The Last Windrow: Like my tractor, I plan to keep plowing in retirement

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My Model 8N Ford tractor seized up on me last week. The old tractor's gears are stuck. Could it be that it caught the virus?

The little Ford tractor, vintage 1946, has had a long life. My father-in-law purchased it from somewhere in South Dakota a few decades ago. He bought the tractor along with a two-bottom plow and brought it back to Minnesota to help with his gardening and whatever other functions it might provide.

Eventually a Brushhog implement was secured, which enabled the little tractor to plow through the brush and make trails through the forest for deer hunters like me.

Just a week ago, thinking that spring was really here, I hooked up the plow to the tractor and began deep plowing our annual garden. My wife and I are big into gardening. Each year we sweat and create muscle cramps bringing in a harvest of beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and sweet corn, among other delicacies.

Last week, as I started the third round of plowing, I noticed something amiss. Any farmer worth his salt can hear when his tractor is not acting right. As I came to the end of the row and pulled the plow out of the ground I realized I couldn't get the tractor out of gear. The transmission was stuck in first gear and would not allow me to shift or put it in reverse.


Fortunately for me I still had first gear and was able to crutch my way out of the field and separate the plow from the tractor.

I looked into one of the many sources of information on the internet to diagnose the problem. I found that the tractor had a common problem - a jammed transmission. There were many solutions about fixing the problem, but when I looked at the diagram of the parts possibly needed, I curled up into a fetal position.

I am not a mechanic and I readily admit it. When I start to tear something apart, rarely does it go back together again the way it was designed.

One of the solutions offered to my problem was just to junk the tractor for parts. Geez! I didn't want to do that! Somehow tractors become a part of oneself much as workhorses used to become a part of the farmers who used them. Just admitting that this piece of iron and steel was destined for the junk pile left me feeling ill.

One of the suggestions was that the owner should just "retire" the machine. The word "retire" felt rather personal.

I'm about to retire from a job that has occupied me for more than 20 years. I'm looking forward to turning over the reins of my position to a younger person who has no doubt more energy than I have, and I'm excited about that.

But, the thought of retirement is somewhat daunting and I'm empathetic to that little tractor as I sit and gaze on it as it sits out in our yard with the gears stuck in place. Should I retire it or get it fixed?

So it is with my upcoming retirement. Should I just drop out of sight or find another "thing" that will keep me plowing? I'm choosing the latter. That little Ford 8N tractor will somehow get repaired and live to plow again, and I will find a way to keep myself out of my wife's way and do something that hopefully amounts to something.


That old, much used 8N Ford and I have something in common and yet something to look forward to. I don't think tractors can attract viruses, can they?

See you next time. Okay? Stay well!

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg

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