Driving the Farmall…Just a Little Bit Too Far!

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Driving the Farmall…Just a Little Bit Too Far!

James R. Aist

Growing up on a small dairy farm in central Arkansas in the early 1950s sure had its moments, some more noteworthy than others. I was the youngest of four brothers, and I was, at times, eager to be like my two oldest brothers. They were more integrated into farm operations than I was, and I envied that.

Between our house and the milk barn was a beautiful winged elm tree, in front of which we routinely parked our tractor, an IH McCormick  Farmall. By the time I was about 8 years old, I had figured out that this Farmall was my ticket to farming manhood. Consequently, I looked for every opportunity (excuse) to operate that vehicle for any reason my parents would allow. I started by running errands with it to the corner store and back for some essential food items Mama needed. Mind you, this was safe, because we lived off a dirt road off another dirt road, and any traffic on that road was the talk of the day. Then I graduated to hooking our two-wheeled trailer to the tractor and delivering hay to the cows in the pasture field near the cow lot, in the winter time.

Well, by then I figured I had come a long way toward qualifying for some serious farm work with the Farmall. I had executed countless errands  and chores with it, with nary a mishap. Then I began to observe how my oldest brother, Art, liked to show off his skill with the tractor: he would race down the driveway toward the tree to park it as usual, but then, at the last second, he would stop suddenly, just as close to the tree trunk as humanly possible without hitting it. I was very impressed. And I figured that if I would do the same with the tractor, then I might just get myself that much closer to being allowed to do some real farm work with it. It would be as a right of passage to manhood, I reckoned. I could hardly wait for Mama to ask me to drive the tractor to the store and back again; just wait ’til they see what I can do with it! No need to practice, man, I was ready!

Well, the big day finally arrived, and off I went, head held high. On the way back from the store, I rehearsed in my head exactly how I would pull off this impressive maneuver. So, I turned into the driveway and prepared for my approach: I had to be fast enough to be impressive, but quick enough to stop just in time, like Art. And I pulled it off just as planned…except for one little detail: if you release the clutch before the engine stops turning over, the tractor will lunge forward a little bit. Sadly, that little bit was supposed to be the distance between the tree trunk and the tractor grill when I was done parking! Consequently, I ended up ramming the front of the tractor into the tree trunk, denting the grill and breaking the radiator hose. There was steam everywhere! Thankfully, the tree wasn’t injured, but I can’t say as much for my ego.

Needless to say, my little scheme backfired on me, and it was a good while before I was entrusted with any real farm work. Dag-nabbit!

A Harrowing Experience

English: Harrowing to incorporate straw near T...A Harrowing Experience

James R. Aist

We were living on a dairy farm in Cypress Valley, a very rural, unofficial community in central Arkansas. It was 1955, and I was 10 years old. My two oldest brothers had been allowed to do real farm work – i.e., working a field with serious farm equipment attached to a farm tractor – for several years. I, however, being only 10 years old, was allowed to do only lesser tasks that don’t really qualify one for manhood, as defined on a working farm. I could drive the family’s Farmall tractor down the dirt road to the General Store and back to pick up a few groceries, I could hitch a small, two-wheeled trailer to the tractor and distribute hay to the cows in the winter time, and I could help out in the milking parlor, “cleaning” the floor, mixing and “serving” dairy feed and operating the milking machines. But all of that is what makes you a farm boy, not a man, like Daddy and my two oldest brothers.

For some time I had been asking Daddy to let me work a field. I’m not sure that he knew why I was so eager to move up to field work, but I wanted to complete the “right of passage” to manhood, and it meant a great deal to me at that time. So, finally, Daddy agreed that I was ready, and he assigned me an entry level task to get started. I was to drive the tractor across the pasture to the woods, where I would find an “undeveloped” farm road leading to a small field nestled in the edge of the woods. This field had been plowed recently by one of the farm “men.” My task was, more specifically, to connect the two-wheeled “field harrow”, which had been left at the edge of the field, to the tractor, lower the tines of the harrow, pull the harrow across the field to reduce the large clods and clumps of soil left by the plow to a fine consistency suitable for planting, raise the tines and then pull the harrow back out of the field and across the pasture field to the main barn for storage. That sounded simple and straight forward to me, and so I set out to “git ‘er dun.” Finally, I was going to become a man!

Or so I thought. Everything was going according to plan until it was time for me to pull the harrow out of the field and between the two trees that defined the path to the farm road leading to the pasture field. Oh, wait, did I fail to mention that the harrow was ever so slightly wider than the tractor? Well, I found that out as I was trying to clear the two trees guarding the exit to the farm road. Apparently, I did not take the perfect angle in my approach to the opening between the two trees, and, sure enough, I managed to get the harrow lodged between the two trees as I attempted my get-away. Upon realizing what I had done, panic set in immediately. Can I manage to get the harrow dislodged and pull it triumphantly back to the barn as if nothing had gone wrong, thus sealing my membership into the coveted manhood fraternity, or would I have to leave the harrow stuck between the two trees and slink back to the barn with only the tractor, like a defeated dog with his tail between his legs? Well, try as I may, I could not free the harrow. After all, I was only 10 years old, and the harrow was definitely in the category of “heavy equipment.”

My return to the main barn was, to say the least, deflating and embarrassing. Daddy had to retrieve the harrow, and I was still not a man. And the worst part of it was that I had proven to the whole family that I was still only a farm boy! Then, to make matters worse, Daddy had just received his first assignment as an ordained Methodist Minister, and we moved away from the farm before I could get another chance to earn my manhood badge. But then, with time, I managed to get over it…or did I?

Postscript: I’ll bet that when you read the title, you didn’t see this coming!

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