By LARRY M. JONES
Last week, I experienced one of those “life defining” moments that I fear greatly. Well, maybe it isn’t quite that bad, but the sight of a half-flat rear tractor tire sitting in a pool of antifreeze is a terrifying sight to this old farmer.
Of all the flat tires that ordinary folks have to deal with, a water-filled 600- to 800-pound rear tractor tire is probably the worst scenario possible.
When the pneumatic tire was first introduced, it certainly offered a bit of luxury and comfort, but with every great improvement there’s a price to pay. An entire industry to repair flats was created.
Those of us with vested “seniority” have been witness over the years to quite a few flat tires. Like most boys, my earliest experience in repairing flats was gained getting mesquite thorns and the like from my bicycle tires. Keeping my old beaten up 26-inch girl’s bike rolling up and down our gravel roads required a lot of my father’s hot and cold patches.
Back in those days, cold patches were pretty worthless, except for bike tires, and the best way to repair a tube was with a vulcanizing hot patch. Burning one of these would fill the shop with an acrid smoke. I think I read somewhere that the feds may have outlawed these because of the potentially hazardous fumes. It stands to reason, because anything that actually works has to be regulated out of existence.
With widespread introduction of tubeless tires during the 1950s, a new twist was added to tire repair. With no tube to patch, tubeless tires could be quickly repaired by merely inserting a sticky rubber cement coated string in the hole from the outside. While quite effective, the tire should be patched from the inside for a more permanent fix.
In recent decades, the quality of tires has improved so much that flats are not nearly as commonplace as they were when I was a youngster. I’ve mentioned it before, but my old high school friend Herbert McFarland and I once went from my house to Brock in his Model-A Ford and had to repair three flat tires before we got home. Fortunately we had all the tools and patches we needed. I have had only one major flat on my pickup in 25 years – a road hazard puncture of the sidewall. Ten-ply steel belted light truck tires are pretty durable compared to Model-A tires.
I was looking at a box of tire repair supplies in my shop recently. I have quite an assortment. I found hot patches made by Camel and Knicks, cold patches by Victor and Monkey Grip and a bicycle repair kit by Western Flyer. There was also an assortment of repair strings and several tubes of dried up rubber cement. These supplies are now mostly monuments to a time passed.
As for my tractor tire, I handled that one pretty well. I called Randy Sanders, who operates Randy’s Tire Service, and he showed up the next morning. It’s amazing how having the right equipment and the knowledge to use them can make even the toughest challenge look easy.
Meanwhile, while we’re on the subject of flat tires, does anyone know what happened to the pink air that was supposedly “coming” to Fina service stations back in the 1960s? I never got mine.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.