So, I climbed on Bombadil (our green tractor) and started off. At first, all went well. Bombadil is a medium-small John Deere, about 5 years old now, and pulls a six-foot shredder/mower and normally goes through the kind of stuff I was mowing today with no difficulty at all. 2300 rpm on its 44 hp engine and it'll take anything under an inch in diameter and has been known to split limestone (not intentionally--there was a rock once that I didn't see in time, and it removed the top three inches. WHANGGGGGGG-BANGGG-BANGGG-crunch-bang-sp
I was not expecting trouble because shortly before I left on the great road trip, I'd mowed part of the near meadow (could not then cross the secondary drainage in the middle of the meadow with it without making deep ruts) without a problem. But today, about a half hour into my mowing, and after doing the roadside fire lane and some other bits, suddenly the engine labored and it acted "sick", losing rpm. Shoving the throttle up didn't work. I shut off the PTO, lifted the deck to reduce drag, and tried it as just a vehicle. It rumbled, shook, and finally steadied again. Drove it maybe a quarter mile that way and it seemed OK again. Turned the PTO back on and started mowing again, this time working on the dry woods swale which was almost all ragweed. About 15-20 minutes into that, ran into the same problem, though not quite as seriously, but it got worse. Got most of that mowed, but finally quit when it was losing rpm even without the mower deck doing anything but turning blades...shut off the PTO again, drove it back to the horse lots, and then, while doing the 2 minute idle which the manual says to do at the end of work, noticed a fluctuation in engine sounds, unlike what I've heard before. Hmmmm.. Not good, says I.
Meanwhile, after I turned it off and headed back to the house to call the tractor people, I started feeling woozy and sick. Oh, you idiot, I thought to myself. You were out there on a hot tractor, in the sun, in 100 degree heat for over an hour...and did you drink anything? Well, no, I forgot because I was worried about the tractor. And of course the first part of the summer it rained all the time and rarely topped 85 degrees, and then I was off on a trip in an air-conditioned car, or in air-conditioned hotel rooms or convention centers...not out walking on the land every day regaining my summer heat tolerance. And then there's age. I still handle 90 and even 95 reasonably well, but 100 not so well at all (and I used to play tennis in 100 degree heat...)
So I staggered in, trying not to throw up, turned on the fan on the kitchen floor (there for cooling off people who come in too hot) and lay down on the floor until I felt better, about 20 minutes. No harm done. With the tractor out of commission (R's examination later strongly indicates water and other stuff in the fuel line, but he wasn't able to get all the water and air out of it this evening) I will go for a morning walk on the land, and avoid the early afternoon heat...but I'm not hiding indoors!