In northwestern Pennsylvania, owning a tractor is a big deal. It seems everyone has one. In addition to the tractor dealers that display the latest and greatest in new farm machinery, used tractors seem to be everywhere. I'd be hard pressed to drive five miles in any direction, without running across a used tractor parked at the end of some country driveway, a hand-made for-sale sign, dangling across its grill.
I used to tease Rick about using our clunky, old, orange Simplicity riding mower (circa 1973), to maintain the cottage grounds, goading him to buy a newer, cooler model. He responded by saying there was a certain prestige in being the owner/operator of a vintage lawn tractor. I honestly thought my dear husband was pulling my leg, until I saw our tractor's twin, parade by at last year's tractor show, its chesty driver, beaming with pride. I took the Simplicity a little more seriously after that.
This spring, Rick climbed aboard the old girl for his first mow of the season, turned the key in the ignition, and nothing happened. I knew something was wrong, when I failed to hear the roar of her engine across the acreage. A while later, Rick appeared in the cottage, grease on his shirt and hands, a concerned look on his face, and pronounced we had a problem.
Last week, while attending the first of this season's tractor shows, I overheard an elderly woman recalling childhood memories of riding along on her father's lap, as he plowed the family's fields. I took a seat on a bench in the barn, that doubles as a church on Sunday mornings, and listened to the music of the bluegrass band. It could have been the late 1940s or early '50s. There was a quiet innocence in the crowd around me, and I couldn't help but feel as though I really didn't belong among them. They were a community unto themselves, with a shared history. I envied them that.
Perhaps I'd feel differently next year, if I could talk Rick into showing the Simplicity.