Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Boys and their Toys (part 2)

Late one August evening.
It's dusk when I hear the living room phone ring. It's Dave. He's on his way back from Amherst, on his way back from test-driving the tractor.

Dave: "Well, we're now proud owners of a Massey Ferguson 35 tractor".

Me: Trying unsuccessfully to sound enthusiastic-- "Uh, great."

Dave: "Well, we've put down a down payment anyway. We'll hand over the rest when he delivers the tractor on Saturday".

Me: "Oh, he can deliver it. Well, I guess that's a good thing. So it's a good tractor? Everything works well?"

Dave: "Yep. I'm happy with it."

Me: "Did he tell you how old it is?"

Dave: "We think it's from the late 1950's"

Me: "What!?"

Dave: "Probably '58, maybe early 60's. "

Me: "It's that old? How many hours on the engine? What kind of work has it been doing?"

Dave: "Oh, he doesn't know. He's kind of a broker. He just buys and sells these things all the time, so he hasn't had it for long."

(that sinking feeling returns to the pit of my stomach).

Me: Resignedly, "Well, I guess you can tell me more about it when you get home."

When Dave finally does get home, he surprisingly shares the excruciating details of the test drive with me:

Dave: "He had it running when I got there, but I shut it off so I could make sure that it would start ok. "

Me: "And it did?"

Dave: "Well, no, it wouldn't start. But it's ok. He showed me a trick. You just use a little ether to help it get started. I don't think it will really be a problem though. I think maybe the engine had just been running for a minute or two, and then we turned it off, so it just was a bit sticky after that to start. It just needs a good run. At worst, it might need a new battery."

Me: Trying very hard not to roll my eyes-- "Uh huh."

Dave: "Yeah, oh, and I accidentally broke the attachment to the three-point-hitch."

Me: "What?!"

Dave: "Yeah, but it's ok. He had another one, so he'll just give us that. I'm just not used to those controls and I just think I brought it down a bit hard".

Me: *sigh* "But the hydraulics are good?"

Dave: "Yes. The hydraulics are great. But the parking brake doesn't seem to work. That's no big deal though. It's not really necessary."

Me: "I don't think I want to hear anymore."

A few days later.

I arrive home from work to see an old, red tractor parked in my usual spot. It doesn't look so bad. It's kind of quaint. Then I notice the tires. None of them match, and there look to be cracks in the rubber on the four-foot high rear tires.

Dave: "Yeah, it probably should have new tires soon".

Me: Exasperated "DAVE! Those are going to be really, really expensive!"

Dave's response is to offer to take me for a spin on our new, old piece of farm equipment. He tries to start it, but it needs a boost from the truck.

Dave: "Yeah, it definitely needs a new battery."

Me: "What about gas...does it have enough gas? Maybe that's the problem."

Dave: "Diesel. It runs on diesel. And yes, there's some it in. A tank of diesel will last us forever in this thing."

With the help of jumper cables attached to the truck, the tractor eventually coughs and sputters to life, leaving a cloud of stinky black smoke in its wake. Dave pleads with me to jump aboard for a ride. I reluctantly agree. My gut still says this tractor is trouble.

A day or two later:

I arrive home from work to see the tractor parked on the grass down by the riding ring.

Dave: "I used the tractor to drag the ring for you."

Me: "That's Great! Thank you! Would you mind bringing the tractor up closer to the house though? I don't want Murray to be spooked by its faded chrome."

There's a long pause.

Me: "What. What is it?"

Dave: "Well, the tractor won't start. I tried boosting it and it still won't start. I'll go get a new battery tomorrow. "

Me: Ugh. Fine.

The next day

It's dark by the time Dave is home from work. Nonetheless, new battery in hand, he's determined to get his tractor going again, and he's determined that I witness his success. He drags me down to the tractor, shines the truck lights on it, installs the new battery and turns the key. The tractor growls, and groans, but it does not start.

Me: "I told you this tractor is a lemon. Why can't you listen!"

I leave Dave and his machine in the shadows as I walk back up to the house in disgust. If I stick around, I may say something I'll regret.

After tinkering for awhile, Dave sheepishly returns to the house and announces that the problem seems to be that the tractor is out of gas--diesel.

Eventually, Dave does manage to awaken the tractor from its slumber, but neither a tank full of fuel nor a new battery rids the machine of it's reluctance to start. Months after we bought it, and with the temperatures still above zero, it almost always needs to drink-in energy from our tireless truck before being coaxed into an hour or two of work.

This proved to present quite a problem two weeks ago when Dave went against my advice and pushed the tractor a little too hard and a little too far.

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