The Farm or Ranch Wife: Also Known As “Parts Runner”


This column was originally published July 30, 2014

The act of a farmer or rancher sending his wife to pick up or go get parts is referred to as going on a “parts run.” This is because farmers and ranchers generally want the parts-getter person to hurry in getting the needed parts and hurry back in hopes of getting machinery fixed and salvaging some of the day’s plans for haying.

Most women who marry into this lifestyle—the kind that requires ample equipment repairing—do not remember agreeing that going on a parts run was part of speaking their marriage vows at the altar. To refresh the memory of these women, the words they repeated after the minister were “I, (name), take you (name), to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish and run to get parts whenever necessary; from this day forward until death do us part.” Like every bride high on wedding day bliss, they don’t remember saying it because that tidbit of their wedding vows was kind of like overlooking the fine print.

One of the requirements for haying season is that equipment breakdowns have to occur on good days for haying when a lot can get done, but especially when specific haying goals have been planned for the day. The other requirement is that repair work is to take place on a cloudless hot day. Equipment rarely breaks down when it’s cool and cloudy or while haying right when it starts to rain and there’s no more cutting, raking, or baling that can be done anyway.

Hay makers are in a hurry to get back to the haying operation while the conditions are still ideal and it’s necessary that the people involved contribute to the quick turnaround time needed in order to cut, rake, or bale as close to the day’s anticipated hay-producing goal as possible. When equipment breaks down in the middle of an intense haying operation, guys still expect to squeeze in as much haying as they can.

Farm and ranch women do the majority of parts running to the nearest parts store to get whatever is needed in order to resume haying so much that by the end of haying season these wives know the parts guy’s relatives, where he grew up, his wife’s workplace, and his dogs’ status.

Part of restoring harmony in the hayfield workplace is being a parts runner wife that has this marital duty mastered. She insists her husband calls the parts dealer before leaving if there is any doubt the part might not be available (especially with older models). She takes the old part(s) with her if possible. She has her husband write down every part, part number, and quantity of part(s) in legible handwriting for the parts guy. She makes sure her husband has his phone with him, it’s turned on; the volume is all the way up, it’s set on a loud ringtone, and is also on vibrate for alerts. Most importantly, she prays the parts store has all the components she needs; that they give her the right parts and they don’t forget anything on the list. Then she runs for parts.

My husband loves it when I drive up to him and he asks, “Do you have the parts?” and I say, “I do!”

© 2014 Amy Kirk

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