It is time this week to say good bye to my first friend at Two Mile Ranch. That friend is Ol Red, the Farmall 706 that came as part of the property deal when I bought the farm in 2005.
I never called “Ol Red” by name except in this blog, A tractor does not have the anthropomorphic qualities of the clever creations by Disney and Pixar. A tractor is a tool, a 50 horsepower piece of iron that when used, taught me valuable lessons.
The previous owners of the farm assured me the tractor was in great shape — if I wanted to buy it on top of our land purchase. Once I insisted it be part of the transaction, it was suddenly “as-is”. The right front tire was flat. It did not start. So my realtor and Norman, my neighbor, and I put on a new battery, drained the gasoline turned sludge out of the fuel line, and while we could start it, it wouldn’t run until I replaced a solenoid wire.
That first spring, I learned my first real safety lesson about tractors. With kids in the cab (never again) I slid on wet grass and became high centered in a gully wash. God looked over us that day…the outcome could have been much worse.
As a result, we met Virlin and Brenda, neighbors who now watch over my daughter’s horse. Good people, they pulled us out of the gully. The right front tire was off the rim, and because of that, I met Bob of Bob’s Barn, where many of us meet on Saturday mornings to talk about life, the weather, government, and all that is great about sitting at Bob’s barn, talking about the above, instead of actually doing work. This Saturday was no different, except Bob was hard at work on a tractor, moving the wide set rear wheels in to accommodate a narrower track cultivator. The rest of us stood around watching him work. It almost looked like some odd, faith-healing ritual. Frosty, the oldest of the group, offered up a tip on how to move the tires in using a long chain. Very impressive. You can learn a lot from these guys if you just watch and listen.
That first year, I spent a lot of time mowing down the overgrowth trying to learn the shape and lay of the land. A friend of mine, a long time farmer, did the first pass of mowing for me, through the tall waist and shoulder high grass, helping see places I could safely take the tractor.
The following year, Bob led me to a 12 foot disc about 30 miles from here. I towed it home with my pickup at about 20 miles per hour and that spring was able to strip disc part of the pheasant habitat in CRP. I also spent more time mowing.
Then in 2007 and 2008 I disced and planted food plots. Long hours in a tractor, but nothing like the full time farmers who spend marathon days working their soils.
My most impressive feat was towing a lumber yard delivery truck out of the mud after he became stuck. I say my feat, but I didn’t do much more than sit behind the wheel and let out the clutch, the mighty IH Farmall engine did the real work, and I got the glory.
This year, the last time I used it for work, I used a borrowed blade to move a pile of manure across my soon to be planted garden. I think I’ll remember that spring day the longest.
The memory includes another friend who I’ve said ‘so long’ too as well. “King Louie” — the pheasant who thought he was a dog– insisted on charging at the tractor and running beneath its wheels as I worked. I had to stop several times and chase him off to be sure I didn’t’ run him over. He hung around the farm a few more weeks, and after nesting season began, he disappeared.
Which brings us to last week and Sunday. A new potential owner for the Farmall stopped by. He had heard I was selling the tractor and is building a campground nearby and it would be a good match. My needs are now for a smaller tractor; a “chore” tractor, that can do some mowing, some loader work, and drink less gas.
Today, he and another man came by and negotiated a tough, but fair deal for both of us. He’ll pick it up early in the week and I say ‘so long’ to an old friend. It’s a great tractor with lots of life in it. In a Pixar movie, “retiring” to a campground sounds like a plot device. In the real world of Two Mile Ranch, it’s time to go tractor shopping.