Tractor Tales; The New Allis
Spring is here, and along with the onset of blooming flowers and invasive weeds, tractor training has thus begun. Let’s give a warm welcome to the Allis Chalmers WD-45, or the new Allis as we refer to it:
It is this new Allis upon which I will be learning to drive a tractor. The old Allis is the tractor that Pete has been driving since God created man. Or close to it anyway. He purchased the new Allis to supplement tractor duties when needed. This is where I step in, or hide according to mood. Ha, no really, I do want to learn to drive a tractor. Partly because as a farmer’s wife, I think it’s a good skill set to have, and also I just like the sound of the engine and build up of power as the tractor leaps into life. It’s a rush.
Both of our Allis tractors are from the late 40’s to early 50’s. The new Allis was rebuilt prior to our purchase, so its origins are a little mixed. Sort of like that mixed breed puppy that we all gush over. I’m trying very hard not to gush over this one because in all seriousness, this is a machine and that means safety first. So I must pay attention and resist the urge to just stroll over and turn the key and take it for a spin.
Fortunately I have enough healthy fear and respect for this machine to not do anything as foolhardy as that. Plus, I have a patient driving instructor in Pete “The Clutch” Farm Guy:
So for my first lesson, Pete drove the tractor out and cleared a 5-mile radius of buildings, animals, people and productive crop. I kid, he didn’t really clear the vicinity but he did drive the tractor out to an area giving me enough radius within which to practice. I did notice however that the barn cats steered clear of the area during this time. Smart cats. Good cats. Very much alive cats.
Some of you who have grown up on farms must find driving a tractor second nature. Not so with me. I wish it were so, but holy crap, this is not like driving my car. Sure there’s that key to start it, but there’s this wire that one pulls to really get it going. Once pulled, the engine roars to life and my heart leaps with excitement, fear and anticipation. My car doesn’t have that little trip wire.
Understand that Pete “The Clutch” Farm Guy made sure to walk me through the mechanics before I even sat in the seat. But it’s one thing to walk through the process and see him do it, and another thing to plop my butt down on the seat and commence engines on…and realize that 1) I can barely engage the clutch entirely, and 2) THERE’S TWO FREAKIN’ CLUTCHES! My car is a stick shift and I prefer that mode, so I’m good with clutches and shifting. But this was a challenge reaching the clutch and engaging the gears. That’s going to take more practice. And muscle. And longer legs!
You know how people say they can feel muscles ache that they’ve never used before after doing something new? I felt muscles ache that had no business aching after clutch and shift exercises on this tractor! This is embarrassing but I was breaking into a sweat just trying to shift gears. I need more arm muscle. Or the tractor simply needs to get more use. Cue me. This has left me with an incredible and invigorating feeling, and with more practice hopefully I will become more confident in taking the helm. But before this first session closed, I had to learn to reverse, back up, turn, and ultimately, drive the tractor into the garage whose doors seemed unusually close together upon my approach. I questioned Pete about whether the doors should be pushed wider apart but he said that they were fine. Fine. Just fine. And this is where I realize I have to just go for it. Be scared but go for it. My god is Pete a trusting fellow. I could’ve very well driven the tractor straight through the garage into the calf pen next door. But either that guy has a tractor remote tucked in his pocket, or he has great confidence in me.
Either way, I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I got that tractor in the garage without tearing down the property. And now, I have a hint of that bond one must feel for a tractor he or she utilizes on a regular basis. Just getting to know the nuances and particularities of Allis on this one day has already drawn me closer to it. I can’t wait for more Allis days!