Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Parts Runner

I spend many days running parts. I am the parts runner around these parts. I am always picking up parts for my mechanical friends. I have a knack at finding parts at a good price. I am the kind of person that doesn't buy much though but when I see something I need, I buy it at any price. Quality ranks high with me and that is getting difficult to find in this day and age of "shove it out the door."

I really admire mechanical ability. I don't have the patience to find out why something ticks, tear it down and put it back together. I don't even have the patience to fish. It amazes me I have the patience to plant a seed and watch it grow all season long. Sometimes I hate to see it come to an end because that means winter is coming next. I do like the change of seasons though.

The mechanic for Farm Journal's AgWeb recently sent me this:

"Growing up around farm equipment has made many of us blind to the free education we received. It's only when we spend time around folks who didn't grow up working around and on machinery that we appreciate the basic mechanical knowledge we take for granted. Here are a few true stories about non-farm folks who came to farm equipment dealerships trying to get parts for lawn mowers and other mechanical gadgets:

-A well-dressed man wanted a new battery for his riding lawn mower. When the parts person placed the correct battery on the counter, the man firmly stated that it was the wrong battery because, "on my battery, the terminals were on the back side." The parts man thought for a moment, then took the battery to the back room, waited a few minutes, then carried the same battery back up front and placed it on the counter with the terminals facing away from the customer. The customer left, satisfied.

-A parts person sold an air filter for a small tractor to a city dweller who had purchased an acreage and wanted to be a "farmer." The wanna-be farmer soon returned and complained loudly that the parts man had given him the wrong filter, because the tractor wouldn’t run after the filter was installed. When the parts person removed the plastic bag that the filter came in to see what could be wrong, the customer got a funny look on his face, grabbed the unbagged filter and disappeared out the door.

-Riding lawn mowers are nightmares for parts people. There are hundreds of models that each require unique belts, sizes and lengths. Mechanically-challenged customers routinely don't know the model or serial number of their mower, and frequently insist that the parts person simply give them a belt because, "all the belts are basically the same." One savvy parts man keeps the separator drive belt from his manufacturer's largest combine underneath the parts counter, and when he gets the familiar statement, "All belts are basically the same.." he hoists that monster belt onto the counter and says, "That'll be $180. Cash or charge?"

-An urban customer sent his wife to a dealership to get a major drive belt for the belly mower on his utility tractor. The parts man gave the wife the correct belt, but within an hour the man himself came storming through the door. "You gave my wife three short belts, and I needed one big, long belt," he complained. The frustrated parts man checked the part number printed on the belt to confirm that the belt was correct, then uncoiled the looped belt and began to measure it. The customer stared at the uncoiled belt, grabbed the belt and headed out the door without another word.

Never underestimate the wealth of mechanical knowledge that you have acquired simply by being a farmer. Things that you do without a second thought, repairs that you make routinely, even the simple knowledge that, "right is tight, left is loose" are mysteries to many folks who didn't have the blessing of growing up on a farm."

These guys are the ones I admire. They build and keep the wheels rolling that makes this world go 'round. I am the parts guy with a building full of parts and trying to match up the numbers so they can do their work.

I found a good job in college at Massey Ferguson on Kinnear Road near the Ohio State Campus. First $5 job I ever had, they gave you a dealer parts order and you headed into the warehouse with a grocery cart and climbed like squirrel on ladders all over that warehouse tracking down parts. I became very good at it.

You were good when you were the quickest or almost the quickest but never had one wrong part number in your basket. My mind would wonder over the dealer list from Indiana to the Atlantic Ocean, where they were, what the place looked like, what farmer would be picking up that part. If my mind wondered too much I would not be quick or worse yet, put the wrong part in the basket. Those were big no-no's and the chief would sit us down and "ream us out."

I will be running parts through planting between everything else I do. I am better at evaluating seed, seed furrow, planter setup, soil tests, and fertilizer application. That is nitty-gritty in maximum yield and profit for the farmer.

Now you know a new thing about me. I wonder what I don't know about you?

I wish every reader had a Google Account and would use the Comment section at the bottom. Sometimes I am just too curious.

Ed Winkle


  1. My first job out of college was for a newspaper. They made quite a bit of fun of me as I drove at times a 57 chevy pickup and a less than reliable toyota pickup and I was in the process of rebuilding an old Triumph motorcycle in my kitchen. But, if someone got stuck-or had car problems who do you think they would call?

  2. I happen to be one of those who have natural mechanical ability.I enjoy taking things apart and try to find the problem.I seem to relish the challenge of scrounging through the junk pile to conger up something that will get whatever's ailing up and running again.I am lucky to have an employee that is good at it too.My son who is thirteen seems to have an interest in such things even though he is adopted.Maybe he gets through osmosis.
    I think that the importance of parts running is often overlooked.My father used to be mine until he passed away two years ago.It was something he could do and it was important to him to be able to contribute.I miss him greatly but I really miss him when I have to go get something on a nice day and it seems like everyone between my place and where I am going is in the field.
    Thanks for taking the time to post your blogs.I read all of them.
    Best regards,Terry

  3. 57 Chevy, I would love to tool around in either the car or truck! Always wanted one but they soon got out of price for me. Can't believe I ever sold my 55 2 door Sedan but I was poor then.

    I treasure good mechanics, love to hang around them but always seem to be a nuisance so I get tools and parts for them. It is a little boring to me but I hate broken things and things that don't work right so you have to value the mechanic who makes it work.

    Lots of people miss their dads and most of them seem to be farmers. Very special relationship there. It has been two years already? Seems like yesterday. When I visit dad it doesn't seem like 8 years either. Good thing we parted on good terms or I would be lost.

    Thanks for posting Terry, that made my day.

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