I miss the putt-putt sound of a tractor. There aren’t any real working farms left on Whirlwind Hill. Some land is still farmed, and a few cows pastured, but I seldom hear the farmer’s useful machines going up and down the hill pulling their loads. What a nuisance it used to be when I was in a hurry to get someplace only to find myself stuck behind Mr. Cella’s tractor and manure spreader. There was often no way to get around until he took pity on me, pulled to the side and slowly waved me by. But still, I loved that sound and the slow pace of life it implied.
What tractors lack in speed and beauty, they make up for in strength and simplicity, and in the beginning of the twentieth century they became indispensable farm equipment.
The first tractor came to the farm in 1921. Prior to that, horses and oxen did the work. In this grainy photo from around 1914, my grandfather’s hired man, Andrew Rossi, drives a team of oxen down the lane.
In 1921 my grandfather Ellsworth took a step into the modern world. He bought a McCormick-Deering Farmall tractor.
Saturday, November 26, 1921 – “Cloudy, cold, and stormy. Ellsworth been to Peterland watching a man trying a tractor which he wants to sell.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Tuesday, November 29, 1921 – “Ellsworth has decided to have the tractor and will soon work at Peterland pulling out trees.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Thursday, December 1, 1921 – “Nice day after the storm. Men have gone to Peterland pulling out trees. Ellsworth says it does good work. Hope it will be of great use to him.
Tuesday, December 13, 1921 – “Nice day. Chores done. Men fixing the machine to saw, everything ready. Have commenced sawing. The wood all sawed into one large pile in time to do the chores. A great help.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Here is the original tractor being used in 1939 at the backyard woodpile to saw the wood into usable pieces. This tractor didn’t have regular tires and was used mainly for pulling and for running machines.
It sat out in the field behind the house for many years, and my brother, who adores tractors, had his photo taken sitting on its front end.
The farm had its own gas pump to keep the tractors going.
My grandfather always used Farmall tractors, whose distinctive red color may have influenced the purchase of my brother’s favorite toy.
Later on, when my father bought our land on Whirlwind Hill, he bought a John Deere tractor. He used it to rake hay, haul brush, plow the driveway in winter, drag the horses to their final resting places in the back fields, and give rides to his grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
It’s not easy to drive a tractor, but young farm boys usually know how to drive one long before getting behind the wheel of a car. My grandfather preferred driving the Farmall to driving the car, and left all the auto duties to my grandmother.
We still have some tractors on Whirlwind Hill. They’re useful in all seasons, and little boys love to look at them and wish they were sitting high up on the seat and putt-putting slowly down the lane.
Outbuildings #5 – The Woodshed