There was the faintest hint of a smile on the face of my son as he came in for a glass of water this afternoon.
I tried not to let on that for me too, this, this was a milestone day in his life. He knew it... and like me, with a quiet sense of satisfaction almost managing to mask the excitement which shone in his eyes, wanted to act like it was just another day.
He told me heíd just brought a load of wood home and was headed back to our other farm with chainsaw oil and gas for his father.
Outside our John Deere tractor idled quietly, awaiting his return.
Iíve seen this day coming for years. From the time he first settled beside his father in the cab of a tractor and fell asleep before they were out of the yard, heís waited sometimes impatiently, for the day when it would be he at the helm of some great green-painted monster.
These are days we all await as parents. They are one more sign that our offspring are growing up and you canít make too big a deal out of it. You trust theyíve learned what youíve tried to teach, and trust also that they have a level head. And yes, as they climb this next step, you savour the accomplishment. And life is good.
Our boys are machinery kids. Some dairy kids grow up with cows in their blood. They recite pedigrees and index, BCA and classification details like theyíre the most important thing in the world.
Not my kids. My boys were born with green blood. When they purchase Dinky Toy implements they ask my husband if this or that tractor can handle it. ĎDad, will Pete (our 2950 named for Peter Pan) pull this up Yuleís hillí they ask with the same seriousness I use when enquiring about a camera lens. ĎWhich tractor is faster- Sassy (thatís Uncle Sidís Massey) or Ted (named for cousin Ted from whom we purchased it)? Just the saying of the tractor size- itís not a sixty two hundred, itís the 62, with hundred pronounced hunurd, excites their voices, implying a sense of total understanding of its capabilities.
So today, when he pulled out of the yard driving the 6200, I was supposed to act as if this was a normal everyday occurrence.
The very appearance of the 6200 (named Dave for dealer Dave Foote) on our farm was geared to today. His predecessor, Tinkerbell (get it? - an apt companion for Peter Pan), had spent her entire eight-year tenure on our farm, assuring that she would always cost more to repair than she was worth.
She signed her walking papers the day she wandered off one of our steep hills carrying my husbandís crutches, burying herself in a fence bottom and leaving him to limp home. The day was Sept. 10, 2001. Brian had been foliar feeding our hay fields, one of the first tasks he could accomplish as he recovered from his broken hip. But Tinkís brakes had never worked well and after he dismounted, she started to roll. It was a torturous walk home.
As the time drew closer to when they would be responsible enough to drive tractor, we knew our sons would need safer equipment to drive. Hence, as we pulled them out of school for outdoor farm shows, international machinery shows and plowing matches this year, we gave them an assignment. Buy a tractor.
At one match, my husband had them replace the 2950. But later, we honed the search, specifying the jobs Tinkís replacement would do, determining that it would become the farmís workhorse, thereby stretching out the lifespan of our older, larger tractors.
They poked and prodded. They asked questions. They checked out details. They asked more questions. They worked in tandem, one asking, the other making sure. My husband let them dicker with the salespeople. Any sales guy who didnít realize it was our farmís future farmers working on the deal lost all chance at it. And they drove tractors. Every tractor which was considered, they drove, familiarizing themselves with the location of PTO and gears, loader controls and visibility. They discussed the specs of the left hand shifter and door jams. They examined the construction of cabs and the engineering of loaders. The ease and convenience of the little features as well as the big ones were experienced and then dissected. They didnít just stick to green paint.
For five weeks of spring we had an orange painted Kyoti sitting in the yard. The boys drove it, worked it and yes, somehow even managed to break a window before it went back. They also cleaned up the mess.
Eventually the three of them came to the same conclusion. In five years a used John Deere would still be a used tractor- but it would be a used Cadillac of a tractor. In five years, the Kyoti would be a used Chevette. And they knew which of the two they would rather be driving.
So as my son pulled out of the yard to help his dad, I finally did relent and let the smile crease my face. He waved. I waved back.
As I munched on one of his sisterís freshly baked cookies, I realized heís not the only one in the family whoís recently done some growing up.
I went back to work.