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Frank Gets a Tractor

Carolyn White
Olathe, Colo.

There hasn’t been much peace and quiet around our country neighborhood lately. This past May 15th, after over two years of searching, my husband, Frank, finally bought a tractor. Like a kid with a brand-new, riding-sized Tonka toy, he can’t wait to arrive home each evening to play with it. On weekends, he’ll barely come inside to eat — I tell my girlfriends that I can only get his attention, over the noise, by running up close and waving my arms. Naked.

Frank grew up in Norwood, Colo., driving tractors, building fence, and bucking bales of hay. He appreciated the value of a solid farm machine and right from the start knew exactly what he wanted: his had to be a diesel, and it had to have a bucket. Trouble was, tractors don’t come cheap, and all the money I’d carefully saved wasn’t enough for the ones we initially looked at. We stopped every time we saw a John Deere, Massey Ferguson, or International parked with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it, and pored over countless newspaper ads, but anything that was within budget had already been sold by the time he’d called on them. Finally deciding that the right thing would turn up at the right time, this spring we backed off a bit from the search…and then, of course, we found one.

“It isn’t just a tractor, it’s a TRACTOR,” he proudly explains to visitors, and he’s right. Our purchase is a 1950-something Fordson Major, and it’s a monster. The previous owner had three already when we went to look at it and was selling two of them. This one had belonged to his late father, but had sat mostly unused for about eight years. “I kinda hate to let her go,” the seller told me somewhat wistfully as we watched Frank intently circle it. “We used to work on her together.”

“I understand what it’s like to want to hang onto stuff after someone passes away,” I agreed. “My dad has been gone for 17 years now, and I still carry one of his handkerchiefs in my purse.”

“Do you ever get over losing a parent?” he asked sincerely. It was clear that getting rid of the old Fordson might be a little hard on him.

My mind briefly flashed back to the past. I remembered Daddy teaching me how to do basic maintenance on my first car, and how he helped me patch up a bargain horse trailer in order to make it roadworthy. Looking at Frank’s face, I could tell that he was close to making an offer. “No…you never really do,” I finally answered. “But if we end up getting this tractor, I can assure you that my husband will take good care of it.”

After the check had been written (happily a few thousand dollars under-budget), the two men got to talking and learned that they had worked together in the same mine over thirty years previous. Frank even remembered selling him an old wood stove! They stood and visited with each other for at least an additional hour, and as we were leaving I pulled my precious white hankie out and waved it at him. (He grinned.) The camaraderie surrounding the deal made it seem meant to be, and I’m certainly reminded of it every time Frank starts the engine up now and it becomes too noisy to think around here!

The first thing he did was knock over a storage building by our driveway. I liked that building and have had a hard time finding room in the house for all the stuff we’d stored inside it, but I didn’t say anything. When he went out too far in the back yard (where irrigation water runs off) and got stuck in adobe mud, I sweetly suggested that he have a neighbor drive his own machine over to jerk him out. He did, but only after spending a day trying to remedy the situation himself. Now that the weeds have grown high, I have to be careful where I walk or else I’ll trip and fall face-first into one of the deep ruts that were left behind.

When he isn’t playing with his Fordson, Frank is working on it. So far he’s replaced the fuel filter, patched and reused the hydraulic hoses, and gone through fifteen gallons of transmission fluid. While tinkering with the bypass valve one afternoon, fluid blew all over him and saturated his favorite, black Harley Davidson muscle shirt. I’ve soaked the shirt in Dawn twice; washed it several times, and left it hanging in the sun for a week but haven’t been able to get the smell out. A sheet and two towels have been ruined, too, from him wiping his hands or tools on them during the mechanics. One of these days, we’ll paint the steel — currently a peeling blue with lots of rust — but first, I’ll have to wait until Frank is finished with all the tinkering…and of course, dirt pushing.

It makes me smile to look out the window and watch him sitting on the seat, arms flexing as he wrestles with the non-power steering. I don’t mind when he comes inside, smelling of diesel, and scrubs his hands right into my dishwater, trying to remove the black that’s come off from the wheel. And I love pulling into the driveway, seeing where fresh soil has been smoothed to start the base of our future garage, or sagebrush has been knocked over to make room for grass seed. There’s just something about working on your own property…only I wouldn’t call playing around on the tractor “work.” To Frank, it’s fun.

Getting a tractor has been the icing on the already sweet lifestyle we have created around here. It’s another goal reached, and another dream come true.

Maybe one of these days the two of us will be able to sit down together and enjoy the improvements. And hopefully, the return of the quiet.


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