or flying cattywompus into the air. There's a better chance for good, smooth soil, where seeds can grow. For animal pens, fewer sharp edges for pigs to cut their feet up on. My farm has been around for a while, so in spring, when I rock-pick, I find lots of old objects -- rusted horeshoes, a penny from 1896, iron door hardware, old gears, broken canning jar lids, and colored glass where the midden pit was. Nothing I would want my pigs to ingest or cut themselves on, in other words. Where I plan to grow grass, clearing rocks means fewer rocks to dull the mower blades/become projectiles. I do most of my rock picking in spring, simply because the grass is low, but there's always a sacrifice pasture that needs rehab in summer. Your rock picking may vary.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:24 PM on April 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I grew up on a half-working farm (my dad had some farm equipment, but he worked a full-time job and leased our land to the neighbor to work). It's definitely possible for two people to ride on something like an old 35-horse Massey Ferguson (as pictured here). My dad didn't start wearing ear/eyepro until I was a teenager, and I definitely remember riding as a preteen with my feet on the running board and my butt against the fender. This was in the 80s/early 90s. In terms of operations, we frequently bush-hogged tall grass along the front of our property (for better sight-lines pulling out of the driveway) and so forth.

There's also a whole genre of contemporary country songs involving "taking a ride on a tractor," so at least the idea lives on, even if it's agreed upon by actual farm workers to be dangerous.
posted by Alterscape at 4:32 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Many larger contemporary tractors
Have a fold-down passenger seat
In the cab. I know this because I've ridden in some in the past year. Look at the cab layout of newer larger John Deere tractors and you will see exactly what I mean.
posted by Chrischris at 5:38 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Agreeing with Chrischris that if this is set at a real contemporary farm, not some old New England throwback, the tractor will be one with a glass-enclosed cab (air conditioning, music system). Not as romantic as the old John Deere single-seater with a passenger risking life and limb, but in reality a much more conducive environment for talk and romance. That small farm in Nebraska probably has the modern version. The could be haying, planting corn, cutting alfalfa, fertilizing, spreading manure, whatever.
posted by beagle at 5:56 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Summer farm tasks in Nebraska? Gotta be lots of checking on and maintaining irrigation systems. Bonus opportunity to get wet.
posted by dhartung at 6:13 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mowing (as in grass) is probably the single most universal tractor task on the farm, and can be accomplished by a 35 hp tractor from 1950 or a glassed-in computerized GPS-assisted haybine from 2013. The mowing could be the first step in making hay for those cows (next would be windrowing, maybe tedding and finally baling) or it could just be an occasional mowing of random grass to keep things neat looking or preserve waterways. Hay making has to be done in the right weather (2-3 days of sunny dry weather) but maintenance mowing could happen anytime. It's methodical, dull work where following your previous row is the most important thing. It can be trance-inducing work, the kind where your sweetie could slip in some kind of admission and you might miss it the first time. It's also the kind of task farm parents might have to ride their teenager to get done, and a bit of amorous distraction would be welcome.
posted by werkzeuger at 1:00 PM on April 20, 2015

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