Lessons learned from a tractor


“Well, um, the tires are nice and round.”

This is the best I could muster, squinting dubiously at the assemblage of parts and pieces that made up what I am told – but cannot prove through any resemblance to any actual tractor living or dead – was our new tractor. “New” being a figurative phrase.

Our tractor may have been new when Noah first used it to load feed onto the ark. Since then it’s been around the block, and barn, a few times.

Nonetheless, my husband has been supportive of most of my iffy schemes. The least I could do is return the favor right?

Support. Why, if you tipped your head to one side and stood quite a ways back, it really almost resembled a tractor. Sort of.

“I’m familiar with John Deere green and Allis-Chalmers orange but I can’t recall offhand which manufacturer was noted for a distinctively flaking rust tone dear.” This is just the kind of supportive comment that will keep your relationship fresh forever.

Although, just being there for moral support when his friends are staring, awestruck, at the hideous ball of ugly that is his new tractor is a nice touch.

I think shouting out helpful remarks like “Hey hon, the Smithsonian called – they want their tractor back!” was a big help.

Zeroing in. We have this latest tractor only because our previous tractor had given up the ghost, or whatever it is that tractors do when they die, which was cheesing me off to no end because our previous tractor was only 30 years old. This is practically brand-spanking new in the tractor world.

Oh, it probably wasn’t terminal, really. Why, it was nothing that a healthy cash transfusion couldn’t fix. But when the bill to merely diagnose it far outstrips your budget to repair it, it’s time to pull the plug.

So now we have one purely decorative tractor complete with a box of loose parts and a repair estimate tucked under the seat that offered an alarming number of zeroes.

Enter our next tractor. I was disheartened and more than a little cranky. Wondering why we had to get stuck with the oldest tractor in captivity. In six years we have had three tractors, each one older than the last.

This seems rather backwards to me. It’s anti-progress! When he comes down that driveway with a plow horse I am putting my foot down, I swear.

Meanwhile, my beloved was eagerly demonstrating the mower on the thing, and cranking up the engine, all the while apologizing that the top speed wasn’t very zippy.

“Yes dear” I drawled snidely, “but remember when this thing was new the automobiles only went 25 miles per hour; now slow down before you shake all the rust off.”

Then, just when you think fate has dealt you all the makings of a bang-up fight, and you’re thinking that one thing is certain – he takes the tractor in the divorce – magic happens.

Our 3-year-old daughter spotted the thing.

Now, Kassie has been completely and utterly enamored of tractors since before she could walk. And this one was no exception.

Gazing up at it she clasped her hands together in pure joy, and then, ever so reverently, she whispered: “It’s bee-ootiful!”

Faith. Suddenly, this improbable pile of bare metal and rusted bolts was transformed.

We needed this tractor. And this tractor needed us. Needed us to see beyond the surface for what remained under the years of wear and tear and benign neglect.

A faithful helpmate still chugging along decades later. Delivering a hard day’s work when younger models had given in. Maybe a little (OK, a lot) rougher around the edges than when it was young and bright, but each scratch and dent was hard earned and hard won.

And, most importantly, to one little country girl it is her daddy’s tractor. And this is all it takes for her to love it, completely and unconditionally. Without a sense of entitlement to one that was brighter, newer, better. And to love it even when that was a challenge, and it needed a little – or a lot – of work.

Tractors are probably a lot like life – and marriage – that way. And a little child shall lead us. “Bee-ootiful” indeed.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt already loves the tractor and insists it has “character.” She welcomes comment c/o P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460 or kseabolt@epohi.com.)


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.