I’m now the proud owner of a 1981 Kubota B7100. This 30+ year old tractor came to me after several years’ worth of hope, 6 months of searching, and a rearrangement of money that made just the right deal possible at just the right moment. I still beam and almost clap my hands when I think about the way it all worked out, the deals I turned down because they weren’t “right,” and the way this one did work out.

You could say, though, that this deal didn’t work out “perfect.” The tractor came to me with a problem with the clutch. I went ahead and bought the tractor with the problem after negotiating the price down by the amount we expected the repairs to cost. Fair enough. It’s a 30 year old tractor, with a loader, with a mower, with 4 wheel drive, and even with a pretty good paint job and very little rust… you’re going to have to do SOMETHING to the thing. Thing is, 1 day after getting the tractor back, the problem started all over again. What they’d fixed was not the problem… or something else was causing to re-occur. So here my tractor has sat for over a month, waiting on a local guy to come fix it, but he’s of course busy with the REAL farmers right now. So I wait. And wait. And wait.

But then I stopped waiting. And asked a mechanic friend if he thought WE could do it. And he did. What scared me the most about doing it myself was that “myself” part. And now that’s not there. Now it’s “we.” But that’s a side story. What I’m writing about today is the clutch. Disengaging the clutch.

My first car was a manual transmission, so I learned to operate a clutch early in life – over 20 years ago, I guess. The thing is, I never knew how one worked until now. You push the pedal, gears release, you move to another gear, and put everything back under a load. Easy enough. Yeah, there are parts that wear out from friction or overuse, but what actually goes on inside, I never knew until recent exploration on my own and explanations of a good friend.

You see, to DISENGAGE a clutch, you actually apply PRESSURE to the pedal. You push, and something pulls away. Now that I’ve seen the internal components (and will soon see them actually all connected up when we work on the tractor), I see how it works. You push the pedal, it pushes it’s way through some linkages to this bearing (I’m still learning what a bearing is), and it in turn pushes against this plate, which by some force of nature causes springs to pull the friction plate of the clutch away from the flywheel, setting your shaft and gears free of the load. It’s actually quite simple.

So what’s that mean for me?

I have a hard time disengaging. I go at full speed for hours, days, and months, and then when I try to shift gears, it’s like I don’t have a clutch. I either can’t get into the lower gear to enjoy life for a bit, or I grind life to pieces in the process. I forget to find, and to use, that “something” that will act as a clutch in life, giving me time to release, to be in neutral, and THEN to shift into a new gear and slowly reapply the pressure of what drives life.

[As I write this, I know it’s not all neat and complete. This is a bit rambling. But it’s putting into words what I’m walking in life, which feels much the same.]

On a side note, my tractor doesn’t have synchronizers (I think that’s what you call it). In a car (where you have these), you can shift from one gear to another with the clutch disengaged and not stop your motion. Not so in a tractor. You’re supposed to come to a stop, shift gears, and THEN start back up again. This allows the gears to line up properly without having to do so on the fly.

Again… such is life. Sometimes you can’t shift from HI to LOW while moving at MEDIUM. Sometimes you have to come to STOP – to NEUTRAL – before you can reengage.

Hmm… good stuff here. Glad I woke up early to write and listen to the rain fall. I’m glad I get to take Monday off to work with a friend and split my tractor in two to work on something I’m not familiar with. I’m glad.

I’m also thinking it may be about time to disengage for more than a day. Maybe when the kids go to Pennsylvania to be with their grandparents we’ll do something special. GO somewhere we can’t work. Go somewhere where nature speaks, where the stars pour out wisdom.

I like that idea.