Cold weather causes erratic driving, but she’s a good tractor |

Cold weather causes erratic driving, but she’s a good tractor

by Marie Johnson

Our cattle are calm creatures. You have to approach them in a loud, threatening manner to get them to run from you.

They only get worked up when I drive among them with a fresh load of green hay, feed late on a cold day or open a gate to a new spring pasture. They are also curious animals and like to stare at things. When I checked them, they were staring at Oscar.

Oscar is the main irrigator at our ranch and for a couple others in the valley. He is very busy in spring trying to keep parts of this valley green. Winter is a slower time of year for him. It is when he works in the shop repairing or trying to maintain the old equipment used on our ranch. Oscar is from Mexico. He has legal permanent residence in the United States, but he still keeps his Latin male mystique, a very proud man. If we work together, he always carries more, shovels faster or pounds harder than I do, but that’s OK. I appreciate it. So, seeing him driving this particular tractor down our gravel lane was interesting because the tractor was not allowing Oscar to drive with any dignity.

It was a small, red 30-horsepower Case tractor. Typical of most of the equipment on our place – old, greasy and no frills. The tractor was originally manufactured in the ’40s, but like the other equipment used out here, many of its parts had been replaced or repaired so one could say it was also made in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. It has two small wheels in the front, about a foot high, close together and two large wheels in the back, about four feet high. The tractor seat is bare metal. Any cloth that ever covered it dissolved long ago. It’s a cold feeling, I know, sitting on hard metal. One year for Mother’s Day my thoughtful husband and two toddling boys bought me a bright, cherry red tractor seat. It still sits on the ’65 Case in the shop.

Anyway, there was something about Oscar’s tractor causing the cows to stare. Even though it’s old, it shouldn’t have been making the motion it was, which was causing Oscar some discomfort. It took me a bit of staring, just as the cows were, to figure it out. Then it dawned on me, and I laughed while Oscar drove by, bobbing, poorly hiding his own grin. Only time and temperature could help now.

Tractors are made to pull things. This little Care, with an engine of gold, is just a baby compared to the big four- and six-wheeled tractors you see driving down the highway. Those 100- to 300-horsepowered tractors pull huge implements through fields. To give tractors traction and weight to counterbalance the heavy equipment they pull, there is water in the tractors’ back tires. Even this little tractor coming down the lane, which could possibly pull a single-wide drag or a one-bottom plow through our rocky fields, or as my husband calls it, thick sod, has water in its tires, probably 50 gallons in each tire. But someone had forgotten to add Calcium Chloride to the tire water before winter came. Calcium Chloride acts as antifreeze. The water in the tires had frozen, creating a definite flat side on each tire.

The cows and I watched as Oscar and his tractor bounced along. He was going to park her in the sun next to the shop. As he passed by, all he said, in all seriousness, was “She’s a good tractor, started right up, first time!”