May 18, 2021
YES, IT IS POSSIBLE TO LOVE A TRACTOR
November 1965. Cold with a smattering of snow in the air and on the ground.
It was a small auction crowd that clustered around a rather Spartan collection of
possessions. I would have expected the Smith family to have more bits and
pieces by which to measure their lifetime. Seemed like they had just been
getting by…hard scrabble farming.
My cousin Eleanor Townsend’s husband John Calder arrived jus in time.I needed
his wisdom on that cold day.
“Start her up, Smith,” hollered auctioneer Max Storey . “Back her up…now forward…sound
good…shut her down”
And there it sat…Smith still in the seat.
“She’s a 1953 International W6…runs like a charm…been cared for…pay no
attention to the rust…she purrs like a kitten. Who will give me a thousand dollars?”
The crowd was silent. Not a good sign for Mr. Smith whose winter jacket was worn enough
to have stuffing popping out at the seams and one elbow. “”
“John, what do you think?”
“Good tractor…we have two of them on the Townsend farm.”
“Two hundred,” I waved my hand to Max who looked at me as if I was a thief.
“two fifty…” someone said
“Three hundred,” I responded nervously. Scared.
And so I bought a tractor. Big one.
forty five horsepower. Really mine now. But not
back on our farm yet. Next day Marjorie drove me to the Smith farm and I began
the overland trip to our farm…20 or so miles away. What a joyful trip. That was
when I fell in love with Old Betsy…as we were huffing and puffing our way east
to Erin township. Cold day with a storm in the air.
Was this the same day that Marjorie’s horse Spartacus got his tail caught in
an errant length of barbed wire? I believe it was. Sparky bolted and
dumped Marjorie and then began to high tail it home to the Fox farm on the
We met. Old Betsy with me at the wheel, and Sparky heading to his former home.
…riderless. This venture was becoming troublesome. What should I do?
Where was Marjorie…was she hurt? Then she drove over a rolling hill
stopped breathlessly to tell me about the barbed wire which was still
attached to Sparky’s tail she thought.
“I’ll go get him…you take the tractor to the farm. Sparky is just heading
to the only home he knows…Al Fox’s place. We’ll put him in he stable
and get him later.”
And so I continued my little Odyssey. Some events in our lives
are written in indelible ink in our brains. This November day in
1965 was one of them.
Before we had the kids we had a great life. I learned how to operate
a drag three furrow plough while Marjorie explored the Erin township
side roads with Spartacus.
In 1868 we started our family with the birth of Kevin. Marjorie sold
Spartacus to a doctor’s wife living near Hornby. She took that
last ride with Sparky south on the fifth line. I believe she cried most of the way.
We never sold old Betsy though. She is still with us. Today
our second son Andrew and one of his friends Shawn loaded old
Betsy on the back of this truck.
She is not running any more. But she is not heading for the
scrap yard either. For the next few months Old Betsy will be
a movie star beside a derelict barn somewhere near Ancaster.