Between the Bookends: 'This Old Tractor'
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Excerpts from the early 1900s are used throughout the book, offering a view of what people of an earlier time thought of the new-fangled contraptions. Most looked forward to the arrival of the new technology, and saw it as a way to move ahead and be better farmers. But, in a story first published in Successful Farming in 1918, J. Edward Tufft relates his reluctance to sell his old horse, "Old Mag," even though she is well past her prime.
Advertisements from the same era give another glimpse into the history of the farm and tractor. A 1919 investigation by The Farmer discovered, for instance, what modern-day salesmen already know: In order to persuade a man to buy your wares, you must first convince his wife. "A Woman's Influence in Tractor Buying" points out that although the man may be willing to buy, his wife's reservations about the tractor's dangers must be overcome first.
Photographs throughout the book offer a look into the shared "lives" of farmer and tractor. Restored tractors are featured, some accompanied by vintage photos of the same make and model when new. Photographs by Ralph W. Sanders show not only the beauty of the surrounding landscape, but also the elegance of a fully restored tractor. Many of the book's photographs were contributed by the Minnesota Historical Society Collection, and show the visual history of the tractor. Other shots of farmsteads and rusting tractors "put out to pasture" complete the story. Artwork by two classic painters of rural scenes – Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood – is also featured.
This Old Tractor pays homage to the machine itself, and to the changes tractors wrought on the family farm. Restorers and collectors are shown not to be grown boys playing with really big toys, but historians preserving a way of life. An easy and enjoyable read, with powerful photography, the book is a collection of a personal history shared by many. FC
This Old Tractor: A Treasury of Vintage Tractors and Family Farm Memories, Voyageur Press, 1998; ISBN: 0-89658-368-6; 160 pages, hardcover, $29.95.
Kendra A. Hopkins is assistant editor for Capper's Magazine.
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