The conversation between my grandmother and me went thusly:
“Amanda, I know you are very capable of learning to drive the tractor, but as long as you don’t have to, well, don’t.” That was thirty-six years ago, right before I got married. This year it has become necessary for me to learn to drive the tractor.
The little orange Kubota was my father’s and now it’s mine. She- yes, she- has a name: Tilly. My daddy named her way back in the mid-1970’s.
When I bought my property, I knew Tilly would be utilized. My middle son has been asked to cut around Flowers Proper, to till up the flower/garden patch. Different farm implements have been added to Tilly’s accessories. She can do whatever a bigger tractor can, just on a smaller scale. My place isn’t huge.
Bamboo had been growing really close to my farmhouse, plus several trees. So, this spring I had that cleared. However, debris was left, about a foot deep. The bamboo had been growing since about 1997…. I hate bamboo. It’s not native to our part of the world. I would like to go back in time and convince the lady who thought she needed it for a natural fence to plant something else, anything else.
It’s taken forever to get the mulched bamboooo up off the ground and dumped in a designated area. Our state is way above average for rainfall this year. To make things go quicker, my youngest son asked if I could try to drive the tractor and work the new rake, while he loaded the trailer. I said, reluctantly, Grandma’s words sounding in my head, “Yes.” I climbed up into Tilly’s seat.
“Okay,” my youngest son began to explain, “it’s a lot like driving a car with a stickshift.”
“I don’t know how to drive a car with a stickshift,” I admitted.
My son’s blue eyes got a little more round behind his glasses, but he continued to explain. “Clutch on the left, break on the right, excellerator on the right, wiggle the shift to put it in neutral, straight down into first, over to the left and down for reverse, the arm on the right to raise and lower the rake and most importantly, the little lever in front shuts her down. Got it?”
“We’re about to find out,” I said with a nervous chuckle. In my head I explained to my grandmother’s memory that the time had come for me to learn to drive the tractor.
Now, there’s about a ten foot drop to the road where we were working. I cranked Tilly up, put her in gear, eased off the clutch and she jerked forward with a learch and, yep, headed straight for the precipice. I know, I panicked! I screamed! I reached for the little lever and pulled. Mercifully Tilly sputtered to a stop, before I hurt myself. As I climbed down, my son came jogging up.
“You alright, Mama?”
I couldn’t make eye contact with him. I was embarrassed. I was scared, too. (I knew a lady who had a terrible accident with a tractor, lingered in the hospital for a week and then died.) But during the last seven years, there have been so many times I have had to square back around, tell myself that I am George L. Ellison’s daughter and try again. So, I climbed back up on Tilly. I wiped my tears away, as my youngest son again went through instructions.
The short of it is, I learned to drive Tilly. Up and down the the rake lowered to put the bamboooo debris where it would be easier to load. I am not strong enough to change out farm implements. I will still need someone to do that for me but I can drive her.
My daddy, I like to think, would be proud of me. And I know my grandmother would understand.
Here are some pretty pictures from my garden work this morning.