“It looks like a rainbow trout.”
My oldest daughter was looking at the rusted Farmall tractor under the shed at my father’s home. The ’49 Cub’s faded red paint had peeled away to blue-grey primer and rust. It had belonged to one uncle and then another before my father decided to take it home and restore it to running condition. For reasons I couldn’t explain, the tough little tractor appealed to me. It had seen far better days, was missing a headlight and didn’t seem to have a part that wasn’t oxidized, but at it’s core was a promise.
Rebuild me, and we can build things together. The Cub was designed for small farmers with 40 acres or less, a simple, robust machine that simply worked day in and day out. They haven’t been made in over 40 years, and yet still have little collector value because so many of them still run. You can pick up a reliably running one for $4,500 or so, a fixer-upper for less, or a like new restoration for less than the cost of a late-model used car. It’s hard to not like a Cub.
I left our girls with my parents for a week of grandparent/grandkid time and thought about the tractor on the two-hour drive home, where I had the house to myself thanks to my bride’s weekend plans. That night I thought a lot about that little tractor and the self-sufficiency it afforded others throughout it’s lifetime.
At night when the kids are in bed I search online for farmland and ranches and wonder what it must be like to live more in tune with nature. It’s easy for me to imagine the land of my dreams.
A clear-running steam winds through a meadow where a cow or two and a dozen goats graze. A pair of pigs root in their nearby pen, and chickens range freely under the watchful eyes of our dogs. Bass and bream break the surface of a two acre pond to slurp in insects that have fallen from cattails. There are several acres of corn and grain to provide feed for the animals in winter months, and another several acres of vegetables for my family to eat fresh and can or put in a root cellar after the harvest.
There’s a small orchard with paired apple, pear, cherry and peach trees to make all the preserves we want with plenty left over for family and friends. There’s also almond trees and butternuts, fronting a hillside and a bottomland of oaks and thickets where I can hunt deer, rabbit and squirrel to my heart’s content.
There is simply something about working with your hands and being outside regardless of the heat, cold, bugs and rain that makes me feel closer to it all… something primal but not base that I cannot easily put into words. Down deep, I suppose it’s about liberty and self-sufficiency, something nearly impossible to come by in this highly interconnected world where everyone and everything is dependent on the smooth running of every cog and gear. It’s enough to make me long for simple, reliable machines and the feel of aching muscles.