Thursday, August 25, 2016

When the Cat's Away

August 25, 2016

When Linda was a little girl, she loved spending time with her father. When he would come home from work, she'd be sitting on the front step, baseball mitt in hand, waiting for him to throw the ball to her. He would throw it as hard as he could till it stung her hand, but she wouldn't let on. She loved her special times with him, and was the only one of the girls allowed to drive his tractor. She tells of the time they were cultivating the corn with an old horse drawn plow hitched to the drawbar of the tractor. She was driving while he guided the plow. When they got to the end of a row, she would let off the throttle, turn the tractor around and press in the clutch while he maneuvered the plow. Once he was ready for the next row, she would put the tractor in gear, let out the clutch, and away they would go. Except one time when she wasn't paying attention.

She was singing as she popped the clutch, mistakenly throwing it into fourth gear instead of first. Her father was only about 5' 4", and when she hit fourth gear, his short legs were given quite a workout as he ran along behind the tractor, taking the row in great bounds, shouting to no avail. When they got to the end of that row, he breathlessly asked if she was trying to kill him. She wasn't, of course, but they both told and retold the story many times over the years.

He was fussy over that tractor. I got to drive it once, when he was laid up with a bad back while in the middle of tearing down the old barn. He was worried that the north wall would collapse and hurt someone, and I was as surprised as anyone could be that he let me hook it up to the wall and pull it down. That was the only time in the forty years I knew him that he let me drive his tractor. When he died, Linda inherited it. It sat in Nate's barn for a couple years until we had a place to store it. I'll never forget the day I drove it home.

It's as old as we are, a 1948 Ford 8N, and it can be somewhat crotchety about starting. In the winter it's almost impossible, and in summer only slightly less so. I tried three times this week before managing to get it going this afternoon. Once it starts, it runs like a champ.

Little Nathan and his sister Madeline were visiting for the afternoon; Linda had taken Madeline to the library while Nathan sat sprawled on the couch watching Veggie Tales. When I leaned in the door and asked if anyone in the room would be interested in driving a tractor, it was as if Nathan had been launched from a cannon. At eight, he's a quick study, and after a couple turns around the yard with me behind him operating the clutch, I told him it was his turn. His first try was a bit jerky, but after I had him start and stop it a few times, he was handling it like a pro.

His sister soon got in on it, and we sent them home with ear to ear smiles. Being able to give them an experience like this is a gift to us as well as them, and tonight I am content.

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