Author: Cornish, Rick

John Deere Tractor
Larry Sparks has always been one of my favorite bluegrass singers, and his “John Deere Tractor” album, one of my most played. For twenty years now, that one particular song, about a lonely dirt farmer unlucky in love with only his tractor to count on, has sent chills up my spine every time I’ve played it. The John Deere tractor has, for me anyway, sort of symbolized the stoicism and quiet melancholy of the American farmer. That is, until yesterday.

That’s because yesterday, just after sun up, I drove to Sonora Rental and picked up a John Deere 410, all gassed up and ready to go. She was a beauty, all green and gold and decked out with front scooper and back scraper/digger. “Anything special I need to know?” I asked, trying to sound as unconcerned and experienced and farmer-like as humanly possible. “Naw,” the mechanic said, “she’s as simple to operate as rollin’ off a log. Just treat her like a lady and she’ll be good to you.” I know, always beware of mechanics who mix metaphors…..but I was way, way excited.

By the time I got back down to Jamestown, my thirty-five cubic yards of topsoil had been delivered. I’d never seen that much soil in one pile like that, and as I drove up the gravel road to my property, it looked like Mt. Diablo in the distance. But not to worry, I had the old JD-410. So what if I was new at this….so what if my only preparation for evenly spreading thirty-five yards of topsoil over half an acre had been preparing a 2X5 flower bed back in suburban San Jose. Heh, I had me a John Deere and I could hear Larry singing wistfully about her rusted exhaust pipe.

Suffice it to say yesterday was a long, long day. I treated her like a lady. She treated me like the idiot gentleman farmer that I am. And when I finish posting this column, I’ll be climbing right back on her. And with grace of God and the help of the old 410, I’ll finish spreading that dirt by sundown tonight. Or I’ll be renting the tractor for another day….this could get expensive.
Posted:  9/6/2003

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