Aunt Olive’s Tractor

Gabe is the tractor driver.

I always loved going to Aunt Olive’s farm in Gladwin, Michigan. It was actually Uncle Wellington’s farm too, but he was never there when we were because he worked in a car plant Detroit.

The farm was a world away from the city where we lived, and a welcome opportunity for a scared kid to get away.  

I watched the older boys milk the cows every morning and evening while I played with the kittens. I was fascinated by the milk swirling around in the cooler. 

We played in the haymow. It was two sky-high mountains on either side of a space large enough for a wagon full of hay bales to drive through. Hanging up at the roof there was a huge red spider machine that dropped down on the bales and carried them up to the top. It was scary. The last time I visited the farm as an adult the barn wasn’t as large as it was when I was 10.  

The first time I drove the Ford 8n tractor it was in the barn yard. I started the motor, found first gear, and nearly threw my cousin off the fender when I let go of the clutch. When I was a little older I was allowed to rake hay in the field. I loved that old tractor. 

In 2010, I found a Ford 9n for sale. I was mowing nearly three acres of grass with a little Yardmaster rider I bought at Home Depot. I jumped at the chance to own a tractor like the one I drove on Aunt Olive’s farm. That I didn’t know anything about taking care of an antique tractor didn’t matter. I could learn. I rented a trailer, purchased the tractor, and proudly brought it home. I was now the owner of a tractor just like the one I drove when I was a kid. 

I wasn’t able to use the tractor for mowing until the next summer. I had to find a finish mower to pull behind the tractor for the lawn. Through the winter, using the blade on the tractor to quickly move a ton of snow instead of walking behind a snowblower was a welcome change.  

I quickly learned to do tractor maintenance. Luckily, a tractor supply store nearby carried parts for some antique tractors including mine. I installed a new starter and carburetor. The tractor hummed like new. Every time I pushed the starter, the sound of the engine turning over was the same as I remembered from many years before. 

The real fun of owning an old 9n was taking the grandsons for a ride and letting them drive. I wanted them to have the same kinds of memories I had, driving the old tractor and listening to the sound of the motor. 

I had the tractor five years. I sold it after purchasing a new John Deere mower with a fifty-four inch deck and a snow blade. 

I miss my old Ford 9n. I plowed the garden with it, pushed snow, mowed lawn, and went for rides on our dirt road. Every time I drove it I thought of going to Aunt Olive’s farm. “Working” on the farm with our cousins. Getting yelled at for riding the tractor through the garden. Raking hay. Listening to ghost stories after dark. Vivid memories, sixty years later. 

I still watch for the old 8n and 9n Ford tractors along the road. I don’t know what the “n” means, and I don’t care. I just like the way they look and sound. 

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