To My Little Tractor

I heard that you'd found a new family recently and I wondered how strange it would be for anyone to do with you the things we did once without knowing my name

I think about the condition of your fame as you approach your centennial and what people will say and what they haven't

I remember the day we met and an old white display covered in ashes

I was military marching through a muddy field full of tired old implements

Some had rusted beyond identification Others were clinging to the better side of the line between usefulness and nostalgia

It was so wet, the ground didn't seem itself It absorbed my cold rubber boots They made sucking noises in tune with their smacking against my calves

You sat with your ridiculous face Your fading orange paint

That big black cylinder with the flush pulley I couldn't stop staring at it

Some bolts were missing

Your wide bus steering wheel that left black grit and an old smell on my hands

I laughed at the placement of your pedals and the deckplating noise they made when depressed

I looked right and left and saw your cracked tires peeking above those old gray fenders like shoulders in perfect symmetry

The inside of your wheels attached to orange drum brakes with a mechanical rod

I pushed and pulled your shifter through old gears (without synchromesh) and watched the stale boot as it bent and split, its lips forming some personified embarrassing function

Even your cooling fan was orange, with the belt that drove it

Your throttle looked like an orange thermometer When I pulled it down through the notches, your fan sounded exactly like the great night fans on the grain bins (They could blow me over and hurt my ears)

I laughed, bouncing on your seat, enjoying the beauty in every angle

You were still a snotty little bully among larger equipment seventy years later

Front tires so thin, they appeared useless I loved watching them so much, I once lied to dad and said I didn't notice their sodding of the pasture grass as they tilted and turned

You must've seemed ahead of your time ten years after you were built A cute accessory to the returning soldier's ten acre paradise

The crowd moved about the field, following a red-striped auctioneer like old donkeys A mass of faded hats with bankrupt seed company logos, denim shirts, cigarettes, and Dickies coats

I'm guessing they smoked and laughed at crude jokes But honestly, I never bothered to notice

Though it was a little embarrassing when the mob surrounded us and the auctioneer used the word cute a few times

Oddly enough, we did make a pair, you and I A seven-year-old kid on a tractor ten times that

We weren't worth much to anyone, together or apart

You'd seen as much as my grandpa and you expected to sink down in that mud with dignity, holding eye contact with the old house as it shed shingles, both of you giggling at fate Appear in some old farmer's field of vision every once in a while In his thoughts, even less

The picture we made humored the murder members who'd had enough coffee, and I grew angry

The red-striped auctioneer yelled for someone to start you

I used a whir of little hands to convince your starter wewopwewopwopwewopwop I pulled out your choke You spat black black smoke that smelled of old lubricant remedies with exclamations on the can The whine of your orange fan As your blades turned to a solid translucent pancake

I carefully modulated your controls before looking up with pride But all we did was stop the smiling I hadn't redeemed you much I felt like crying

Somebody told me to stop your engine and the bidding began

Nobody was thrilled, the process reeked of obligation

I tried to figure out where your ears were so I could cover them

But then dad raised his hand and it didn't seem like much of a surprise We'd already been matched, you and I

All the others sensed it too, and went about their business of concealing wisdom

And so, we came to be together Dad's attempts at getting you on a trailer with a slipping clutch bore the first time I laughed at him

I laughed again when we drained your oil It smelled as if it had soured and looked like soupy cottage cheese

I laughed at your darting travel method

Dad called you squirrelly

I'm sure whoever made you was very confused about what you should be Not that it ever bothered me

We mowed a lot of grass I did a lot of sneezing The heads hit your grill and I wondered if you were allergic like me Maybe you wanted some antihistamines?

We didn't always mow straight or fast, but we'd get the job done

Our pace and reliability equally frustrating for dad

Remember that evening we mowed the acre patch West of your shed? On top of the hill, we could see the red sun as it began to hide in the neighbors' beans and you crawled through yellow fescue heads, humming in reliable intent

I know you were observing the moment like I was Maybe you thought, too of how we'd always be together

Twenty or thirty years from then we would live the same scene Except it would be somewhere a little colder where I wouldn't sneeze and the mower's discharge would smell of tea Dad wouldn't be there to be frustrated with us

I'd have my own money for gas to pour under your flying cap

I could drive you to school if I wanted to and show you to all my friends

We'd participate in those stupid parades, milling around town, throwing candy at children, looking our best

I'm sorry to say now I have no place to keep you where I'm living I'd get ticketed if I took you to school (I don't have any friends there anyway) I have no grass to mow and I'm not much fun anymore

So, I guess I shouldn't regret not coming to get you, or my lack of time spent with you there

I know what we had is something I'll be trying to get back for a very long time

Be glad you've aged so slowly

I leave you dotingly with fondness and well wishes I hope you dirty another conspirator's hands and that they will become a friend who will do with you all the things little boys and little tractors should do

Pain is a disease Pick one tree, plant straight beans breathe ...steady ......squeeze