“Home lies in the things you carry with you everywhere and not in the things that tie you down.”
— Pico Iyer
While searching for an old clipping in a box, my eyes landed on a square photograph in black and white.
I recall developing it myself, in the darkroom of the newspaper where I worked when my oldest was born.
The picture showed my barefoot baby at 10 months, sitting on one of his grandpa’s pedal tractors, a radiant smile lighting up the place.
Just out of view, I remember, sat my dad, his work-worn hands securing his grandson, wearing the smile of a happy man.
The pedal tractor had a story. Dad had been an Allis-Chalmers salesman in the years before I came along, and had chosen to farm with orange tractors even before that.
About the time his grandchildren started coming into the world, Dad got the idea of searching for A-C pedal tractors, just to see if he could find one or two.
He found a few, beautifully restored to showroom perfection, and the bug really bit.
He and my mother started taking weekend trips to toy tractor shows, curious what other models might be out there. Oftentimes, I would do the milking so they could get away.
It was incredibly enjoyable for both of my parents, who had never been able to travel because of the demands of dairy farming.
They met good people, with Mom asking for addresses and phone numbers so she could stay in touch with new friends. She wrote to many of those friends for years, and still speaks fondly of those happy times.
Dad, too, found kindred spirits in a world he never knew existed. A large group of men about his age who had worked hard all their lives finally had a little spending money, and this was great socialization while “farming” on a whole different scale, so to speak.
This was a man who had an incredible lifetime collection of arrowheads, an impressive coin collection, a growing box filled with hometown memorabilia, a complete set of Louis Bromfield books, some of them signed, antique iceboxes and farm implements.
But never had we seen him more excited than in his search for toy tractors.
“Now, you aren’t going to believe this, but the small tractors you kids played in the sandbox are bringing some really big money. And if you have the box that it came in — yes, I am not kidding you — it might be worth double the price!”
Dad was enthusiastic as a happy hound on a trail when he discovered the world of toy tractors.
And like a well-tilled field, this enthusiasm would grow and draw us all in with joy, which was part of the gift of this man who was my father.
Next week: Part two — completing a set.
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