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Tool time

(Names of retail employees have been changed to protect the incompetent.)

It has not been a good year in Iowa, weather-wise. What started out as an extremely dry spring suddenly changed course in the first part of May. Seems like it hasn't quit raining since. The exact amount of rain is something like a boatload, to put it in meteorological terms.

All the rain created some scheduling problems on our farm, Two Guys Farming, Inc. My partner, Guy No. 1, and I like to finish planting corn in the high single digits of May, then we switch to beans for a week or two before starting on hay at the end of the month.

To meet our deadlines, the plan was to switch tractors and jobs. The sprayer tractor was nominated to run the chopper. But to spray, we needed the tractor's wheels set in narrow to avoid running over any corn. Because of the wet spring, we also needed dual rear wheels for traction. To run the chopper, we had to remove the dual wheels on the rear axles. After that, we'd move the single wheels out on the axles.

For want of a wrench

One problem. The dual wheels on these big tractors have big bolts on them. Big bolts require a lot of force to get off. Our wimpy little impact wrench didn't fit the big bolts, and we were looking at 32 of these bolts to finish the job.

An executive decision was made around 6:30 Monday night. If we had us one of them fancy, ¾-in. giant impact wrenches like the Indy pit crews use, we'd be in business. But where would we find one?

Tool Mecca, of course! Your friendly Craftsman section of the nearest Sears store.

My first call went to Sears in Austin, MN, a short 50-mile drive away. The teenager who answered there said he, like, was pretty sure he, like, had one. I asked him how much it cost. “$69.99.”

Dude, I need a three-QUARTER, not a three-EIGHTHS. Three-quarter is what professionals use and we're not amateurs!

The kid double-checked and found that, like, sorry, but the one he had was, like, a three-eighths.

I called Sears in Rochester. It's 70 miles away, but my view of Minnesota had recently changed. Sure enough, Jason informed me that they had one and they were open until 9:00.

At 8:20, I walked into Testosterone Central in the Apache Mall Sears store and told a guy named Ted I was looking for a ¾-in. air impact wrench. Ted showed me some of the small impact wrenches — ⅜-in. and ¼-in. Then I repeated that I wanted a ¾-in. air model, not the Fisher-Price stuff. “Oh, the big one!” Ted pointed at it at the far end of the display. “What do you need to know?”

Nothing. Just fork it over and get me out of here.

Where'd it go?

Ted began fumbling for his keys to open the secure cabinet. “Jason, where's the three-quarter air impact?”

“It's on the top shelf, on the far left,” came a voice from the counter.

“Nope. Nothing there but empty shelf,” said Ted. “It's #18582. Check the computer.”

“I just talked to this guy an hour ago,” Jason replied. “I checked the shelf and it was right there on the top left.”

There was a long, awkward pause.

“You know what?” Ted asked nervously. “Ian from Paint was over here a few minutes ago with another guy. I wonder if he sold it?”

What the heck?! Ian from Paint? You guys let a kid named Ian come over here and sell tools? Big tools? Professional tools? Anyone who can tell you the difference between “cream,” “ivory” and “eggshell” shouldn't be allowed near the tools, to say nothing about being able to sell them! I want to get my tools from a guy named Hank, Walt, Bob, Chuck, Cliff or Pete, not Ian. This wrench was supposed to be here and I'll be darned if a kid named Ian is gonna screw it up for me. Besides, what are the odds that a ¾-in. air impact wrench would sell at 8:00 on the Monday night after Father's Day? It's like calling a car dealership a few minutes before closing, wanting to know if they have a two-wheel-drive, regular-cab, manual transmission truck available … in pink … and would they hold it for you if you got there within the hour? What are the odds it's gonna sell before you get there?

No big deal on the out-of-stock item, Ted informed me. They can order one in. It should be here by Friday.

Jason then informed Ted that I had specifically called an hour before, looking for this very wrench. I chimed in that I needed it by tomorrow morning at 8:00. Then I informed Ted that I had spent that last hour on the road to get here for this very wrench!

Things were starting to sink in for Ted as Jason got a phone call. The color was leaving Ted's face in a hurry. He looked at the display model and made a decision. The display model was leaving with me … if that was okay with me. “There will be a substantial discount for the floor model, of course,” he said.

Retail is for suckers, Ted. Box it up.

Bustin' loose

Another problem. The professional tools are secured, well, very, very securely at Sears. Ted couldn't get the thing off the display case. We'd have to figure out a way to pry it loose. What with this being the Craftsman section, I suggested that perhaps there'd be a tool somewhere close by that would help! You know, Ted, I saw a lovely, giant bolt cutter in that aisle over there. It was next to some pry bars and sledge hammers. Thoughts?

Ted could sense my blood pressure was rising. He got a pliers and a clipper and took my newly liberated impact wrench to the front counter. As he began to fill out the card for the extended warranty, he asked for my phone number. “Five-oh-seven ….”

No, area code 563, Ted. Not 507.

“Wow! You drove here from a different area code to get this?”

Different area code, different state, Ted. I'm on a mission. It almost involves hay, so don't push me.

Guy No. 2

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