Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Kubota

Since we live on a five-acre property with horses, weeds, and kids, we bought a medium size farm tractor to conduct all the maintenance and redneck-like activities that we need to do at home. The Kubota is a bright, day-glow orange, but since several of our rich neighbors with mansions have one too, they don't complain about its color. They complain about almost everything else instead, but back to the important thing: the tractor.

I use the tractor for the mundane mowing of grasses and weeds in the spring and for the back saving hauling of 50 lb. grain bags and hay bales to the barn in the winter. There is a shallow seasonal creek that passes through the middle of our property, and during the winter my truck can't make the short drive back to the barn without sinking up to its axles, so the tractor is a necessity at certain times of the year. A scoop of gravel here and there to fix the holes that the horses dug in their paddocks, and the piling of horse manure into a gigantic compost mound rounds out “the Kubota’s” normal chore schedule for me.

I will freely admit that I like to mindlessly drag the make-shift harrow I made from a chain-link fence around my riding arena while gazing at the oak studded hillside to the west. When driving the tractor around for chores in early March, I always notice when the blue oaks begin to bud out hearkening of spring. I see that every couple days the canopies look a little more full until I realize the new season is upon me. Tractorizing a dusty arena in the in late summer, I observe in what seems like overnight, the blue oaks turn a rusty-brown indicating the just how dry it was. The hotter the summer, the faster the color change.

I think that the steady rumbling sound of the tractor engine makes my visual senses stronger and my powers of observation keener such that the tracking of the seasons becomes habit while on board the dependable beast. I often reflect upon these changes while aboard our pragmatic tractor which thankfully always remains the same. The Kubota’s chugging engine, steady speeds and orange color can always be counted upon so long as diesel fuel fills its reservoir and my husband Mike changes the oil when the scheduled service light goes on.

The Kubota is fun for a city girl to use and after I mastered shoveling with the front scoop I felt that I was as close I would ever get to “oneness” with any machine. And mind you, that is not saying much. This type of tractor is easy to use with a no-clutch option, and large letters that tell you F for forward, N for neutral, and R for reverse. In short, a Kindergartner should be able to use the Kubota, as long as they could reach the pedals. And this theory extends all the way down to my son’s short-limbed but determined body.

Wyatt’s obsession with the Kubota began at a very early age. I know it is my fault since I would bundle him up when he was a wee-little baby so he could ride shot gun with me on the tractor as I worked the sands in the horse arena. The gentle humming of the diesel motor and the soft bouncing over hoof pocked sand almost always made him fall asleep, which was not easy for him to do in the early months. As soon as he could walk he would be found toddling out to the shop where the tractor is stored. He could say Kubota and tractor within a few months of talking. If he was missing and unaccounted for my husband would ask, “Where is Wyatt?” My first response was always, “Have you checked at the Kubota?” Most of the time he could be found trying to climb it in those moments when he escaped from our usually watchful eyes. It occurs to me that child protective services could make a case for our bad parenting if he was found alone with the tractor, but I guess we lucked out.

The Kubota has been a great addition to our "family" as my children and each of the cousins have their turn driving it, going for rides just for the fun of it, or sitting in the bucket while I raise it high into the air. They always scream mightily to come down; I always like that part a little too much. This chunk of metal is strangely comforting and has a certain value for which I can not describe for the little ones on our property. Their lives would certainly be less full without it, and mine would definitely be more difficult.

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