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Them Good Ol Days

Like many of us, my love of old tractors is linked to my childhood spent in 'the country'. Though we actually lived in urban areas until my early teens, my family spent most of our weekends and practically all of our summers on fifty-five acres of rural land my parents bought next to my grandparent's forty acres, which they lived on. All those weekends and summers were spent clearing, then working the land in anticipation of moving there and building a new house, which we did within a few years. P The first things my folks bought to work with on the property were axes and kaiser blades, a Mac 10-10 chainsaw and- the biggest and most wonderful thing- a newly painted (over rust-eaten and pitted parts) Farmall Super A tractor! Although old, it was very dependable, and we never had a battery for it. Nor did we need one, for it cranked easily after one spin with the choke on, then with the choke off and throttle at 1/2, the old dear started right up on the second crank. That tractor and a flatbed trailer made from the back half of the frame of an old truck were the backbone of our weekend and summer work endeavors. P I recall intensely dreading and resenting having to spend my weekends and so much of my summer vacations working like a child of The Great Depression, and in the nineteen-seventies it seemed downright barbaric, especially when compared to the lives of my friends living their carefree suburban lifestyles. All too early on those mornings that were supposed to have been stretched out leisurely, I was woken to quickly prepare for the labors that relentlessly waited for my grandmother, my parents, uncle, cousins, my sister and me on a list that seemed to never end, but simply changed with the seasons. Fall found us among axes, gas cans, a bucksaw and chainsaw, riding that stiffly-sprung trailer behind the Super A to the woods, where oak trees were targeted and felled to provide firewood for my grandmother's house nearby and, later, our own house. Winter was largely spent cutting pulpwood in the process of clearing a hilltop (with good soil for a future garden plot) and two plots of level bottomland. Spring meant tilling and planting, of course, and Summer was plagued with hoeing, harvesting, picking and shelling, along with whining and complaining from us kids, which was met with frustration and threats from the grown-ups. P All in all, these years provided so many rich memories of the sometimes tectonic interactions of an extended family struggling to get by and get ahead using the drive and determination instilled in the older generations by the lingering effects of The Great Depression, the vision of the middle generations who could, with calm acceptance of the labor required, look beyond just getting by to see a brighter future, and the younger generation raised and perhaps a little spoiled on the full nutrition of the pinnacle of the American Dream. With their good times and bad times, they were stark, sometimes harsh colors of Life painted upon a calm and seemingly perpetual canvas of a rural landscape. P Now, three decades later, I can see that painting more clearly, from the entire grand scheme of things to the small, individual details that support that vastness, and I understand, now, that the good times were the best they could ever be, and even the bad times held a richness and quality that not only helped define and make us who we are today, but were also the foundation that supports the heady heights of the best times and makes them shine in contrast. P Time has passed and taken my grandparents and my parents, the old Super A was sold many years ago without my knowledge or input, the lands we cleared with purpose were long ago given back to timber with purpose, and my uncles, cousins and my sister are scattered near and far to different areas and different degrees of success. The old ways of rural people to stay nearby and keep the extended family close seem to have been tilled under by the modern social mechanizations and trends that don't cater to small towns, but leave them drought-stricken while streams of young adults flow to the rivers of industry that swell in large cities. P Some will tell you that Life goes on, change is inevitable, and this unnatural-feeling modern society is actually a natural progression, and that we can never go back to the days of our youth. Perhaps for them it is true, and I can't tell them positively that it isn't true: but I bought an old Farmall Super A the other day, today is a beautiful day and I think I'm going to step outside and crank that old tractor up, because I believe that, at least for a little while, I can plow through this modern hard-pan, cut a swath through all this technology overgrowth and find that path that leads back to 'Them Good Ol' Days'. P --T.B. Bryceson

T.B. Bryceson, MS, entered 2008-06-27
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