Glen's first post-Daphne call for help came almost a month ago now. Glen's dad and brother have been helping Glen with mixing and feeding most nights since before Daphne was born, but last month's snow storm kept them home. Glen had mixed two loads of feed the day before, so all he had to do after the storm hit was unload the TMR into the barn.
Glen's request was simple enough. All I would need to do is run the levers for the hydraulics that open the door on the mixer and run the conveyor while Glen drove the feed cart. (All of the neighbor boys who have helped us feed cows in the past will be happy to note that we finally retired the wheelbarrows.)
I figured Daphne would be happiest (and safest) with me in the tractor, so I dug through the baby barn clothes, bundled her up, filled her tummy and out we went. The heater works in the tractor cab now, so it was plenty warm once we were inside.
Daphne fell asleep right away, which made my job of remembering which lever to push which way and when pretty easy. I still managed to mess it up the first time. I ran the lever the wrong way, making the chain pop off the conveyor. Oops.
In my defense, it had been a long time since I had helped unload feed - and even longer since I had run the hydraulics for the conveyor. Before the feed cart, my feeding job when the cows were fed inside was pretty low-tech: pushing wheelbarrows. Glen always took care of operating the conveyor.
But, who am I kidding? I've had a hard time remembering which way to move the hydraulic levers for the past five-and-a-half years.
I've also had a hard time staying awake in the tractor. Sitting there with Daphne sleeping in one arm and one hand on the hydraulic levers, I found myself thinking about all those times I ended up asleep at the wheel while unloading feed.
When we moved to this farm, we borrowed the neighbor's tractor and mixer to feed our cows. Glen was still working as their herdsman, so he would bring the tractor and mixer home with him in the evening and we would mix and feed our cows after evening milking. We were almost always unloading feed in the dark.
Glen would drive the skidloader or push the wheelbarrows, depending on whether we were feeding the cows outside or inside, and I would sit in the cab with Dan to open and close the door on the mixer.
No matter what time of year it was, it was always warm in the cab. And the tractor was always rocking just a little from the movement of the mixer. Add in the constant hum of the tractor's engine and it was a perfect recipe for inducing sleep - even if I hadn't been sleep deprived.
Too many times to count, Glen had to wake me up with a shout. When that didn't work, he'd open the tractor door and holler, "Hey!"
No matter what I tried to do to stay awake - chewing gum, talking to myself, etc. - some days it was impossible. Open the door. Close the door. Fall asleep while Glen delivered the feed. Wake up. Repeat. Except for the times I fell right back to sleep after opening the door.
I wish I could say that I became a more alert and reliable mixer door operator after that first year, but I can't. I have just as much trouble staying awake in the tractor now as I did then. It might be even worse now because I have to fight off the urge to sleep while watching the kids snooze in the back window of the cab.
I often wonder if I would have a better chance of staying awake in the tractor if, as an infant, my parents hadn't resorted to driving me around our country block to put me to sleep at night.
For Dan, Monika and Daphne's sake, I hope there's no correlation; otherwise, I've predisposed them to sleeping at the wheel, as well.