The other afternoon, I was working in my shop, tinkering with a John Blue tractor.
The battery was low so I’d hooked up the battery charger and got it started. As I reached in to unclip one of the charger cables from the battery terminal, the whirling fan blades caught the ring and middle fingers of my right hand. Blood flew everywhere and my poor fingers were pretty well mangled, necessitating a trip to the hospital emergency room.
After a nurse cleaned up the wounds, gave me a tetanus shot and determined that nothing was broken, a doctor sat down to sew up the lacerations. He, of course, wanted to know how the injury had happened, which, when I told him, opened a discussion of old tractors.
The doctor confessed that he’d wanted an old tractor for a long time. Oh, he lived in a nice suburb on a regular-sized lot and had absolutely no use for a tractor — but that didn’t matter — he wanted one!
Sometime earlier, the good doctor had seen, in a local trader-type newspaper, a Caterpillar D2 with a bulldozer blade advertised for sale. He admitted that a crawler tractor probably wasn’t the best choice to maintain a city lot, but he liked it. When he mentioned to his wife that he was thinking of buying the D2, she, of course, thought he’d become unhinged — “What in the world are you going to do with something like that?” “Are you crazy?” “What will the neighbors think?” — was the gist of her reaction to the news. It didn’t help when Doc told her he’d just park the little Cat in the yard and look at it; and besides, just think of how handy it’d be in the winter for plowing snow from the drive.
Anyway, someone else beat him to the Cat, which undoubtedly saved his marriage, but I predict he’ll own a tractor someday.
During the course of the conversation, the doctor mentioned that if his wife wanted to buy an expensive painting to “hang on the wall and just look at” that was no problem, but if he wanted an old tractor “just to look at” there was war in camp.
The next day, while I was sitting, nursing my sore hand and castigating myself for doing something so stupid, I began thinking of what Doc had said.
It’s funny about the dynamics between husbands and wives when it comes to collecting. A husband who has thousands of dollars worth of antique tools in the garage, complains because his wife buys a couple more Norman Rockwell plates. I have a friend who, when he buys another tractor (which isn’t often), feels compelled to sneak it home when his wife isn’t there and hide it in a shed for several months. Then, when the missus finally discovers it, he’ll say off-handedly: “Aw, that old thing. I’ve had it forever.” He says she may grumble because he has too many tractors, but it’s nothing compared to her wrath when she knows he just bought something.
Others reluctantly tolerate their mate’s overwhelming need to own “just one more” of whatever gewgaw or artifact he or she collects, while some (not many it seems, based upon my conversations with fellow collectors) are enthusiastic supporters of the other’s hobby. Luckily, I fall into the latter category; Nancy has always been fully behind my hobby, and has helped and encouraged me every step of the way. Even when that hobby results in her having to take me to the emergency room.