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by K. Pratt
Old Farmer, a.k.a. Dale Jensen began posting messages to our discussion forums at the grand age of 75. With extensive knowledge of farming and tractors, he valued the past and the ways that went with it. He shared these values with us until shortly before his passing. I spoke with Dale in his last days and requested his permission to share some of his stories with the readers of our magazine. He agreed, and provided the following introduction:
"I was born November 19th in 1923 and was raised on a farm in South Eastern South Dakota. I was born in a time when horses still worked the land and tractors were pretty new. Raised with hard work and a big family - we had good times and bad but mostly good. My first tractor was a beat-up Farmall F-12. I went to World War II, came home, traded the Farmall for a John Deere Model A and took over the family farm. I've been a JD man ever since."
In August of 1999 Old Farmer told his many on-line friends that he wasn't feeling well and knew he didn't have much longer to live. He said he was ready to pass on, but prayed he could at least live long enough to see the last harvest. His prayers were answered and in early October he was out helping his family in the field. His final moments came when he went to get the JD 3010 as his son got the combine. Old Farmer passed away on the seat of that tractor and was found later by his son with the engine still running. He was able to see some of the harvest he had spoke of so often. Buried in his old seed-corn cap, a 21 Gun Salute was performed at the cemetery in honor of his service in World War II.
In the next few issues of the magazine we will be sharing with you some of the tractor and farm stories he shared with us. We'd like to start out with one that he posted shortly before his death:
September 1st, 1999: This morning I woke up and instead of sitting in the house all day like I have been, I got my bibs on and my seed-corn cap and I walked out the door to the barnyard like I have done so many times before. I walked toward the barn and managed to slide the old rotten door open, and there she was - the words "John Deere" could be easily seen through the dark light of the barn. I walked up to it, turned the gas on and opened the petcocks like so many other mornings. But this time I couldn't start the old G, my grandson had to do it for me. He gave her 2 whirls and she popped and then a good yank and she came to life. She sat there at idle like she had done so many times before.
The familiar pop-pop brought me back to the days of my youth. I climbed onto the seat of the once huge tractor and took it out of the barn. I drove it out back and my grandson hooked the old disk up to it. I was off disking.
The old G was working under a load with me again, perhaps the last load with me as the driver. We disked for what seemed forever, I just thought about my life the whole time and just listened to the old G sing it's song. The popping of a 2-banger is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard. I got done and drove her back to the shed... I backed it in, shut the gas off, throttled it down and listened until it's last pop had died out. Like it was saying goodbye.
I slid the door shut and walked back to the house. I thought about the old G and it's last load, and how the G and I will be apart not long from now. I guess it was like kinda saying goodbye to an old friend. Old Farmer
We plan on keeping the spirit of Old Farmer alive by posting many of his stories in this new column, "Stories From Old Farmer". He had an extensive knowledge of farming and tractors and it is our intention that his stories of "days gone by" never be forgotten. They will be kept around to remind us of the old days and to keep them alive for future generations.