Or OR “Why I have a Farmall tractor (named Eileen Dover) covered in fairy lights on my front lawn.”
There was a time when tractors didn’t mean much to me. They were just a friendly sort of utilitarian working vehicle found on farms or seen working on the fields around us in Wales.
Then along came our baby, Sam. When he was about a year old we were visiting an agricultural show with him in a push chair (stroller) and somehow we ended up giving him a small yellow model tractor. It scarcely ever left his hand from that day on (until the tragic day many years later, when it fell overboard from a motor launch, but that is another story altogether).
Sam was a fairly high-maintenance baby/toddler. In order to keep him entertained I would go on long walks down country lanes with him, and, whenever there was a break in the hedge or a view of a tractor, combine harvester or other form of splendid heavy equipment we would linger and take in the scene.
As he grew, he wore two sets of wheels off his toy pedal tractor, and, on moving to Canada, he anxiously awaited the off-loading of his dear tractor from the removal truck. Naturally, it was almost the last item to arrive.
Whilst living in the ‘burbs, there followed a period of gradual dormancy in his tractor addiction. However, it was instantly and dangerously rekindled on the occasion of his first return visit to the UK, some seven years later. When he came home to Canada, he began to scour the countryside for old, abandoned or neglected tractors. Strangely, no one ever really wanted to sell him a tractor, no matter how decrepit it looked. It may be a ‘guy thing’: they can never part with a tractor. Possibly, it might just come in handy one day (even embedded into the dirt with trees growing through it).
Tractors gradually and very quietly wormed their way into my life: I became accustomed to photographing interesting tractors (or piles of scrap) for Sam during my travels. Eventually, at the grown-up age of 14, he managed to acquire his first real tractor (a Farmall Super A, for the connoisseurs amongst you). This event involved a lot of help from many friends, as his parents really didn’t wish to accommodate a tractor in their modest suburban yard. We didn’t actually stand in his way, but let him set up the whole deal, transportation and storage, without our aid. Within a year, a rustic corrugated shed had been built down our yard and the fireplace was festooned with dismantled engine parts.
Sarah (the Farmall) was the first of his loves. Even before he left home, I believe he may have had other tractors lodging with various friends. As soon as he had some disposable income, they started to multiply in a more serious fashion.
Little did I realize the effect this continuous exposure was having on me: apart from my Tractor Socks there was little visible sign. http://www.lucyneatby.com/index.php?specific=1000239
That is, until this year, when I was trying to decide on the best rugged, practical, low-maintenance, affordable vehicle for use on Tancook Island. A prima donna vehicle wouldn’t cut it there. Guess what sprang to mind? I am now in the process of purchasing my first tractor with a luggage/people box on the back. (She is a diesel International 434, a mere 50 years young). I’m hoping for delivery this spring.
To bring this story back to the tractor currently residing on my suburban lawn covered in lights: The local Caterpillar dealership in the industrial park each year decorates a range of heavy earth-moving equipment for Christmas, with lovely white lights. It is a most cheerful sight.
Sam was coming to dinner mid December, so I just happened to ask him if he could lend me a tractor to decorate and bring it along with him. (He just happens to have a truck and trailer for this very purpose. I’m sure this surprises no one.) Eileen was delivered and I began my lighting campaign and then borrowed a Grinch to preside over all! She has been much admired. It is also very easy to find my house on a dark night.