Riding with Dad on a Farmall Model H

Lloyd Munson reminisces about a tractor seat made for him by his late father that allowed him to ride on the family's Farmall Model H.

| June 2016

Many children raised on farms can relate to riding and operating tractors early in their lives. While my own experiences are very similar, one portion of my life holds a special remembrance for me. It began on a small farm in southeast Iowa on the edge of the northern city limits of Washington, when I was between 1 and 2 years old.

I always felt that I had a good relationship with my dad. I had two half-brothers who were much older than me. Both of them were on their own by the time I was 5. Therefore, in reality, I was an only child, born when my father was 48 years old.

What I have learned over time about my father’s early life provides some explanation for the experiences he shared with me as I rode the fields and lanes of our farm, sitting beside him in a seat he made for me. The seat was built from used lumber, hand-sawed, assembled with common nails and secured to the tractor’s axle housing and headlight mast with No. 9 wire. My father had many useful skills considering he was on his own at an early age, working as a hired hand on various farms. In addition to my tractor seat, he designed and built many gadgets that made work on our farm easier and more efficient.

No one ever told me exactly why he made that seat for me. Later I learned his relationship with his father was rather distant, which might explain why he enjoyed having me close by. Although I was all over the farm and barnyard, experiencing the things most rural children did in the 1940s and ’50s, the one most unique may have been the hours I spent riding beside my dad on his 1942 Farmall Model H.

A natural classroom

While I remember being in that homemade enclosure (it may not have passed OSHA regulations, but it was a very protective location) many times, I do not remember how early I began my frequent journeys as “we” mowed, sowed or tilled farm fields. Apparently it began when I could barely walk. My mother would prepare a lunch, drink and snacks. I ate a lot of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and homemade cookies (and I still like peanut butter). She would dress me according to the weather. The seat, as demonstrated by the model I built, provided some protection from the wind and elements. However, an open tractor is still a place to reckon with in adverse conditions. During my cold weather rides, I probably resembled the younger brother in A Christmas Story. Like him, I could barely move in my winter outfit!

Riding with Dad was not just an outdoor, time-consuming adventure. It was also an introduction to nature. There was a storage space under my enclosed seat where a variety of wildlife and related items were put for safekeeping until we returned home. A number of baby birds, rabbits, toads and a host of insects made the journey with us. We always had the ubiquitous Skippy peanut butter jar with perforated lid close at hand to provide a temporary home for insects.