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A Christmas Present

This Christmas season has blessed me with a gift that a farmer can truly appreciate. Some 60 years ago a shiny little (by today’s standards) red Farmall...

This Christmas season has blessed me with a gift that a farmer can truly appreciate. Some 60 years ago a shiny little (by today’s standards) red Farmall A came off the assembly line and ended up in Sangerfield, NY on my Grandfather Jim Steele’s farm.

In combination with horses, it worked hard in the local farming community running the ensilage cutter, thresher and buzz saw. Because my grandfather’s farm was a small grass-based dairy, little Red had an easier time of it as far as tractor lives go. She got exceptional care and was an integral part of a small family.

When my grandparents sold their farm to a young couple and moved to town, the tractor came with them. The now legendary tractor became a leaf mover, wood hauler and parade goer, until one mysterious day when it disappeared and was replaced by, of all things, a new cub cadet lawn mower.

I had the only disagreement I ever had with my grandfather, about him selling this family heirloom. The dye was cast, though, and Red moved to another family. I told the new owners that when they decided to sell her, to call me first! Over the next 20 odd years, I would catch glimpses of her hauling wood or to my dismay, parked outside in the weather.

When my grandfather passed in 2002, I vowed to bring his spirit back through little Red and bring her home where she belonged, with family. Through some miracle or blessing, my parents took a back way home from their Sunday breakfast and saw the tractor by the road, for sale. Upon learning the news, I was shocked and saddened that the seller hadn’t called me. My dad asked me if I wanted to buy her? “Hell Yes!” How much? “Price is no object,” I said. Lucky for me, I guess the seller didn’t know how badly I wanted her. The sale was quick at $1500—the same price my grandfather sold her for 20 years earlier.

Sunshine graced us for the monumental journey home the next Saturday. My dad assembled the tools, a new battery, fresh gas and a tow rope just in case. As we pulled along side her, I noticed the familiar dent near the hand crank, the hitch set up for a sickle bar mower and grandpa’s hand-painted letters over the original.

My dad put the new 6-volt in while I cleaned the sediment bowl and gave her a fresh drink of fuel. I jumped up on her metal seat and pushed the starter with my foot triggering our old friend to try to come to life. Alas, no pop or sputter.

“Probably need to look closer at the distributor and points,” I surmised. In a McGyver-like moment, I whipped out my Leatherman and found the file and began working. No one was going to do any towing today. Upon hitting the starter again, there was a pop and a… “Come on you can do it!” holler from yours truly, and away she went!

My five-mile journey home was wet with tears as the little engine purred just as I remembered from my childhood. I could only think of one thing --- of Grandpa Jimmy’s spirit riding along for the final ride.

Little Red has come home to live among the other originals from my paternal Grandpa Bishopp’s farm. The importance of having animals harvesting their own feed has allowed these retirees to live well and long by only having to work on a part-time basis, mowing pastures, raking some hay, hauling some wood or plowing a little snow. The exercise keeps their oil circulating. They have a purpose and it keeps them young. Sound familiar?

So thanks to the Lord for once again making a miracle happen and rewarding this ole farmboy with a precious gift. And thanks to the land that made it possible. By remaining grassland pasture, it provides food for all of nature’s creatures - and has given new life to this old tractor.

For more of Bishopp’s musings visit his website at