Book excerpt: One Farm Kid’s Memory of his John Deere Model G
(Page 3 of 4)
My brother made a habit of filling the blower hopper with as much silage as it would hold just to make the G work hard. As it struggled against this increased load, the front end began to bounce like a bronco straining to dislodge its unwanted burden. Black smoke shot up from the muffler as the engine labored and, with such maximum capacity stress placed on it, it is little wonder the G eventually overheated.
And it overheated a lot; once so badly that it cracked the head. Dad didn’t want to fix it but our local dealer found a new engine head in Iowa. When the refurbished tractor came back, the new head was the only true green part remaining; the rest of the tractor’s paint had worn off long before.
“Go get the G, will you?” Dad said to me one day when I least expected it.
There was an unspoken directive contained within that question; get the tractor and drive it over to where he was working and don’t ask why.
This was the first indication that Dad considered me capable of handling it by myself and I was going to make the most of it. My chance was no different from what neighbor farm boys my age had. We’d compare notes at our country grade school to see who became the first to do things; driving, disking, plowing. It became a quiet contest of who did what first. Being the youngest in my class, I always came in last.
I raced across our farmyard to jump on it before Dad changed his mind, forgetting his warning not to treat a tractor like a toy. A father’s advice can be forgiving; a mistake with farm machinery is not. I scrambled up and plopped myself on the hard seat and realized that this was my chance, alone and without Grandpa as bodyguard or navigator.
Dad’s request was like a pardon or a sentence lifted because I had finally reached the age of 12. He had established this age as being old enough to drive a tractor alone, but it was our mother who made sure that rule was strictly obeyed. A mother’s directive is not so forgiving.
It seemed an arbitrary age, and while I was jealous that my brother crossed that line sixteen months before I did, nothing I could do – no begging, no cajoling, no simple asking could change that rule.
But now it was my turn. My feet barely reached the left brake while I switched on the ignition. I had watched them start it many times so it should have been second nature for me, except I had never been allowed to do it myself. Now in my excitement, I had failed to pull the full forward throttle back but had instead pushed the clutch lever forward. When I pushed the foot starter, I was quickly confronted with the consequences of my mistake as the ignition engaged and the engine accelerated. The last thing I remembered hearing was my dad yelling, “Don’t ... ,” but the rest was quickly drowned out as the G lunged forward.
I panicked and pushed the foot brakes, trying desperately to stop it, instead of pulling back on the clutch or throttle which would have. The last driver had left the choke pulled out and black smoke coughed from the muffler. With the tractor sputtering, I held tight to the steering wheel thinking of nothing else, oblivious to my dad’s hollering.