After suitable reflection, I decided there must be a better way and there was. Much better. I moved one light from the side of the tractor and bolted it onto the bucket itself. That is all.
Putting extra lights on an old tractor can be easy and inexpensive, and provide highly valuable dividends. We ran a small 50-head purebred beef operation for about a quarter century before retirement. Recognizing the economic realities of cost versus benefit, we concentrated our efforts on improving herd quality rather than investing in modern machinery. As a result, our sparse equipment met only our bare minimum job requirements.
Even though we’ve retired from cattle, we still use one of these old machines — an early 1960s John Deere 4010. This machine has many qualities, but one major design flaw: Its two forward lights, one on each side, are situated a foot and a half or so ahead of the rear wheels, seven feet from the front of the engine, and about chest high. Without a front-end loader attached, these light beams intersect some considerable distance ahead but near enough that you won’t run over a cow without at least seeing shadowed outline before the bump. Not ideal, but OK.
With a loader attached, the picture becomes less pleasing. The light beams are funneled down a corridor approximately seven inches wide between the loader support arms and the tractor body, successfully illuminating primarily the front tires and the back of the loader bucket at traveling level. If one has a particular phobia about possible flat tires, this is a good thing. For most of us it becomes a frustrating experience, the equivalent of groping around in the dark with only a pen light for illumination — and only straight ahead at that.
In northeastern Alberta, the sun rises close to 9 a. m. and sets just after 4 p. m. at the winter solstice. In January, it is a rare farmer who never feeds in the dark. With our feeble foot-candles, the problem became one of accurately spearing bales in such darkness.
After suitable reflection, I decided there must be a better way and there was. Much better. I moved one light from the side of the tractor and bolted it onto the bucket itself. That is all. The change was wonderful. The light followed the tilt of the bucket exactly and I was able to pinpoint the precise location of impact by tipping the bucket forward just slightly. This illuminated both the spear tip and the bale. As soon as contact was made the bucket was leveled and penetration completed.
I used an 18-inch by 1.5-inch angle iron with single bolt holes drilled top and bottom — top hole for the lamp, bottom hole for attaching to the bucket. I used only one bolt on the bottom so any unexpected contact would result in the stem being pushed back rather than bent.
This was supposed to be a single-issue conversion, but it proved rather handy in other areas where we needed occasional broad light. This light could be set and adjusted at any height without casting shadows or focusing too narrowly on one spot.
Flashlights have a finite life in very cold weather, drawing down rapidly after relatively short use. An idling tractor may not be the best accompaniment to repair, but it handily beats a one ray fading light set on a distant fence post, its beam tracking everything except tools in hand.
A short chunk of used angle iron, about ten feet of electrical wire (to allow for floating), two bolts and it’s done. The price is right, the results most satisfactory.
Stan Harder writes from Glendon, Alta.