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By Staff | Aug 10, 2012

Here in Iowa, there are usually only two ways to get farmers into town – weddings and funerals. And they’re not even all that happy to attend either one. After all, there’s work to be done, you know.

That philosophy reminds me of the joke that circulated awhile back, telling the reasons why the good Lord was really a woman. One of the reasons it stated was because, “Even after Jesus died, he still had to get up because there was more work to do.”

Ladies … you gotta love that one.

But by the same token, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned tractor ride to get farm people together to have a little fun and to remember the machines farmers of the past had to work with.

Though some of them seem plenty old by now, they may have been state-of-the-art back in the day. It’s fun that some of those tractors are still running today along with many of those who used them back then.

If you hang out very long at a tractor ride, you are reminded of how much farmers love what they do; and the tractors that help them accomplish that calling in life.

One of my favorite parts is watching the people who watch the tractors line up and go by. For some, it’s the only time they get to be close to a tractor.

The last tractor ride I was at was the TRAWL (“Tractor Ride Around West Lake”), sponsored by the Okoboji High School FFA chapter. One of the most fun things that day was to hear a grandmother who lives in town speak of her very young grandson’s new experience while waiting for the ride to begin.

“They placed him on the lap of one of our sons, who was waiting on his tractor, and snapped a picture of it,” the grandmother said, her own eyes wide with excitement. “He’s never gotten to even be by a tractor, and today he got to sit on one. He’ll be talking about this for a long time.”

I think she got a little taste of what it feels like to know you grow the food that feeds the world. I think she was as excited as the little boy was.

I was thrilled to see Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey participating in that ride, showing his own pride in the main industry that makes his state so great.

It’s also fun to see teenagers climb on a tractor and be part of a ride. The future of agriculture is in their hands, and it’s so awesome to see them be interested in it enough to want to circulate with the older farmers and be part of something that binds them all together. Those older farmers are the younger generation’s information super-highway. They’ve farmed for a long time, and have the advantage of experience and hindsight.

But my favorite part of a tractor ride is the banter that goes on between farmers before and after the ride.

“I can’t believe that red tractor made it back to town,” I heard one tease.

From another I heard, “They’re giving out caps with green tractors on them, and I only had to pay a kid two dollars to take mine. But now I have it back again.”

And still from another grower near the Cleghorn area who hadn’t seen rain on his crops in a long time, he joked, “(The trip here) wasn’t so bad because I kept my tractor and trailer clean almost all the way up here, but it really burned me that once I got up around here I kept driving in other people’s rain puddles, and it got my tractor and trailer all dirty.”

And one of the best ones heard that day was from a man who drove an older model International tractor with very large rear wheels on it. Our other son approached him to say he thought those rear wheels looked cool, and the man replied, “Yea, big tires are like lipstick on a woman. You don’t need it, but it does make you look better.”

It’s fun to see groups of farmers standing around tractors as they are lined up before a ride, quietly remembering, imagining, admiring, figuring, joking and comparing tractor stories. They’ve devoted their lives to farming and to the tractors that become as much a part of them as the trucks they drive to the fields, to the neighbor’s, to the implement store, to the bank, to the church and back home again after a long day’s work.

And as farmers go, you have to get up early in the morning to beat them at their sense of humor, especially at a tractor ride.

I saw a sign on a “people basket” hooked onto a tractor at a ride earlier this summer, inviting people to ride with him if they wanted to.

It read, “Kids, Clowns & Gals-Free; Seniors & Dogs-Free; Guys-$1.00.”

You gotta love tractor rides and and the way God made those who use those tractors.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net.

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