Her name was Alice. Short for Allis-Chalmers WD45. And boy was she a beauty! Still is by, uh, tractor standards, of course.
One time, a very, very long time ago, my older-but-not-quite-eldest brother and I were doing something I can’t quite remember at our dad’s second farm. The Allis-Chalmers was involved.
At this point, you might say, “Hey Jill, obviously if you can’t remember what you were doing then there’s a good chance your story might have a hole or two in it.” Not so, my friends. My memory of everything else that day is spot on.
We had finished whatever it was we were doing, and the Allis-Chalmers needed to go back into the barn. My brother decided that day was as good as any for me to learn to drive. I was less certain. I was 11 or 12 at the time. What 11-year-old needs to learn how to drive a tractor?
A round of “Get on,” “I don’t want to,” “Get on,” “I don’t want to,” “GET ON NOW,” “FINE” ensued. The instruction that followed included: “Drive it into the barn.” No explanation of a gas pedal or brake pedal or a clutch. Not to worry, I’d find out what those were for later.
My brother must have put the tractor into gear for me because I definitely was moving in a forward direction. I thought I was doing pretty well considering I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to actually stop moving forward.
I found out that day that you don’t need to know what a brake pedal is in order to stop.
In the process of steering the tractor toward the barn, I spied Dad’s pickup truck coming down the road. His path from work to home passed by the second farm.
“Look!” I shouted. “There’s Dad!” [At this point in the story, Dad claims he saw what was coming and opted to drive by in order to consider the punishment he’d be administering when we showed up at home. I beg to differ. He pulled into the lane.]
The moment I spied Dad driving down the road was the same moment I forgot I was still moving forward.
“Hit the brake!” yelled my brother, “HIT THE BRAKE!”
“What brake?” I thought, as I glanced down and then back up in time to watch the front end of the Allis-Chalmers meet the side of the barn, pitching me forward just a bit.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” screamed my brother.
“What?” I replied. “I didn’t want to drive anyway, but you made me.” By that time, Dad was definitely out of his truck. And I could not stop laughing. Quite frankly, driving a tractor into the side of a barn is rather funny and, by golly, I was having myself a great laugh. The problem was that I couldn’t stop. I laughed myself into tears. And I couldn’t figure out why no one else was enjoying the situation as much as me.
Turns out you should never laugh yourself into tears when you drive someone else’s tractor into someone else’s barn. We were punished—my brother more so than me. After all, I was only 11. I surely could not be held responsible.
I didn’t drive tractors much after that. From time to time, someone says, “Remember that one time when Jill ran the tractor into the barn, split the barn beam and the entire barn toppled down?” My family gets endless enjoyments out of re-living the moment I “learned” to drive a tractor.
Some farmer I made.