Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles 5-14-12
In 1883 my great-grandparents homesteaded in Fall River County, Dakota Territory, several miles south of Hot Springs. They set up a farm and did whatever was necessary to survive and prosper, including traveling to other areas for custom harvesting, taking in borders at their large farm home, and running a small orchard and a huge garden. My grandparents followed suit. They marketed their products in the area, long before “local foods” became a political movement. I even have photos of my dad accompanying my granddad as they delivered produce to area Civilian Conservation Corps camps in the Black Hills.
Along the way, my grandparents acquired two Gibson garden tractors, manufactured in Longmont, Colo. It served them for many years in various chores around the farm as they ran their truck garden and orchard.
My uncle still has one and the second one became ours. The one we have is a Gibson 300. We used it to clean out the manure from the free stall barn when we owned and operated a Grade A dairy in the 1970s. It doesn’t have a steering wheel as it is steered by levers so there is a bit of a learning curve in driving it.
Since about 1980 it has been sort of an ornament in our yard. But it has been and continues to be much more than a decorative piece in our farmyard.
Each of our kids, the neighbor kids and now our grandchildren has “driven” the Gibson for many miles, though it is inoperable because it needs another magneto. The youngsters have gained experience in spatial relations as they poked bolts, punches and wrenches into various holes in the tractor and attachments. They get to “fix” the tires, adjust the drawbars, “fill” it with gas and everything else they have seen their dad and granddad do. At times the tractor has been a ship running from pirates as well as Army tanks and tracks.
Last week my 2-year-old (nearly three) grandson and I were out working on the Gibson. He put a long pin in one of the drawbar holes, but he didn’t get it quite straight and the pin didn’t fall into place. He proclaimed, “I need a hammer,” and away he went. The tractor sits just outside the shop and the tools are readily available to use and quick to put away.
Of course it was cute and funny, and it did my heart good to see that he has the knowledge to carry out his “work.” For a small child his play is his work, of course, and that is how they learn.
It seems the logical move now would be to restore the Gibson 300. Perhaps readers will give me advice, information and encouragement on this project. I look forward to hearing from you.
Peggy writes from the family farm in southwestern South Dakota where she enjoys history and all things related. Her internet latchstring is always out at Peggy@PeggySanderscom.