I was around 5 or 6 years old when my dad told me he wanted me to go with him to the field so I could drive the Farmall M back home and he could stay to work in the field.
I was excited. Not only was I going to drive a tractor, but do it solo.
After years and years (well, it seemed that way) of sitting on a parked tractor or standing on the tractor platform between my dad’s legs when he drove, I was finally getting my chance to drive by myself.
This was my day of recognition as a tractor driver.
I waited while he finished his morning coffee, wishing he would drink a little faster. Then we walked the quarter mile to the field.
I climbed up to the tractor seat and my dad pushed the button to start the engine. He put it in first or second gear at low throttle as that was fast enough for a first time driver.
He let out the clutch, the tractor started moving, and he got off to the ground.
I was on my way. Oooooh, look at me now.
I stood on the platform while driving because if I sat on the seat, my feet wouldn’t reach the pedals.
Remember, this was a time before cabs and M did not have fenders, either.
It was fun watching the big wheels turn from a distance of about 2 feet.
The ride was uneventful and my dad said to park the tractor in front of the house.
It was when I was coming around the garage, only about 100 feet from my destination, when I had a thought.
“How do you stop this thing?”
I knew to push in the clutch pedal, but then what?
We also had a Farmall B I had ridden on many times and I remembered to shut that off, you just pushed a small circular button.
The M had the same button. I pushed it. Nothing happened.
I hollered for my mother to help as she was in the kitchen and could hear me.
She came out and I told her I needed to shut the tractor off, but didn’t know what to do.
She was about as knowledgeable about tractors as I was and together, we still didn’t know much.
I was still holding in the clutch and my leg was starting to hurt. I was starting to cry in frustration.
She knew something about killing the engine and we figured if I put my other foot on the brake while letting out clutch that would do it.
The tractor was still in that lower gear (I didn’t know much about transmissions, either) and holding the brake didn’t kill the engine because the tractor could still move.
About the fourth or fifth attempt to kill the engine, it actually worked and the tractor was silent.
I climbed off the tractor, disgusted with myself for being such a poor tractor driver.
I killed the engine because I didn’t know what else to do.
When my dad came in for lunch, I told him that I had trouble stopping the engine because that little button that plainly had “Stop push in. Start – pull out” written on it did not work.
“Yeah, that button doesn’t work” my dad said. “When I want to stop the tractor, I kill the engine.”
I ate my lunch quietly with one thought.
“You could have told me that a couple hours ago.”
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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