I live in the vegetable basket of Ontario. It is the county of Norfolk and brags the largest production of fruit and vegetables in the province. If you live in Ontario and are eating a blueberry, an apple, an ear of corn or drinking a bottle of Frisky Beaver or Burning Kiln wine you are likely enjoying the crops of Norfolk.
Our brisk vegetable business however would never be so famous if not for the wonderful local farmers and their trusty steeds, their tractors.
We do all sorts of things with tractors in these parts besides the usual hauling of hay, produce and manure. We have tractor pulls, tractor dealerships, the annual plowing match which is just one big tractor show and now an annual parade of tractors which takes a tour of some of the county’s back roads. We even have a member of the Ontario Legislature, who rides his tractor in all the local parades. Besides the hoards of children and old farmers who line the streets and by ways to see the display of pre 1970 tractors there are also a bunch of folks with similar tractors sitting in their yards.
Three gentlemen in my rural neighbourhood, got together last year and polished up their old tractors to display them on the side of the road the day of the parade. I have no idea what 8N means but apparently if you know Ford tractors is means something to you. All it means to me is the old grey and red machine that takes up a lot of space in our barn and gets hauled out and cranked up to work about three days a year. The 195something David Bradely lawn tractor – with all the attachments – takes up the other bay in the little drive shed and it is pressed into service on a weekly basis. Driving either of these old treasures in the long parade route could be dangerous to their life so they remain for display only on parade day.
I have fond memories of tractors myself and you city kids may need a primer in terminology just to read this but I’ll try to explain.
I’m actually old enough to remember the first tractor my Grandfather owned. The excitement of the day of using the new tractor paled, in my mind at least, because Old Tom and Nellie, the two black Percheron who used to do the work, were sent to pasture. I was grateful Nellie was still around to ride for many years after.
My growing up years were filled with tractor memories. Most of those involved sitting on the big fender over the left wheel and hanging on while the tractor worked it’s way through fields of hay, wheat, and oats. I took my mount many times on trips to the “Other Place”, my grandfather’s other farm on the far side of railway track and on trips down the lane to pick up a tiller or seeder.
Perhaps the most memorable ride on the tractor for me was the day a plane flying over, broke the sound barrier. My grandfather was a veteran of WWI and had spent time in the trenches of France. When there was a loud bang it was his response to “hit the dirt”, even after 35 years. That day we both hit the dirt. Grandpa flew out of his seat on the tractor, grabbed me with his left arm and threw us both to the ground. He took the brunt of the fall because he rolled on his back so I wouldn’t get hurt. We were fine but Grandpa shook for hours. (If you are worried about the tractor, don’t. It had a clutch and when Grandpa jumped he popped the clutch and the tractor stalled and went nowhere.)
That reminds me about learning to drive. That happened on the tractor too and that is likely why, to this day, I prefer to drive a standard. More control.
If you are in the neighbourhood on September 8, you are welcome to come and watch tractors from my front yard but be sure to listen to the stories that are being whispered as they chug, chug, chug, along the road. That is the really wonderful part.
Find out more from our local radio station post: http://norfolktoday.ca/default.asp?pid=9103072&wireid=00491_TRACTOR_DRIVE-1_071600