I was a farmer’s daughter who’d never driven a tractor. But when I married into a farm family with all boys, they assumed I brought this skill with me and would be an asset to the operation. Turns out I proved more of a liability.
|Remember "Green Acres?"|
The first summer after Hubby and I tied the knot, he looked forward to working on his parents’ farm between university semesters and having his bride join the crew. I started off enthusiastically, too. I really wanted to personify the good little wife and impress my in-laws. Besides, it sounded like a great chance to work on my tan, seated atop that open tractor like a queen on her throne, warbling the theme song from Green Acres.
Hubby gave me a quick lesson on the tractor and got me started plowing a field with an offset disk. Then he went off to work another field and I drove round and round, proof that I was not “out standing” in this field.
It wasn’t too bad. At first. I kind of freaked out when a dead goose became tangled in the prongs of my plow, but I recovered. Once in a while I’d turn too sharp and the plow would start riding up the rear tractor tire toward me.
“I don’t think that’s supposed to happen,” I thought.
Somehow I turned the wheel in the right direction to correct the problem, oblivious to the fact that farmers have died that way.
The hours dragged into days and the days into weeks. I began feeling increasingly trapped in my new career. What had I done? I was nineteen years old and stuck in the middle of a hot dusty field all alone, muscles aching, sweaty, and covered in dirt. I remembered the invitation to work on Parliament Hill in Ottawa that I’d turned down for love and marriage. Good thing there was no “undo” button or I might have pushed it that summer.
One gorgeous morning while pulling a deep tiller, I determined to make the best of my new life. This really wasn’t so bad. I could enjoy the outdoors with plenty of time to think. I probably should have been thinking a little harder about what I was doing.
Suddenly my tractor stopped with a jarring jolt, the engine silenced. I heard a sickening crack and noticed wires dangling menacingly overhead. I looked behind me. The cultivator jutted out to the side further than I had estimated, and I’d driven too close to the edge of the field where the power lines were strung. My plow had hit a pole, cracking it in half. Once again unaware of the danger I was in, I could only think about what a mess I’d made and how stupid I felt. One name rose to my lips.
But it wasn’t a curse. “Help me.”
And he did. Like an angel that appears out of nowhere, a neighbour happened to be driving by. This man had been part of our church since I was a little kid and in that moment, I needed a daddy figure. He quickly instructed me to stay put and not touch anything until it could be determined it was safe to dismount without electrocuting myself.
The equipment was okay. I was physically unharmed, but shaken to my core. I went home and yanked weeds out of the flower garden with a vengeance. And to this day I’m not certain whether my father-in-law reimbursed Manitoba Hydro for their pole or not. I know I didn’t.
The biggest things I gained that summer were a keen appreciation for those who spend their lives performing hot, dirty, back-breaking farm work—and a conviction that it was not for me. Surely an alternate way to make a living would present itself.
And it did. I spent the remaining weeks of that summer suffering a new kind of torment: selling Amway.
But that’s a story for another day.