This picture means a lot to me because it includes several things that are dear to me.
The Allis Chalmers WD is a reminder of my Dad who received this tractor brand new on April 16, 1953, according to the weathered and grease-stained owner’s manual in my possession.
Our new pup, Cindy, a golden retriever with whom I plan to spend some of my golden years.
A big, steep hill, that my Mom had dubbed Old Smokey when she first saw it in 1955 or so, part of the farm on which my Dad toiled to make a living for his family, a hill that has been in the center of my family’s farm for 150 years, now seeded to native prairie and returned to nature as my mother had always wished but never came to see.
A clutch of evergreen trees that my wife and I had planted on the side of that hill when we moved to the farm some 35 years later.
The pasture where I first drove the Allis while my Dad walked the fence in Spring preparing a place for the heifers to call home that summer. Dad pointed the tractor parallel to the fence, put the gear-shift lever in first, set the throttle at a low idle, and snapped the hand clutch into gear. He walked the fence cutting last year’s weeds from the rusty but otherwise, smooth wire, replaced a few insulators, and tightened that wire as I white-knuckled the steering wheel in my 6-year-old hands. Allis crawled forward along the fence with the fencing trailer, the cut-off box of an otherwise discarded pickup, in tow. Suddenly, Allis and I lurched forward and lunged down a short but steep slope just to the left of and outside the frame of this picture. Allis had popped out of gear and we were now free-wheeling down the slope! I hung on to the steering wheel for dear precious young life not knowing how to apply the brakes and being at least a foot too short to reach them. After an interminable run, I suddenly pitched forward toward the steering wheel. Both front tires had plunged into the dead furrow at the bottom of that slope and the tractor and I came to a sudden rest…almost! For there was just enough forward momentum to push the wheels up out of that trench setting the tractor careening forward again. Allis and I briefly resumed our wild flight until the back tires settled gently in the same dead furrow and we truly did stop. The entire harrowing ordeal had lasted less than twenty seconds and covered less than a hundred feet. I imagine our speed topped out at about 6 miles per hour. It was the wildest, most death-defying ride of my life!
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