The reluctant tractor driver

 Zetor and Golden Delicious

As I lowered myself into the old metal-backed seat and took hold of the massive steering wheel, I had the oddly familiar feeling, of not being quite in control. “Watch the brakes, they’re a bit dodgy” my husband shouted, as he reversed the David Brown back up between the apple trees with the assurance of one who had leapt straight from the crib onto a large piece of agricultural machinery.

I slowly released the clutch of the Zetor and the old tractor juddered in protest, trying to decide whether to stall or not, before it gathered up speed and headed down the slope. I belatedly recognised that feeling as the one that I had experienced as a teenager, when I had first climbed onto a pony. I knew how to get it to go but not how to stop.

The tractor started to lurch alarmingly towards the left, branches from the trees snapping against the big wheels. I looked down at my feet, cursing, searching for the brake. I hadn’t calculated that the weight of the trailer behind would propel us down so fast. Behind me I could hear the noises of boxes of apples sliding and shouts to stop.

I had always refused to drive a tractor. I was an average car driver and didn’t think that my skills would extend to machines that were twice as big as my little Renault. But it had seemed silly today, not to learn how to move the tractor forward a dozen or so metres at a time, so that we could reach the higher branches of the trees from the trailer behind. It was Saturday afternoon and we had decided to innovate to try and get ahead of the picking over the weekend. The team of pickers had been replaced by my parents who had offered to give me a hand for a few hours. I was about to kill them I thought.

I finally found the brake and stamped on it. The tractor, which had been built in the year I was born, obviously had reflexes that were as rapid as mine. There was a delay, before the front wheels, which looked as solid as slices of lemon on cocktail sticks, veered in one direction, then the other. The tractor careened another few yards and after a life-long hesitation, ground to a halt with its nose in the trees.

I looked around; my parents were still on the trailer, hanging onto the apple bin and muttering. I climbed out of the seat and strolled nonchalantly up the plank that linked the tractor to the trailer. I put the empty boxes back into place and started to pick apples; trying to look as though I did this sort of thing every day and that a runaway tractor was all part of the job.

This entry was posted in Farming, The Apple Empire and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The reluctant tractor driver

  1. Mary Alice says:

    Wow. What a exciting trip down the hill. I am sure your parents took the whole nonchalant bit hook line and sinker!

  2. Hexe says:

    Isn’t amazing that no what our age, we still try to impress our parents and they still wonder how we survive in the world without them?

  3. tut-tut says:

    And how are you parents as apple pickers??

  4. I could sit and listen to your tales all day, everyday!

  5. Okay, this one brought a good chuckle out of me! Don’t let those things get the best of you…you can do it.

    I actually had to take a “tractors” course in college for my ag degree. Growing up on a ranch you would think I would’ve driven one before…but I always steered clear of them. You can imagine my surprise when the course involved driving…and yet, here I am, still alive and I didn’t even injure any classmates!

  6. Lizzy says:

    Ha ha, way to bluff it. I would have been a screaming, laughing mess by the time it was all over.

  7. meredith says:

    Faking it in front of family is exactly what I’d do, but if I had been with a bunch of girl friends, a run-away tractor would have me laughing hyterically 🙂

  8. Jillian says:

    Sounds like an adventure. My turn is coming up soon enough. Our tractor looks pretty much the same. It’s time to start cutting the CRP. But it’ll be worth it looking at all the beautiful wildflowers.


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