Last Monday was a dark day for our farm. We are in a time of mourning and wearing black. OK before I go too far overboard, I am not mourning a person, or even a living thing. No, at about 12:30 on Monday afternoon, my tractor died. It was a quick and merciful death, a quick autopsy revealed a fist sized hole in the side of the engine. It was a shock none-the-less.
My tractor was a 1978 IHC 886. It was one of the first major purchases Jennifer and I made for our farm. Dad bought it on an auction for me. It served us well over the last 15 years. The old machine had mowed almost all of our hay, drilled nearly all of our wheat and faithfully started, even on the coldest of mornings during the winter to feed cows. When we bought it Jennifer had wanted another horse and she had forever been christened it with the name Horse. Horse was a good tractor.
I know, it was just a tractor and a worn out, old one to boot. So why am I so upset by its loss. Well, for one it was a financial loss. However, thirty-six year old tractors do not represent a great financial loss. It’s not like it can’t be replaced. Implement dealer lots are filled with ragged, rusted, over-the-hill tractors and the salesmen are eager to pawn them off on the next sucker, I mean customer.
No, Horse represented much more than a worn out piece of equipment. I have always been fond of 886 International tractors, I know they have their design flaws and they are far from classic tractors but I guess I am not much of a classic and my design has flaws too. It is much more than an appreciation for engineering and toughness. I learned to drive a tractor with an 886 and some of my earliest best memories were 886 inspired.
When I was 7 or 8 Mom and Dad bought a new 886 tractor. It was one of the few pieces of equipment they ever bought new and it made a huge impression on me. The day Dad went to the dealership to buy his tractor I went along and bought my own new, International tractor (of course it was a much smaller scale with plastic wheels). I remember the day the tractor arrived and just how shiny and big it was. I thought it was just about the neatest thing ever.
As I got older, the tractor seemed to get smaller. It went from being our biggest workhorse tractor to the tractor we mowed hay with and did other smaller odd jobs. It also became the tractor Dad put me on to learn how to drive. I knew it was not a big tractor but it sure felt that way to a kid who was eager to drive. Then one day, I really can’t recall what year, Dad’s 886 met with a traumatic part failure and it too passed on to the great barnyard in the sky.
I maintained my appreciation for 886 International tractors. Jennifer and I moved back, bought our place and started farming and soon I was looking for a tractor. Thanksgiving weekend 1999 we found a farm sale with an 886 International tractor, low hours and in great shape. It was our year to go to the in-laws for Thanksgiving so Dad went to the auction for me and came home with Horse.
Like I mentioned earlier, Jennifer took awhile to warm up to Horse but when she did she really warmed up to Horse. OK, the truth is she almost burned Horse up that first winter. I guess it wasn’t her fault, a bare wire shorted out and filled the cab with smoke, nearly ending Horse’s life early. I think over the years she also gained an appreciation for the red and white fixture in our shed, though I doubt she would admit it.
I spent many hours in the well worn seat and I appreciated most of them. Sure there was a certain level of frustration once in a while. Monday was no different, I had just had some minor repairs done and was roading Horse from Dad’s house to mine for the winter feeding season when the tragic failure happened. Maybe we will fix it, but I doubt it is worth it. Eventually I will end my period of mourning and pick myself up and go tractor shopping but for now there is an empty place in my shed and in my heart, R.I.P Horse, you were a good one.