In a Sow’s Ear 10-26-09
The Voyageur Press – which just happens to be the outfit that published my book “How To Shovel Manure and Other Life Lessons for the Country Woman” as well as “Everything I Know About Life I Learned From My Horse” – wants an essay about tractors to be included in their spring-release book: “My First Tractor.” It’s a collection of essays from different authors about their “first tractor” experiences.
I don’t know how others have bonded with their tractors, but I wrote a longish piece on my “first” tractor. (I’d wager most of you in Agricultural Reader Land have your own unique tales to tell).
My first tractor was an inheritance – a 1948 Ford. As I walked down memory lane, I remembered the time Willowbee (I named the tractor. I have found that if you christen anything with a name, it’s nicer to you) bent a gate into a pretzel shape. To be honest, it wasn’t his fault. Entering and exiting the gate leading to the horse pasture was always a challenge if you were on the tractor. First you had to get down, open the gate, remount the tractor, drive through, dismount, and shut the gate behind you. The problem occurred during those moments when the gate stood open and the horses lingered nearby. An open gate to a horse is like Copenhagen to a snuff-using cowboy. Especially if the horses are colts or yearlings.
That afternoon, you and Willowbee had planned to take salt blocks to the pasture. You managed the dismount, opened the gate, remounted, drove through, dismounted, shut the gate in spite of the group of happy equines nosing around. It’s when you remounted that the trouble happened. You threw the gear into low – you thought. Now, in your old stick-shift pickup, you accomplished low forward gear by going from neutral to pulling the lever down toward your knee. On Willowbee, going from neutral and pulling the lever down towards your knee put him in reverse. You forgot that fact. When you yanked the stick and stomped on the gas, Willowbee lurched backwards, mashing the wire gate into an ornamental shape. He didn’t stop backing till he’d reversed all the way across the lane and hit the opposite pasture’s barbed wire fence post. Willowbee hadn’t halted or even slowed because you had been rendered stupid with surprise and failed to remove your foot from the gas pedal.
When finally, the fog in the brain cleared, three horses had departed and gone on an exploring expedition. Sir Spouse thought it was the funniest thing that had happened all week. Though your spouse (the Knight of the Ranch – you’d christened him, Sir Spouse) did his best to repair the wire gate, it never got over a severe scoliosis in its midsection.
Willowbee’s a whale of a lot older now. He is showing his age big time. In dog years he’s about 400. Like you he sags in places he hadn’t ought to, his skin is raddled, his feet are flat. Also he’s gone blind in one eye (you pray that’s not your fate, too). His tires are wrecked and digesting his oil and gas causes him heartburn. But he’s up for one last chore.
Northwest of the house you’ve established your final resting place. An iron-railing enclosure with a view of the river and the mountains. You’ve made it clear in your will where you must be buried. But what about Willowbee? Is he going to be junked or maybe installed in a tractor museum?
Of course not. Your will instructs that Willowbee must be parked at the head of the grave as a tractor headstone. Let the elements rust him out, let time and weather sink his wheels into the earth. Let him, with his one good eye, survey all before him.
The cowgirl who’s out on the tractor
Is happy except for one factor.
When every last bump
Meets up with her rump.
She’s certain that someone has smacked her.
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