Physics – an actual real-life application

Have you ever had one of those moments when you look down at your attire to see that you’re covered in dirt and hydraulic fluid and think, “Hmm… I think I’m going to have to write a blog about this.”? No? Wow. I must just be weird then.

Anyway. On my most recent trip to the vast, bovine populated expanse of grass covered sand dunes that I so dearly love, I happened to experience an entertaining little venture with my cowboy. Since fuel is expensive (I’ll stay off my soapbox about that one) I hitched a ride with some friends as far as they would take me, and he made the rest of the trip into town to pick me up. Being efficient and stuff, we picked up some parts and pieces for the ranch and made a late evening stop at the mechanic shop to pick up some oil and some hydraulic fluid. It warmed my heart to see that they could leave the supplies out on the loading dock and nobody would steal them before we got there. It also makes me sad that the rest of the world can’t still operate that way, but I digress. There were several buckets of different kinds of oil, a box of antifreeze, etc., etc., and one big 50 gallon barrel of hydraulic fluid. Since the loading dock was relatively level with the flatbed, Cowboy just used the barrel dolly (which has some nifty little latches and levers to keep it from rolling away!) and some two-by-fours to roll the barrel neatly onto the flatbed. Minimal effort, no big deal. Unloading them the next day was equally as effortless, until we got to the big barrel.

There was no longer a loading dock, and the flatbed of the pickup seemed impossibly high in comparison to the shop floor, when faced with the possibility of lifting one extremely heavy and possibly fragile barrel of expensive, heavy, high viscosity liquid down. Gravity’s a B**** you know. We were afraid to roll it into the loader bucket on the tractor, as the bottom of the bucket was lined with bolts to keep the distiller’s grains from falling out when feeding, and they might puncture the barrel. Thinking back, it would have been simple to harness the barrel and use the loader bucket to lift it off the pickup, but I can also see why he didn’t think of that. But, the shop was equipped with a steel beam and trolley system that allows one to suspend heavy objects from the ceiling and then move them about the shop in a horizontal motion as needed. Cowboy decided to use that.

So, how was the best way to go about harnessing a 50 gallon barrel so that it will not roll out of its restraints? I suggested a crossways system, using one lateral and one lengthwise strap, but he decided that it might be safer to secure the ratchet straps (those things sure are nifty) to the barrel laterally, and then use a metal bar to suspend the system. Sounded great. So he wrestled the barrel around and got the straps situated. “Oh shoot.” He said. “My come-along is in the other pickup.” “Well let’s go get it.” I said. “Nah, it’ll be fine. I’ll just use these chain locks instead.” This smelled similar to the uh-oh of the pheasant ordeal and so I asked again, “Are you sure? I can run get it, it will take me five minutes.” He waved me off. “No, no, no… I’ve done this before, it’ll be fine.” Oh boy… he might as well have said, “Hold my beer and watch this.”

So he rigged up the system, and it looked like it was going to work pretty slick… until he ran out of room on the chain to run the chain locks. As he wrestled with it, the hook on the metal rod slid and the barrel tipped perilously at a downward angle. I quickly employed my personal diesel engine (I often joke that my Midwestern rear-end could easily house one) to help him push the barrel back onto the flatbed. This was probably where I managed to get covered in fluid, thanks to all the drips and drizzles on the sides. The damned thing was slippery!! In all of the shoving and pushing and jacking and whatnot, the chain suspended from the trolley was coming a bit loose. With his hands firmly planted on the chain locks, he looked at me and said, “Uh… you wanna run get that come-along? And you can bring the four-wheeler, it has a winch on the front that we might need.” I refrained from saying, “I told you so…” and sprinted off across the corrals to go get the four-wheeler. It took me five seconds to get across the yard, but it took me five minutes to figure out how to get the four-wheeler to start… they’d hidden the gosh-darn gearshift!! Anyway, once I got back with the come-along, he’d formulated a new plan – he’d use a chain instead of the metal bar to prevent slipping. Things should flow smoothly from here. So with that ridiculously heavy barrel hanging in the balance, he removed the chain locks and reattached the pulley. Up went the barrel again! …And he’d used too much chain between the hooks on the ratchet strap, so he ran out of cable with his pulley. So down it went…readjust…and up! Now that it was suspended safely above the flatbed, I pulled the pickup forward and Cowboy carefully worked the come-along until the barrel rested safely on the floor. With that, we called it a morning and went in for lunch.

Later, as Cowboy was proudly relating to the bossman how we had so painstakingly concocted this system to carefully unload his precious hydraulic fluid, bossman shook his head and said, “You know what I usually do? I usually just throw a couple tires down and roll it off onto the tires. It’ll bounce.”

Once again… Cowboys learn the hard way. I’ll just throw my hands in the air and walk away from this one.

Love you dearest. ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment