Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have place in your life so charged with meaning, spirit, and personality that it’s a member of your family, a dear friend, or a wise confidant. In other words, a main character in your life. This is an installment in a series of mostly true stories about Fairpop Farm, a place that became the hub and a main character in our family.

This is the story my grandmother used to tell me about my dad and his little red tractor.

My grandmother was in her kitchen when she spied the stalled tractor through the open door. I imagine her drying a Magnalite pot or rinsing a freshly shelled tub of crowder peas.

Even though the tractor was small compared to most farm equipment, dad had to sit on the edge of the metal seat for his 10-year-old legs to reach the pedals. This Farmall Cub tractor, according to dad, had all the bells and whistles any self-respecting farmer needed to plow, seed, bushhog, and bale.

To this day, dad’s words mix with wonderment as he talks about the tractor my grandfather bought for the farm. My grandfather probably taught him the pedal and lever controls. My grandmother gave him the lessons in tilling and seeding.

Following his training, one of dad’s first orders of business on the tractor was a crop of cotton and a crop of corn. He planted half of the back field with cotton that he sold for cash and half with corn that he stored in the feed bin for the livestock. He loved the little red tractor.

But the day Bevie paused her chore to watch him from the kitchen, the tractor whistles clogged and stranded dad on the top of the hill.

Stalled Red Tractor

My grandmother probably walked onto the back porch with her pot or tub of peas to get a better view. Her boy jumped off the tractor, crawled under the engine, then stared at it a beat before delivering a kick.

Maybe she had to step outside for her gaze to follow his march down the hill and to the barn. I’m sure Bevie giggled or whispered “My word,” as dad emerged with a tool box and trudged back up the hill. His light blond hair would have glistened with sweat and sun. His trousers or overalls were probably already stained with grass, dirt, and engine oil. My grandmother would rub that head and wash those clothes later. For now, she just watched her baby crawl under his tractor with some tools.

My grandmother’s story is never clear on what he did. A few whacks with the hammer? Wrenches to tighten a belt or a gear? But it wasn’t log before he sat on the edge of his seat and fired up the engine.

Determined Heart

Bevie never said if dad walked his tools back to the barn or balanced them under his legs before finishing his important business in the field. But I know this. That day, my grandmother’s heart swelled with pride. She probably told her sisters Luly, Bet, and Ev straight away. When my grandfather returned from the mill, I bet she greeted him with the tractor story. She was still telling this story when I was in my twenties.

The determination of her son’s heart gave her four decades of story-telling joy. My heart is happy to be able to share the story again. And what joy to be able to stand even today on that same hill and remember a little red tractor, a box of tools, and a determined little boy.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2024.