Stories and thoughts about family and life

Ooh La La

on January 23, 2012

I haven’t gotten to write the past few days, and thought I’d share a laugh or two (I know I sure could use one today!).

I was raised on a farm.  My parents bought the place about six months before I was born, and they actually still live in the same house today.  Farm life is hard.  Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.  My husband remarked when we first started dating that he had always thought of “country people” as “dumb rednecks.”  Yeah, a few days in the hot Arkansas sun hauling hay cured him of that!  We may be rednecks but we’re anything but dumb.  He learned that we’re resourceful, thoughtful, hardworking people who didn’t have an EZ Mart on the corner (as I sit, sipping my Icee right now), and we had to plan trips to get groceries and supplies because town was at least 30 minutes away and you didn’t go just ’cause you took the urge to.

When Louis and I had just been married a year or so, I was in the Army Reserves.  We would go for the weekend when I had drill, and Louis would stay and help my parents while I was in Ft. Smith for the day.  One particular Saturday, my mom was asking me what Louis would like for lunch and that she and Daddy would be having tuna fish (a summer favorite in our house when it was too hot to cook).  I asked her to please fix Louis something else–he would never eat tuna fish and always told me about his dislike for it.  She got some chicken out to cook for lunch for him, and I left for Ft. Smith.

When I arrived back that evening, I started helping her prepare supper, and she remarked that she must have misunderstood me, and that she thought I said Louis didn’t like tuna fish.  When I confirmed that he didn’t, she said “well, he ate two sandwiches at lunch today before I could even get his chicken on the table!”  I looked at him, and he said he was so hot and hungry from helping my dad in the hayfield (one of the hottest jobs a farmer does, by the way), that he would have gladly eaten cow manure if it had been placed in front of him.   Never again has he thought the “farm life” was simple or easy.  And, by the way, he LOVES tuna fish today!

But I digress. . . so, I was raised on a farm.  My parents live atop a mountain in western Arkansas.  They’re nearly a mile off the main road, and so when there’s trouble, there’s not help very close by.  Winters in particular are challenging when you have cattle to feed, and several of my more interesting stories revolve around a tractor.  We had several of them over the years, but the two that stick out the most were an old (HUGE) Case rice tractor, and an old little Ford Dextra.    The Case wouldn’t generally start on its own.  I remember always having to pull-start it.

For you who aren’t familiar with pull-starting, it’s the process of using a vehicle or another tractor to pull a tractor which isn’t starting.  You essentially hold the clutch down on the disabled tractor, get rolling at a decent pace (by being pulled) and then pop the clutch, which hopefully will fire the tractor to life.  Sometimes this works better than others, and sometimes it takes repeated attempts.   There is also a “skill” to being the person pulling the tractor.  Don’t go too fast.  Watch the tractor following you and stop immediately once it starts so you can gather the chain up.  It’s easier said than done sometimes.  My mother tells about when I was not even two, sitting on the seat in the pickup beside her, as she attempted to pull-start the Case with my dad on it.    She would get nervous and end up spinning  the wheels on the truck in the mud.  This would, in turn, throw little rocks up toward the tractor where my dad was sitting.   As you can imagine, this would create quite a bit of excitement between my parents.  Daddy yelling furiously, jumping off the tractor and he and mom engaging in some colorful conversation.  Mom tells that this went on a few times, and me, sitting in the seat beside her, watching this all and watching my dad out the back window of the pickup.  After a few minutes and another rock slinging session, the truck comes to a stop again, and I’m peeking over the back seat.  I watch my dad jump off the tractor and come storming up toward the pickup and I said “Oooh La La, Daddy gonna say son a bis again!”

The year I was in kindergarten, we used the little Ford tractor faithfully every day as a means to get to and from the school bus.  Living atop the mountain, and being so far off the main road, the school bus didn’t come up to the house.  We had to get to the bottom of the hill to meet it.  Our road was so bad that particular winter and my older sister and I would either ride the tractor to the bottom of the hill, or we would walk down.  In the afternoon, my dad would meet us with the pickup  (we didn’t have a four wheel drive at the time) and he would pull us back up the mountain.  See, life is never boring in the country.

By the time I was old enough to drive, my mother was grateful to turn over the “pull-start” responsibility to me.  I did it many times over the years, successfully.   The most memorable time was when I was probably 18, and it was particularly muddy that winter and it had just sleeted the night before.  We needed to load hay to take to the cows, and the tractor wouldn’t start.  We set the pickup up, and get the tractor ready to be pull-started.    As I said, it had sleeted, and the road was slick.  We started down the road, me in the pickup and Daddy on the tractor.  The chain we had on hand was a bit longer than we usually used, and did I mention the road was slick?  I started to slide, and I tried, as impulse provides, to hit the brakes.  Daddy starts spinning around, and ultimately backs into the now stopped pickup.  I pull forward and we straighten back out, and we proceed down the road, he’s sliding back and forth, and I hit another patch of ice.  Sliding now are both of us.  I finally get stopped, the tractor spins around again and hits the truck.  I’m a nervous wreck, and I can honestly say that I never knew my dad could scream like that.  About 1/4 mile down the road, we decided that we’d had enough fun for one day, and we’d have to make due and prepare to feed the cows something else until we could haul the hay.  Good times.  Good, good times. . .

So, see, when you’re feeling like you’re down in the dumps and you don’t know what your day is going to hold, or you’re nervous about driving on the interstate with the 40,000 other people all trying to dodge the black ice, remember us on the tractor, and slowly turn around and head home.  🙂


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