A wise man who grew up farming with horses once told me he was happy when tractors came onto the scene.
He said it could sometimes be frustrating working with animals that had emotions and attitudes throughout the day, and that sometimes became tired and had to have a rest and something to eat and drink. Farm laborers had those same things going on. And when the two clashed during the work day, anything could happen.
As this same centenarian was telling me how tractor loaders once used belts to work – and couldn’t work once they were wet with snow – I was thinking about how tractors have changed over the years, and about all the things we can learn from today’s tractors.
– Use your horsepower. We are all stronger than we think, and our strength will be tested from time to time. Always show up ready to do the job, and push the throttle ahead when the load weighs you down undernpressure. Use the right amount of power, though-too much and you may not accomplish what you had hoped with farm work and with people.
– Hydraulics are indispensable. A tractor can have all the horsepower in the world, but if there is nothing enabling the implements to do their jobs, the tractor would be less useful. Always be connected to what you need to make sure you are as useful for the job as possible.
– You can be the steering wheel or the hitch bar. In life, we all have choices to make. We can look ahead and steer ourselves in the direction in which we want to go, or we can see life from a rearview perspective, seeing where life has taken us, waiting for someone else to put their load on us. Be the steering wheel, but also know when to carry the load-yours, or someone else’s. And it doesn’t hurt to let someone else take the wheel now and then.
– Pull your weight. The tractor’s job is to pull or power whatever is behind it. Be a source of power for whatever you are doing in this life, so others can’t help but thrive as a result of what you are doing. The tractor is a farmer’s steady companion. When there is work to be done, show up and power up for whatever that job is, and help carry the load.
– Less is more. When the pressure is on, we are sometimes tempted to turn up the heat. Sometimes the result is productive, but excessive heat can sometimes serve to be harmful to people and projects. Remember the mantra of the tortoise and the tractor-slow and steady wins the race when it comes to climbing steep field hills. A lower gear means more productivity sometimes.
– Be versatile. Tractors can do lots of jobs and are also made to pull all kinds of implements behind them. Be open to new ideas and be ready to do the work, no matter what you have to push or pull in order to get it done.
– Always fuel the tank. You don’t get far on a tractor without fuel in the tank, and you don’t get far in life with an empty stomach or too much clouding the mind. Fuel your body to do the job, and find a way to clear out your mind from all that weighs it down. And keep that air filter blown out.
But you might want to do that in private.
– Sunday clothes versus work clothes. There is a time for both, and it’s important to know when to wear them. Show up appropriately ready to do the sweaty work, and show up ready to be part of your community. Present yourself to the world in a way that shows them you know and respect your work, and that you know and respect your community.
– Tractors do what they are told to do. Pay attention and your tractor can accomplish great things for the benefit of the farm. But don’t pay attention-and the tractor can have a mind of its own, leading us down dangerous paths. Don’t text and farm.
And remember that big wheels and small wheels both have their place on the tractor and on the farm. Always work together to keep the wheels moving in the same direction, regardless of their size. Wheels of all sizes are important on the farm. Know when and where you need to be a big wheel and when and where to pull the throttle back and let others lead.
Karen Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.karenschwaller.com.
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