I liked seeing the sites along the well-worn path on the way to the field. We’d pass by three or four cows with busy jaws, their brown eyes staring blankly at me. Barn swallows darted in and out of the hog house. A couple of horses stomped and swatted at pesky flies.
Then came the exciting part. I’d hold my breath and hang on tightly as we headed down a steep hill toward the creek. Slowly, the tractor tilted from side-to-side as we made our way through the narrowest part of the creek.
Tractor tires gripped the mushy ground, forcing deep tracks into the mud, and flinging tiny specs of cool water onto my bare legs. Finally, Dad gave the throttle a firm shove and we were back on our way.
It didn’t matter what kind of field work we did. My job was always the same -- enjoying the ride and listening to the steady rhythmic pop-pop-pop of the John Deere 70. We’d plod along while a song filled my mind.
“I’ve been working on the railroad, all the live, long day …”
Then without warning, the melody that crept into my head somehow slipped out of my mouth. Before I knew it, I was humming along with the tractor. But who could stop at humming? I looked around. Just me and the open field. So I belted out my new improved version.
“I’ve been singing on the tractor, all the live, long day … I’ve been making up a new song, just to pass the time away …”
My legs swung along to the rhythm with the tractor.
Dad’s tractor kept perfect time for any song I’d sing. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Mary had a Little Lamb, even 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. The warm sun and gentle breeze accompanied countless tunes until late afternoon.
Then panic hit.
How long had I been singing? I was so absorbed in my daydreams, I’d forgotten all about Dad! I jerked around to see the same rough hands still solidly gripping the wheel. I felt relieved -- and a little embarrassed. Smiling to myself, I realized Dad had been there all along.
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat back-to-back with my dad on a tractor. These days, I spend my time behind the wheel of a minivan hauling three kids to piano lessons and ball practices.
Sometimes I miss those old days. I never watched where I was going, but it really didn’t matter. I was with my dad, who knew our destination. And there was always a song in my heart on the back of Dad’s tractor.
*As printed in Farm & Ranch Living Magazine July/Aug 2012