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Life in a small town.

Running- off the tractor

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Running off the tractor.

Dad's tractor, a 1958 Massey Ferguson 65, was a monument to his optimism. He kept it
parked up the "Strips", a steep track above the farm. This was because it had no
working starter motor, or battery, or in fact any electrical systems at all.
It had to be "run off", and then kept running until the day's work was done.
"Whatever you do, Don't stall the tractor!" was the mantra we lived by
when spreading muck or making hay.
On cold winter mornings dad would have to hold flaming brands of diesel soaked paper sacks against its essential parts to warm it up abit before starting. He boasted he could start it in any weather with just two or at the most three corn sacks. When he thought it was ready, (by which time the accrued oily gunge on the side of the engine block would be well a light) dad would leap into the seat, put it in third, release the one remaining working brake, and peering through a
pall of smoke and flame, with his flat cap turned backwrds so it didn't blow off, go careering down the track.
Instinct told him when to release the clutch, the wheels would slurr and bite,
the engine would cough and chugg, clouds of dense white smoke would billow out from
both ends of the old bit of asbestos pipe that served as a chimney.
Then came The Decision, if he was confident it was going to start he would aim
to turn up hill at the junction at the bottom of the Strips, if not he must turn
down hill and try again, and he had little time to decide, because there was alot of
free play in the steering and a large time lag between vigourously cranking over the
steering wheel and even the smallest directional response from the tractor.
But it usually started.
All he had to do then was beat out the flames, rush to the well, fill up a
container with water, close the radiator tap, fill it up, and he was ready
for off.
He'd set out up the the road leaning hard over to the right to avoid breathing
in the exhaust fumes.
"Best tractor I've ever had" he'd often say.

His optimism kept that tractor going. Optimism was a strong force in my dad.
In his final years, when bits of him broke down, or wore out or stopped working,
he kept going, waking up each morning and relishing the prospect of another day,
whatever it might bring.
He was our hero.


  1. Gilliatt Gurgle's Avatar
    I raise a glass to our hero's.
    Wonderful reflection, reminds me of my '66 VW Beetle with a 6 volt battery and always having to park at the top of a hill in winter.
  2. Virgil's Avatar
    They don't make machines like they used to. And they probably don't make as many great fathers as they used to. Wonderful read Prend. Thanks.
  3. Paulclem's Avatar
    Excellent Mick.

    I've been round the Massey Ferguson plant which was in Coventry. Unfortunately they were bought out by Agco - an American firm who shifted the operation. The site has been flattened and a large housing estate now resides there.

    My committee colleague Terry used to work there and talks fondly of factory life - the camaraderie and scams.