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Powerful memories of long ago tractor ride prompt impulse buy

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I admit it. I buy things on impulse.

I seldom go through a grocery checkout without picking up a Kit Kat bar or a pack of Doublemint, and I once came home from a quick errand with milk, bread and a new Pontiac.

(I still say the Pontiac was not my fault. I blame whoever put a dealership between my house and Kroger.)

Anyway, while it occasionally has led me to some silly purchases (the Pontiac was a lemon), I can’t call impulse buying a fault. Especially not today, because I (impulsively) just bought … a tractor.

I suppose this would be as good a time as any to point out that I live in the city, in a very urban neighborhood full of very urban Victorian houses with very urban small yards. It is not what you would call a tractor-friendly environment.

So on the surface, this was an extremely stupid thing for me to do.

But this is no ordinary tractor.

This was my grandfather’s Oliver Row Crop 60.

By today’s monster-sized tractorfication standards, it is a dinky little thing. Compared to the latest behemoths from John Deere and CNH, it’s a lawn tractor.

But this little Oliver, built in the 1940s, represents Grandpa McKenzie’s giant step from horse-drawn agriculture, and that makes it enormous in my eyes.

Just seeing pictures of it reminds me of my early kidhood, when going to visit Grandma and Grandpa on the farm — the farm! — was something you looked forward to all year long. Grandpa didn’t mind kids crawling onto the tractors and pretending to drive. Unless, of course, he was using them at the time which, in a sense, is how one of his tractors carried me into family legend.

It was a summer morning, and for some reason a whole bunch of McKenzies were at the farm. Somehow, I managed to be alone — not easy when your first cousins alone number more than 50 — when Grandpa came chugging in from the field on his “big” tractor, an Oliver Row Crop 77.

He gestured for me to join him and ride along. After a spin around the barn, he stopped and let me off.

“Now, don’t tell the others, or I’ll be giving rides all day,” he said.

I promised. And then 30 seconds later went running up to my cousins, shouting, “Grandpa gave me a ride on the tractor!”

My cousins began lining up for their rides. And I understand Grandpa later had a conversation with Mom on the subject Your Kid Is A Blabbermouth.

All of which explains, to me anyway, why I had to buy this tractor when it became available. I didn’t want it to pass out of the family; and maybe by restoring it I could make things up to Grandpa a little bit, and of course be the envy of my neighborhood.

My very urban neighborhood.

I’d be really surprised if anyone else on my block owns a 1940s-era tractor in need a complete overhaul, new paint and new tires.

So it’s an impulse buy. So what? It has meaning. Although I still don’t know where I’m going to keep it. Or what I am going to do with this nagging notion that I’d also like a 77.

Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker.

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