As a young boy, there was one place I wanted to be more than any other. An eighty acre farm in the south central rolling plains of Iowa.
This was my mother’s home place, and where grandma and grandpa ran a small farm. No monoculture this; in those days dairy cattle, hogs, chickens, corn, hay, beans, and even chinchillas were found here. I was free to roam the farm with it’s sounds, smells, and rhythms so different from my suburban home.
In particular I loved tractors. Grandpa had three; the riding mower, the chore tractor, and his pride and joy, the John Deere field tractor
In the fertile fields of my memory I recall being allowed to drive grandpa’s old Ford chore tractor with him sitting behind me. As a tyke this tractor felt huge. It was loud and tall and intimidating. But if grandpa thought I could drive it, surely I had what it took.
After a run down the gravel road in front of the farmhouse, we turned around and headed back to the machine shed. As we turned into the driveway, grandpa said “put ‘er up!” by which he meant to mean put the tractor away. I took it to mean push the throttle up. Which I did. All the way. Like a boss.
This caused a bit of urgent instructions from grandpa, the specifics of which are thankfully lost to memory. What was immediately clear was I had misunderstood his instruction. He quickly righted the wrong, and the Ford was stowed safely in its stable.
Every trip to the farm I spent hours just sitting on the tractor. It made me feel strong and secure.
Years later after grandpa passed, we came back to the farmhouse after the funeral. I sat on that same tractor, on the same farm, in the same machine shed, and remembered these words from church ” O death where is your victory, O grave where is your sting?”
What I would give today to sit in that seat again, smelling the dust and oil of the machine shed, and feeling the freedom of a farm to roam. Sometimes the world just makes more sense from the seat of a tractor.