I have been driving tractors for at least 55 years and I can remember the first time I drove a tractor. Like many things in life that we try the first time, it did not go very well.
I had a Farmall M pedal tractor that I had worn the tires smooth going up and down the 20 feet of sidewalk in front of the house or, if I was lucky, in the cattle yard where there was concrete.
To do that I had to wait until the lot was empty and the manure had been hauled away. Riding my pedal tractor in the cattle yard was an infrequent event, but what freedom.
I figured I was ready for the real thing and one summer day I begged and begged my dad to let me drive the John Deere A. I was probably around the age of six and I had seen my dad and our hired man Jerry drive the tractor many times. I knew just what to do.
Finally, after listening to me beg much of the day, my dad gave in but I would have to wait until they finished their afternoon lunch. It was summer and they had been baling hay.
I tried to be patient but they were not moving fast enough. I went outside and thought I would start the engine just to help move things along. I had seen them do this many times. It was not that difficult.
The John Deere A had been parked by the gas barrel, as its tank was getting low. Just in front of it was my dad’s 1948 REO truck.
I climbed up the back of the tractor and leaned against the seat because I did not quite reach the pedals. I turned the ignition switch on and pressed the starter.
The tractor engine was warm so it started easily. I believe it started on the second firing of the sparkplug.
As soon as the engine started, the tractor started to move. I was not prepared for that and the tractor lurched ahead and drove into the front end of my dad’s truck.
Inside the house, my parents and Jerry heard the tractor start and then BANG when I hit the truck. The next thing I knew, I saw Jerry racing across the yard as the rear tractor wheels were starting to spin in the dirt.
I was still trying to figure out what was happening and what to do next when Jerry got to the tractor, pulled back on the hand clutch and shut the engine off.
This was going to be my moment of greatness and it was a complete disaster. What could I do?
I did what any five or six-year-old boy would do. I found somebody to blame and it was not me. It is what politicians do today on a daily basis and they are adults.
I blamed Jerry for leaving the tractor parked in gear. He was not supposed to do that.
Of course, this was before transmissions had a park feature in them and had I done a better job of paying attention,
I would have figured out that leaving the tractor parked with it in a low gear keeps it from rolling when the engine is off.
What I really wanted to do was go somewhere and hide.
Well, my pride had a huge dent in it and so did my dad’s REO truck.
There was a dent in the front bumper that was there until the day he sold it. Every time I looked at it for many years, I could hear the bang of the tractor colliding with the truck’s bumper.
Like many things that do not turn out the way they were supposed to, I learned to pay more attention to my dad and when he said, “no,” to my request. He has a good reason even when I thought he was wrong.
A few years later, I became the tractor driver I wanted to be and even after that, I still had a few mistakes left in me.
Fortunately, nobody got hurt.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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