Weekend essay: Cheers for ‘Fireball’

Weekend essay: Cheers for ‘Fireball’


“Fireball” has been returned to the mountain.

Named for the cinnamon whiskey that a certain family has adopted for toasts at gatherings, the new tractor spent a month-plus in the shop to replace a damaged rear power takeoff (PTO).

The PTO was jammed up, a snap ring was wrenched off and seals were obliterated as the 600-pound tiller was getting its first workout on a test patch of forthcoming garden in an old farm field left fallow for decades.

Whether it was a set-up, operator or design error that led to the failure never really received a thorough airing. But that little workout should not have resulted in that kind of mechanical mayhem.

Alas, some new procedures and plenty of new hardware, including a drive shaft, should go a long way in preventing a repeat of a scenario not detailed in the operations manual.

That said, and despite the extended repair period, thank goodness for warranties and a dealer who honors them, services what it sells and keeps the owner in the loop during that process.

So, now, it’s a matter of getting back on plan.

A hefty truckload of steaming-hot mushroom manure is cooling its heels in that first new garden patch. Fireball’s front loader made it a breeze to move and spread. The manure soon will be tilled in with plenty of other organic matter.

Then there will be a test solar-powered fence to ward off critters.

All of this, mind you, for the first of many garden plots that will be prepared this year but left fallow this growing season. Well, mostly. After all, garlic does have to be panted this fall, right?

The mettle of that fixed tiller will be tested as, over the course of the summer and into fall, long terraces are cut into the mountainside for even more gardens of produce, flowers and other plantings.

And, yes, there’s still that wood to start rejuvenating. Heavy logging chains attached to Fireball will help drag out scores of fallen trees to either be cut for firewood or, rotted, sent to the burn pile.

Then, slowly but surely, the diseased and dead standing timber will start to be harvested for firewood and the replanting of a far more diverse wood can commence.

So, ahhhhh, it sure is nice having “ol’” Fireball back. And, who knows, in honor of his return, there might just have to be a little toast with his namesake libation.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).