By Galen Mommens
One of the biggest problems facing N series fans, and all other lovers of old iron, is that they can’t help but wonder what will happen to their machines when they can no longer keep them. Not only are the tractors getting older, but so are the men and women who run them. Farms in general, are slipping away, and along with them, replacement tractor enthusiasts. Recently, my wife and I were delighted to have our 11 year old great-niece, Jasmine, spend over a week with us on our farm. She has been a city girl living in Lincoln, Nebraska all her life, but she was willing to try new, different, and exciting things during her stay.
While some are lucky enough to have children and grandchildren to pass things on to, many, like my wife and I, do not have that option. It’s a good thing that we have nieces and nephews. We do our best to instill in them good Midwestern values and a need to know how it used to be done.
There were two things that thrilled Jasmine enough for her to call her mom and excitedly brag about. The first was learning to milk a goat. She did amazingly well. Most people have a hard time getting a couple squirts out on their first try. My wife and I were pleasantly surprised when she got a good steady stream in just a few seconds, even left handed. We gave her a Certificate of Accomplishment and christened her a “Junior Milk-Maid.”
The second thing she was excited about was learning to drive the tractor. I asked her and I expected a hesitant “ok”, but got an enthusiastic “YES!”
I started up the 8N, and had her sit on the seat in front of me so I could show her how to operate everything. We made our way to the top of the hill, and drove around for 10-15 minutes with her steering and operating the clutch and brakes.
Practice makes perfect, and she was a good student. She had no problems in her practice runs with me on board. We made at least seven or eight runs at taking off from a dead stop, made several turns, and stopped several times in different positions.
Then it was time for her first solo. I told her that I was going to get off and tell her when to go. She nodded her head when I told her that I would holler loud when it was time to stop. She did a few straight line start and stops (she learned quickly to let the clutch out easy) and it was time for turning practice.
Her first turn was easy, except that she forgot to turn the wheels BACK afterwards. I was videoing her as she was coming around. Naturally, as she came out of her turn, she headed for the cameraman! Luckily I saw what was happening, before it happened, and began to move as she rounded out. Even though I moved enough to give her time to straighten out the front wheels, the video shows her LAUGHING when she realized what was going on. My wife and I managed to capture her first solo ride, her first solo turn, and a bunch of still photos for her and her parents on CD.
I let her make a few more turns, and have fun for awhile, then it was time to quit for the day. She was excited, and happy to learn, but ready to stop and let it a sink in for a little bit. I hopped back on and we drove back down to the house. That evening, she let her mom know about her exciting day on the farm. Her mom asked her which tractor we used. When she told her, Jasmine’s mom Marissa informed her that it was the same tractor that I taught HER on three years ago. That made the experience all the better.
I went to sleep that night with a good feeling. I knew that we had made her day by letting her hop on a 60 year old tractor and tool around the hayfield on it. I think the old Ford enjoyed it, too. She ran around effortlessly, and seemed pleased to have the opportunity to teach someone else about old tractors.
On her last full day here, we took her back up to the hay field for more driving. She was getting the hang of it and was able to go just a wee bit faster. She’s not quite ready for full throttle yet, but she’ll get there. More photos, more fun, then it was time to quit again. Hopefully, this will bite our niece enough so that she catches the tractor bug. At any rate, we had great success putting a little farm into a city girl. I told her she could come back during hay season and stack bales for me. That, however, didn’t go over as well!
Galen Mommens is a regular contributor to the NNews magazine and author of The Art of Scrounging series of manuals which explain how to make the most of what you have around already. Need a barb wire dispenser or a tine harrow? Mommens lays out plans for making your own.