Farming in the early 1950s, my father pushed to the verge of working himself to collapse. Holding down a full-time job as a tractor and farm implement salesman, he would return home to farm the rented ground late into the night that he hoped to one day own.
About a year ago, my sister shared a photograph of my father I had never seen, as it had been tucked away in a baby book our mother gave to her. Dad would have been about 22 years old, based upon the age of my oldest sister who sits nearby.
In this black and white photograph, this 6-foot, 3-inch handsome fellow with thick wavy black hair looks incredibly thin, dark circles under his tired eyes. He was burning the candle at both ends, and he often said it was the happiest time of his life.
One day in the 1950s he would never forget. It started with a scheduled farm call atop a hill a couple of counties away. After a nice chat, Dad closed on the sale of a new tractor to an older gentleman farmer who had initiated this appointment over the phone.
My father tried not to show his joy, thrilled to earn commission money, as he and my mother were awaiting the birth of my second sister. As he stood near his truck, finalizing the details of delivery of a new tractor, this farmer’s wife came bounding out of the house.
“You better not be selling anything!” she yelled.
My father, sweetly shy, likely didn’t know what to say. The farmer, hands in his pockets, simply urged his wife to simmer down, that everything was going to be just fine.
She whipped off her apron, shaking it at the young salesman, and hollered, “I’m telling you — you better not be selling my husband a tractor. I have a gun and I know how to use it! I will shoot anybody who brings a tractor here. I mean it!”
Dad watched as she stomped off. He heard a screen door open and slam shut before he spoke at all.
“Well, I guess I better be going …” he started to say.
The farmer simply smiled and said, “Listen, sonny, she gets her hair done at the beauty parlor every Friday morning. Just bring the tractor between 9 and 10 o’clock this Friday and everything is going to be just fine.”
The week of sleepless nights finally led to a steamy Friday morning. Dad asked his boss to accompany him, just in case a shooting required a witness.
“I was hoping like crazy the beauty shop wasn’t closed or something. I checked and re-checked my watch a hundred times. The trip up that hill seemed to take so long I could swear that time had stopped,” my father recalled.
Our plan worked
The farmer greeted the young salesman with a smile.
“You did just right. Just park ‘er behind the barn and I’ll take it from there,” the man said.
A young salesman maybe never moved quite as fast in all of history, parking the tractor and jumping in the boss’s truck, then skeedaddling down the hill swift and smooth.
“And I lived to tell about it!” my dad said, shaking his head. “I’ve never stopped wondering what happened when that farmer’s wife spotted that tractor. I just hope he lived to tell about it!”