Pasture Ornament

 Mid May 04 004 

In the horse world, a “pasture ornament” is defined as an unrideable horse. An equine ill-suited for productive use.

But lately around here, the tractor’s been the ornament. It has been stuck in the back field for weeks. (Note: “it” is the only farm vehicle to escape nickname and gender assignment. Unlike Chitty.)

Not only does tractor disability result in unkempt grass, it restricts pasture use.

Technically, we could use the field. But allowing horses unlimited access to something new — namely the presence of a sharp farm implement…

…is like putting a steak knife in front of a toddler. Call the doctor.

So, the tractor. It’s a 30-year-old Ford, with issues.

Issues not entirely self-inflicted or aged-related.

We haven’t treated the “It” very well. We leave it exposed to the elements and rarely provide service.

Okay, never provide service. And this summer the tractor’s been reluctant to operate.

Really reluctant once we lost the key. The key.

We scoured the farm for it, countless times. We begged the kids to find it, then threatened them. Finally we offered a bounty: $25, no questions asked.

Meanwhile, the grass grew and grew and grew. I imagined the neighbors complaining. Actually, I pictured them shaking their fists and shouting as they drove by: “Hey, slackers! Go back to the ‘burbs where you belong!”




When green nearly swallowed the tractor, I called the local parts store for a replacement key. And good news: the key is universal. I just needed the tractor model number. So I bound up the attic stairs, crawled into the depths of storage space — through Christmas wrapping paper and Halloween costumes — and unearthed the battered manual that came with the battered tractor.

I flipped open the cover, studied the model number, then gasped in horror at a line of text immediately below.

Six jarring words, emblazoned in thick, bold letters:

This tractor engine – Made in Japan

Made in Japan?

A tractor — one of the most iconic symbols in America — and a Ford, nonetheless, made in Japan?

I am not evenly remotely xenophobic, but everyone’s got limits. And mine is the tractor.

That is not right, I thought. No way that engine’s made in Japan.

“Yep, made by the Ja…Pan…Eeze,” tractor guy emphasized over the phone. “It’s an ’83 model, right? I’ve got 10 copies of that key.”

I sighed. “Alright. I’ll take them.”

What, all 10 keys??

“Oh no, I mean… how about three? You keep the other seven for me.”

“Yea, I can’t do that.”

“Okay, then gimmie four.”

So, we were back in biz. Five keys (the original resurfaced) and the tractor started. Immediately, the battery quit. The following day Martin jumped it to life and shifted into gear. He bush-hogged one row before the the tractor threw up, all over him.

A hose blew, showering him in hydraulic fluid. So there the Ford sat. Again.

Weedy flowers blossomed all around.

I glared at the tractor and mulled over bitter thoughts.

About the Japanese, too.




Another trip to the supply store, hose-transplant surgery, lots of sweating and cursing… and the It-Tractor was back in action. Martin jounced across the rutted field, bush-hog trailing. Four hours and one (allegedly) bruised kidney later: mission accomplished. Martin parked It-Tractor in a safe location and the horses charged about, turfing up their newly-cropped confines.*

As for the spare keys? I’ve stashed them in various, undisclosed locations.

Guaranteed, I’ll never find them again.


*Possible reader question: Why must we mow the fields when able horses can do the eating? Horses are choosy and consume only the tasty clover, leaving the weeds to run amok. Mowing’s a must: lesson learned after you’ve bought the farm…