Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nothing Runs Like a Deere ... especially down memory lane!!!

When Scott died in February 2011, one of the first things I did was brought the John Deere 110 (vintage 1960) into the security of the shop out at the bush ... while to many it is just an old tractor, to me it is a strong connection to my past ... one that goes back to the first weeks that mom and dad and their newborn son called their new house on Devon St home.

Dad bought the John Deere in 1961, and for the next seven years used it regularly and almost incessantly.

I remember hearing from neighbours ALL over the neighbourhood how Dad would spend HOURS out with the tractor blowing driveways in the winter time, and mowing lawns in the summer.

He took the neighbourhood kids for rides in the dumpster trailer, and one glorious afternoon our long time neighbour and friend Laverne Baumbach had tears rolling down his cheeks from laughter as he recounted the night he and Dad and an assortment of neighbourhood men used the 110 and the trailer for a rather inebriated journey meandering from house to house ... while Dad drove the tractor, the men passed a bottle or three around the trailer while each took a turn being the one running alongside the trailer making sure the tire (which was lacking a simple cotter pin) didn't fall off.

As Laverne described it, one of them would run alongside, or stagger ... banging on the tire to make sure it stayed on the axle while the others roared with laughter and enjoyed the silliness of the adventure.

Today, there is one survivor of that night, and a few months ago at Laverne's service he and I talked about it and with a sly grin he said "I can neither confirm or deny those details ..." he then added with the same grin, "but it WOULD be fun to take a spin in the old 110 for old time sake sometime!!" It's a request I'll try to honour in the coming weeks!!

For now though the old 110 has taken up residency in my garage alongside its newer, sleaker and much more comfortable cousin ... but there is something special about the 110.

It was Dad's. He loved that tractor, and for 50 years it has been part of our family. A few years back Scott had it cleaned and repainted (not exactly John Deere Green, but close enough) and new decals were applied, then for several years it sat in a lean-to under a tarp. Today, thanks to a local mechanic and John Deere enthusiast, the 110 again runs like a Deere.

I had it out for a quick spin around the yard and up and down the sidewalk tonight ... and I can only say - It felt GREAT!!! The last time I drove it was almost 30 years ago when I used it to mow the lawn at mom's.

Like riding a bicycle, you never forget!!!

But for me, the best and the strongest memory is associated with the photo below ... sometime in the spring or early summer of 1968, mom pulled out her instamatic camera and snapped a picture of her boys. I am sitting on Dad's knee and a smiling Scott stands beside Dad who is sitting on the 110.

For the last 25 years this picture has been one of the four pictures I had of dad, that I cherished ... in 2005 when the arson fire ripped through Minnedosa United Church I feared I would lose that picture, which was sitting in my office ... today, every time I look at the 110, I think of that sunny afternoon and how much love Dad had for his family ... the 110 might just be an old tractor, but it carries far more memories that the dumpster trailer could ever manage to carry. And every time it starts and I pull it out of the garage I'll think of those wonderful memories and carry them with me, smiling and laughing at the continuation of a story began one day at a John Deere dealer when Dad was handed the keys for the first time!!

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