Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Just playin in the mud

We have had a power line expansion project going on through my area for the last six months. The old line was installed back in the late 70's or early 80's. It was pairs of 80 ft wood poles. I had two of those towers in my back yard. The New line is ~160ft tall. They are single poles roughly 6 ft in diameter at the base. Steel, unpainted, rusty. Not beautiful to look at, but certainly beautiful when you consider that the alternative is either a decaying infrastructure, or cooking and heating with wood, and light from candles.
They are nearing completion of the project, and the team responsible for restoring the easement has been hard at work grading and seeding. Until last week that is. We've had a little rain. The crew left some of their equipment on my property when they went home for the weekend prior to the storms, a semi with a low boy, a dozer and a tracked skid steer.
The soil on my place is clay. It does not get soft, this is virgin land, too rocky to plow, fit for graze. Where their truck was parked is down slope from the gate. They came by last week and tried to get the ruck out, no luck. OK, luck, all bad. Just spun ruts and that was about it.
They came by again this morning. They were attempting to get it again. They'd tried pushing the rig with their skid steer, but no luck with that, They have a John Deere and it is a fairly big machine. Not sure if it is JD's largest, but it is a good one.
They were contemplating giving up when I got down there. I suggested we try pushing the truck with both machines. The dozer wasn't an option, it had mechanical issues. The driver hopped in the truck and the other guy headed for their machine. I was already in mine so I just rolled around behind the low boy, put my bucket against the one tamp and gave it hell. Truck started rolling! The Deere never got in position to shove, in fact by the time we got to a point where the truck could get traction, he was still behind me, but closing.
My machine is a Caterpillar 247B. I got it used from a rental store where it had literally had the tracks run off it. It is the smallest tracked skid loader Cat makes. Think about that. Deere equipment is not junk by any means, they have the second strongest hydraulics in the industry. Cat is number one. JD's are typically heavier. That solid foundation is what some guys really like. That JD weighs at least half again what my machine does.
I wouldn't fault the operator either, I run mine less in a year than what he runs those machines in a month.
What's my point? If you are thinking about getting a skid loader, consider carefully what you want in the machine. If price is your main consideration, you will probably be in for years of disappointment when it comes to work ability. If you are looking for a machine for load and carry, you will have different needs than if you are digging in hard soil. Operator control are another factor to think about. I have run Deere, Case, New Holland, Gehl, Bobcat, Caterpillar and a few others. It is not easy to hop from one to another, controls are spectacularly different across the industry, there is no standard. You might be happy with foot controls, you might hate the joy sticks of Cat. The indusrty has standardized on the quick-tach, but little else.
If you are in the market, check out a few machines. The dealers would rather give you a few free hours to play than have a few years of bad publicity from a sales mismatch. Who knows, you might get the chance to show up the newest toy in some body's box with an old dog from the back lot.

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