Brian Holst>ISM Interviews A-L>ISM Interviews A-L, Segment 19


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After graduation from high school in 1982, the economy was still not recovered from the 1979 overall drop in the farm economy. Father insisted that he go to college, even though he wanted to stay on the farm and milk cows. Family decision was made to enter the automobile technician program. When the decision was made to enter the Ag-technician program at a community college 2 hours away, his father decided to sell the milk cows and concentrate on raising crops and hogs. It was a tough decision since his father had been milking cows since age 15. But he was losing his hired hand and he didn't want to milk the cows by himself. Came home from college on the weekends in the fall and spring to help out with the farm work.
Graduated from college in 1985, the same year that JI Case Tractor and International Harvester merged their companies. The merger meant fewer dealerships and fewer jobs for farm machinery mechanics. Since only seasoned mechanics were going to be hired in the Midwest, he decided to take a job in TX working for an Allis Chalmers dealership. As a combine technician, he spent 2 and one half years working in the rice fields in TX. Raising rice is not like row crop farming in the Midwest. Compared to other crops, rice is very abrasive, meaning that harvesting equipment (combine) parts wear faster than with corn or soybeans. Rice requires a lot of water. The soil is much different, being more "sticky gumbo" type compared to the thick black soil in IA and the Midwest. Since there was a "bottom to everything down there", sometimes late in the planting season, instead of using drills, fields would be flooded and the rice crop would be worked in standing water. The gumbo soil would peel off tires in the water-filled fields instead of sticking to the wheels. Could also seed by air, if needed. The use of a levy system to keep the water in paddocks was unique. Working with this different way of farming was an enjoyable experience.
Combine Mechanics can work on different types of combines. There is higher wear and tear with rice crops. In the South, combines run different threshing cylinders than in the Midwest. Same basic principle but different applications. More parts had to be replaced periodically in the rice farming operations.
Had to get used to the heat and humidity. Insects are more aggressive, including mosquitoes and fire ants. Had never heard of fire ants until that time. Was basically adopted by a couple of local families, and participated in activities with their kids. Still in contact with some people from that area today.
Became homesick after a time. Missed the change of 4 seasons. Never thought he would miss the snow in the winter. Wanted to be back near his family. Sister had left the farm by this time. Worked way back first through western IA working for a John Deere dealership. Then moved closer to eastern IA where he could help on the family farm on weekends during harvest, which was important to him.