If he's on your farm, lock up your tractors

Something about spring stirs an urge in me to dig holes in the ground and plant things. So far, I've limited myself to a few new Indian Hawthorns and half-a-dozen daylilies, put in, I might add, without the resident landscape supervisor knowing how many and where. I'll pay later.

I have resisted the urge, even on those balmy 75-degree days in late February, to stick a tomato plant or two in the ground, a decision proved wise by the 15-degree temperature on the first day of March.

But even setting out a few tomato plants, a pepper or two, and perhaps a few radish and lettuce seed will not abate the itch to till some soil. The postage stamp area behind my house (referred to in the realtor brochure as a fenced back yard) falls way short of big enough to plant a proper garden. I feel a need to plant some seed.

I've wondered, several times, about the possibility of spending the day with a farmer, crawling up on his tractor and tearing up some ground. I've wondered how much interest a farmer would have in such an arrangement, free labor for a day.

Then I thought I might better offer some references or at least some indication of my tractor driving expertise, of which I've had an abundance. I started at age four, when my dad bought a Farmall Cub to cultivate a crop of bell peppers for contract to a local cannery, as well as to manage the huge garden, which provided a good portion of our groceries and a clever means of entertainment for children.

I had my first tractor wreck shortly thereafter, but it was not my fault. My uncle allowed me to ride with him as he moved the tractor from one field to another. I sat on his lap, gleefully enjoying the bumpy ride, until he looked down and saw what he thought was a cavity on my tooth. In retrospect, he allowed that practicing dental hygiene on a four-year old while driving a tractor over a rutted road was not one of his better decisions. Throwing me off and away from the tractor before it rolled over, however, proved to be a good choice. We both escaped without injury.

Dad eventually allowed me to solo and to run a disk, pull a sled loaded with rocks or wood and move the tractor from one place to another so he could change implements. I was much older before he trusted me to cultivate. Something about my tendency to veer this way and that and pretend I was Richard Petty gave him pause. But I'd wait around all day for the chance to drive that little tractor back to the shed.

I had my second tractor wreck at about age eight. Also not my fault. It's hard to notice a ditch bank when you're turned around looking over your shoulder and marveling at what a straight row you're plowing. Fortunately, the small tractor was not high enough or heavy enough to roll into the ditch, and so it hung, precariously, teetering on the edge while I slipped off the seat. It took most of the day to winch it off the embankment. But, no scrapes to me and no permanent damage to the machine.

My third tractor wreck, technically, was not a wreck but more a lapse in judgment. I was old enough, and educated enough, the summer after finishing college, to know better than to hop off a moving tractor with a mowing blade running on the side and then scamper after the machine, which didn't understand it was unmanned, and climb back on. I suffered a punctured ankle, from a sharp point on the mower, and considered myself lucky not to have lost some toes.

I also considered myself lucky that the swarm of hornets whose nest I had ripped to ribbons and whose buzzing around my head convinced me that abandoning ship was a far better fate than bee stings never caught up with me.

My wound healed within days and didn't even interfere with my long anticipated plans to attend Army basic training a few weeks later.

I could also go into the axle I broke on the two-ton farm truck I was driving through a hay field for one of my neighbors, also not my fault, since the bales were scattered allover the place and hardly lined up properly at all. That episode, however, really has nothing to do with tractor driving.

[email protected]

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.