Monday, February 14, 2011

Tractor: A Love Story

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  I thought I'd tell you a love story today.  It involves my tractor.  It's not as strange as it sounds.

Bart and I had been dating about three weeks when I was forced into learning to drive my own tractor.  For the better part of the first two years I owned the farm, I was busy getting divorced. 

Yes, it took nearly two years for my divorce to be final.  It was a brutal one.  I got everything.  That should tell you something.  But, I digress.

In those two years, my cousin managed the farm for me. I was here to teach lessons and on an as needed basis.  My staff did most of the renovations to the farm.  I had one person who taught lessons when I was unavailable or double booked.  During this time, I did not need to learn how to drive my tractor.  There were other people doing that.

Towards the end of my two year divorce, the intended purpose of the farm began. Rennovations were complete. The zoning was done. It was time to officially open for business.

I had to let two of the staff go who had done the renovations.  I no longer had enough work for them.  It was hard.  They were like family to me.

A few months later, one of the staff I'd kept got a job offer he couldn't refuse.  I understood.  That took the staff down to my cousin, one farm hand, and me.

As happens when you work with family, my cousin got mad and stomped out leaving a note on my desk on Christmas eve.  I later found out from another family member, with whom he'd been in business, that this was not unusual behavior.  He had done that in their business, too.  Ok, I adjusted.  It helped me to save his salary.

By this time, the divorce had been final for only two months. My life was full of change. I was a true believer in the advice I'd been given: You can only rely on yourself.

This left the farm staff at me and one farm hand--who didn't speak English very well and I didn't do any better with his native language.  Some how, he thought my cousin was still in charge even though he was gone.  We had to get a translator to work that out.

It happens when someone has been in a job a while, they begin to take liberties.  The farm hand I had left was taking a lot of liberties.  He was asking to borrow money from me.  When I finally put a stop to it, I found out my parents would still give him cash when they were here.  Of course, they never made him repay it.

He was working a lot of hours and being paid well.  He shouldn't have needed money.  Later, I found out he was also asking my clients and boarders for money.  Some of them were giving it to him!  Don't ever do that folks.

As this farm hand's time was growing short with me, he also decided he didn't have to follow my directions.  I tell you what, as long as I sign the paycheck, you follow my directions.  We had several employment counseling sessions complete with a translator.  Finally, I knew I had to let him go. I started looking for replacements.  I found a little spotty temporary help, but that's another story.

My farm hand's last day came. He accepted his severance check with grace.  He was thankful for what I'd done for him.  I was thankful for his hard work and loyalty.  We parted on good terms.  He comes to visit me on occasion.  Even when I fire people, I can't seem to make an enemy at the farm.  I must be doing something right...or really wrong.
The weekend before I let my long time farm hand go, Bart and I went on our first date.  What a time of transition in my life!  My divorce had been final for six months.  I had a complete staff turnover in nearly the same amount of time.  Then the spotty temporary help turned out to be real spotty. Most of them never showed-up to work.  It was a great time to begin a relationship!  Haha!

Fortunately, Bart was the guy coming into my life.  I knew by the end our first date, he was someone special.  We closed the restaurant without realizing it was time to go-- until they started turning off the lights.  We sat in my great room at the farm and talked til 1:30 a.m.  We never noticed the time.  We were enamored with each other to say the least.  We've rarely gone a day without seeing or talking to each other since our first date.  I am so lucky this is the man who came into my life.

I was also lucky Bart was a man with heavy equipment experience.  He'd operated all manner of heavy equipment in Viet Nam as a platoon leader of a bunch of combat engineers.  I knew that by the time I needed him to teach me about my tractor.

What I did not know, until later, was that Bart owned a farm in another state earlier in his life.  The man had tractor experience!  In fact, for Valentine's Day today, he's getting a double frame with pictures of both of us on our tractors.

What a match we are!  Cupid was definitely looking out for me.  There was not a better match for either of us when that fateful arrow was shot into our hearts.

Maybe three weeks into our relationship, I had to learn to drive that tractor.  I needed to put out hay. I simply had to do it.  There was no more getting around it.  A round bale of hay weighs 1200 lbs.  What was I going to do?  Roll it across the farm? I don't think so.

I swallowed my pride. I asked Bart to teach me to drive my tractor on a Sunday afternoon.  I don't like to look like a dummy.  I especially didn't want to look like a dummy in front of this amazing man I'd started dating.  I had a feeling dummy would not appeal to him.

Bart came over.  He got my tractor out of the shed.  He made me get on it. He reviewed the controls with me.  Even though I begged him to take it for a spin and "just let me watch," he wouldn't do it.  Bart made me do it myself.

I was a chickenshit and he knew it.  He didn't say it, but he knew.  He also knew I had to learn.  I couldn't run this farm being dependent on someone else to operate my tractor for me.  Bart did me a huge favor by making me do it myself.  Thank God for Bart.

I learned to operate my tractor.  It was easier than I thought.  I did, of course, make mistakes.  I had embarrassing moments.  It took me forever to do something simple like change the implements off of the front end loader.  But, I did it.  Bart was supportive and encouraging.  He never allowed me to feel embarrassed even though I tried to be.  It may have been the single most important task I have learned on this farm. I truly  cannot operate the farm without operating the tractor.

As our relationship progressed, Bart began doing farm chores with me.  He rarely drives the tractor.  He still wants me to do it myself.  He'll hang on to the three point hitch in the back or stand on the step by the controls, but he makes me drive.  He does not feel emasculated by this arrangement.  He smiles at me as he hangs on for the ride. I assume he feels proud of me.

Bart is not a man of many words.  He's said he likes this hard working side of me when I'm on my tractor. I often joke and turn around that old song "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" by saying "He Thinks My Tractor's Sexy." He laughs and smiles when I say it.  He'll occasionally say, "Yeah.  I do."

Bart is good at the every day stuff.  He's good on the farm.  He's good with my animals.  He is not good at romance.  So, on Valentine's Day, I seriously doubt I will be getting a dozen roses delivered to my door.  I doubt I'll be receiving jewelry.  I most certainly will not get an engagement ring.  I think my sapphire eternity band on my left hand may be the only piece of jewelry I ever receive from Bart.  That's ok.  I know he loves me any way.

I get one real night of romance, dinner, dancing, and champagne out of Bart each year.  It's on New Year's Eve.  It is not on Valentine's Day.  I know we're going out to dinner at one of my favorite places.  It's not a fancy place but they do a fancy dinner on Valentine's Day every year.  It's a family operated European-style cafe.

I know we are going only because I walked in on him making the reservation on the phone Thursday night.  Making a reservation for Valentine's Day five days in advance is a lot of pre-planning for Bart.  For me, that's the last minute.  We're learning to balance each other!

I imagine there may be a card and some candy.  Last year there was an orchid--which only lasted until June.  Apparently, I'm not good with orchids!  Thankfully, I seem to be good with keeping my relationship with Bart alive.

I'm glad he thinks my tractor's sexy.  He loves me for me. He loves me as I am.  He sees what's inside of this dirty sweaty cowgirl driving her tractor.  And, he loves me.  Thank God for Bart!  I love him, too...and my tractor.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day!  Thanks for reading!

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