New Tractor Gloat

January 11, 2010

The constitutional crisis in Ottawa will just have to wait because I want to tell you about my new tractor.  It’s not as though prorogation will go away in a week, right?  And I have the snow in our driveway just about worn out now, so I think it’s time for a report.

The new addition to the family is a TAFE 35DI.  I went to look at a backhoe but the huge thing intimidated me with its advanced age and complexity.  This little Indian Massey Ferguson seemed the same size as my beloved MF 35, only with power steering, a modern loader, and “part of a cab” as my neighbour Lloyd charitably described it.  Somehow over the past fifteen years it had accumulated only 345 hours on the meter.

A slightly smaller 4X4 Kubota just hadn’t felt right.  I hated the weathered plastic dash and it was very cold in the field where it sat.  For all its homeliness, the TAFE seemed solidly built, in excellent condition, and it offered a bit of shelter from the biting wind.  Besides, it looked lonely and it was Christmas.  Hey, people bring puppies home at Christmas.  How dumb is that?

On the BBC car show Top Gear, host Jeremy Clarkson filmed a test in which an Audi A8 completely outclassed a Corvette – yet he picked the Corvette as his favourite.  He rationalized that the Audi was just “too good a car” for him.  I could understand that.  Driving around a muddy field in my Toyota 4Runner just made ruts.  The same drive in a golf cart was an absolute gas.  A vehicle can be too competent to be fun.

O.K. the tractor’s basically a toy.  Walnut trees are not a dairy herd, and it’s not as though they will die if it doesn’t work.  That said, the TAFE can run my snow blower, the bucket does a great job scraping the driveway, and the lights enable me to play outside after dark.  Snow removal in the very early morning may prove essential with a commuter in the house, and I think a good set of lights on the tractor at the end of the driveway should prove reassuring to drivers passing over Young’s Hill.

My friends Tony and Anne hadn’t been to The Lodge for three weeks, I’d run out of snow around the house in Forfar, so I decided to nip up to Newboro to tackle their large, pristine driveway. “I have a cab on my tractor now,” I thought smugly, so off I went with a light hat, rather than my trusty helmet and face shield.

The TAFE ran strongly on the road and steered with reasonable precision.  I soon discovered, however, what Lloyd Stone had meant when he said I had part of a cab. There sure is a lot of wind on that stretch from Forfar to Crosby, and most of it came in under my right-hand window.  From the screws embedded in the metal frame, it’s clear the previous owner had installed a piece of carpet to take up the space not filled with hydraulic hoses and controls below the window.  I would have given a lot to get it back from him right then.

Debating whether to continue in the cold or not, I stopped at the highway building to turn away from the wind and warm up a bit.  Out of the wind, though, things were fine.  The reforestation north of Crosby dramatically cuts down on the sweep of a north wind, so the rest of the drive was much easier, even pleasant.

The traffic was another matter.  All of those Saturday drivers politely insisted on sharing the road with me.  The band of ice along the edge of the pavement and the glare, steep shoulders looked like suicide from my perch, and I resolved to keep at least two tires on pavement, regardless of the traffic behind.  A misadventure in the ditch at fifteen miles per hour would have gruesome consequences inside this box of steel and glass.

Now I understand why those guys in backhoes and tractors won’t get over to let traffic pass, even when there seems to be an ample shoulder on the highway.  Look down into a frozen ditch from a sloping, ice-covered shoulder, and suddenly holding onto that dry asphalt for dear life becomes a real priority.

Soon it became pointless to look back, so I just soldiered on down my portion of the lane and let the cars find their own way.  Drivers seemed quite good-natured about it, but the guilt I felt couldn’t match the fear of sudden death if I ventured too far over out of politeness.

In any case, the driveway-cleanout went well, and on the return trip the wind was on the left side of the tractor with its full door, and thus the cabin was much warmer.  Tony contributed a piece of carpet, so the next project is to close in the rest of the cabin.  Unless it snows.

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