The tractor parade
By Christine Tailer
How in the world did it happen that driving red tractors in the tractor parade would become a highlight of my gray-haired years? It happened quite by happenstance when one day, several years ago, Greg and I were running errands in the city. Always on the lookout for vintage marbles, antique mechanical clocks, and whatever else might strike our fancy, we decided to stop by one of our favorite treasure haunts, an antique mall on the north side of town.
We wandered up and down the aisles, not finding anything of interest, when to our amazement, tucked away in a back corner, we saw a beautiful red tractor, almost completely hidden by the antique furniture, vintage clothing and old what-nots that surrounded it. We stopped in wonder as the city folks in the mall passed it completely by. Its tag said that it dated to 1945. It had clearly been lovingly rebuilt. I climbed up into the seat. I felt as though it fit me perfectly, but the asking price was way too high, so I climbed back down.
A year passed, and I often thought of the tractor, sitting lonely in the urban antique mall. Then one day, our errands again brought us back to the city, and we decided to stop by the mall, and to my absolute amazement, the red tractor was still there, still looking so very out of place. The price had been reduced, but it remained too costly. Sadly, I did not even climb up into the seat, but as the days passed, I could not seem to get the tractor out of my mind.
I checked the mall’s website. The tractor was curiously listed as being “in good condition for its age, without too much of an odor.” I smiled. The most recent asking price had been cut in half! I excitedly told Greg. Well, it just happened to be close to our anniversary, and the upcoming antique machinery show, that this particular year was honoring red tractors. My dear husband, without saying a word, purchased the red tractor for me as an anniversary gift.
We hitched up the trailer and drove back to the city to pick it up. The tractor shone brightly in the sunshine and once back at the creek, I drove it straight off the trailer and all around our farm fields. I had learned that it was an orchard tractor, and had been refurbished in California in 1999, and then brought to Cincinnati, where it had lived inside for the past 20 years. Its tires were still dotted with nubbins. I imagined that it must have longed for sunshine on its hood and dirt under its tires. I smiled knowing that it felt quite at at home as its gears sifted easily chugging across our fields.
We knew that the tractor was missing its fenders and scooped faring, a rather rocket looking sort of cowling, that once allowed it to pass easily through orchard branches without damaging the trees. My dear husband has even promised to fabricate the missing metal, that is as soon as he finishes up about fifteen other projects.
Then, after only one day at home at the creek, we again loaded the tractor back onto the trailer and hauled it up to the antique machinery show. I proudly stood in line to register it for my first tractor parade. I’ll confess that I was a wee bit nervous that first year. I may well have stood in court and calmly argued my clients’ cases to judges and juries, but I had never driven in a tractor parade.
At the appointed time, I saw other tractor owners climbing up into their seats. I did the same. When they started their engines, I started mine. In time, a machinery show director came to the row of tractors in which I sat, and directed me to pull out into the aisle and follow the tractor ahead of me. I did. We slowly made our way up the aisle, other tractors pulling in line behind me, and wound our way around the back of the machinery show grounds. Finally, we reached a shaded hill, the roadway lined with spectators, many of whom I knew, and of course I waved as I passed by.
Our parade line inched slowly forward as one by one we were directed to pause, and then pass by the announcer stand, where each owner and a description of the tractor was called out to the assembled crowd, and then it was my turn.
I slowly engaged the hand clutch and smoothly rode out as the announcer called out my name and told the crown that this was an “unusual tractor for these parts.” I smiled ear to ear, and with the tractor securely in second gear took my hand off of the clutch and waved happily to the crowd. My nervousness had faded completely with the crowd’s smiles. I felt as though I was on cloud nine. My life had somehow, magically, become complete.
There is something else that I do not quite understand, but I now am the proud owner of three orchard tractors, as well as a lovely big red tractor that is akin to the orchards, but purposely lacking the sheet metal and hand clutch. A neighbor just asked if I might be interested in rehoming yet fifth big red tractor, and of course I said yes.
This past week was again the week of the antique machinery show, a week I have been looking forward to all year. I no longer feel nervous, just ever so happily excited as I climb up into the seat of my red tractor and join the line of proud tractor owners in the tractor parade. I confess though, that I do have a bit of a quandary. I can’t help but wonder which of my red tractors I should drive, for I well understand that Greg’s machinery show heart is with his assorted displayed engines and the folks gathered around.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.