Tag Archives: Tractors

Massey (Part 2)

“I don’t know. If I’m going to be giving you all my Lego blocks, I think I should get something in return,” Michael, an older boy in Daniel’s school said during recess.

“But you don’t even play with them anymore,” Daniel said. “You just said so.”

“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t,” Michael said, the words weighing from one side of his mouth to the other. “You know how it is. I’ve got something you want, and you’ve got something I want. Nothing in this world’s free.”

Daniel knew what Michael wanted, his 1970 Reggie Jackson card. In 1970 Jackson had a batting average in the low .200s and a little over 60 RBIs. Just three years later in 1973, Jackson led the league in RBI’s with 117. Arguably, 1970 had been one of the worst years of his career. Daniel liked the card for that reason. It reminded him that even though sometimes things get hard, the best is yet to come.

Michael had lost the card to Daniel some months back when they’d been flipping them out in the gravel behind the school yard. Michael didn’t really want the card back, he just didn’t like the idea of losing to somebody smaller than him. If the card had sentimental value to Daniel, all the better, since it would make giving it up all the harder.

Daniel sighed and opened one of his notebooks. He’d slid the card in one of the pockets, and had taken to looking at it during especially hard math tests or whenever the teacher or his father had just been yelling at him. Reluctantly he handed the card over to Michael, who tossed it in his bag without a second thought.

“I’ll bring the bricks over to your house tonight,” Michael said. “What do you want with ‘em anyway?”

Daniel shook his head, “Nothing. I just really like Legos is all.”


Daniel had made a dozen such deals in the space of a week. Rather than meet him up by the house, he had the children deliver the bricks to an old tarp he’d set up at the back edge of his father’s fields. The planting for that section had been done for weeks and he’d volunteered to take care of he watering and feeding of that section to save his father from having to go out that far.

Lester had been proud to see the boy take some responsibility, and in truth was dog tired from the last days of digging and hours of lying under a hot greasy engine. His hands and his face were black, and the tractor was no closer to moving than if he had just pushed it.

At night, long after everyone had gone to sleep, Daniel would sneak out to the field with a flashlight and an old picture he’d taken from one of the albums from when his father had first bought the tractor. The Colorado sky was big and full of stars, so bright that sometimes Daniel didn’t even need the flashlight.

Some nights a few of his friends would come by and help with the work, sorting bricks into colors, helping him balance sections while he built the underlying support structure.

“Why does the outside have to be all red bricks?” Lucas, one of the boys in his grade asked him.

“You ever see a Massey Ferguson any other color but red?” was Daniel’s reply. When he ran out of red bricks, he took to painting the other colors, finally applying a coat to the whole outside of the frame to keep everything smooth and consistent. Some of the pieces he had to glue together for the extra support.

He’d drag himself back to the house a couple of hours before sunrise. By the end he could practically sleepwalk to his bedroom. His mother looked concerned when she came up to wake him every morning. Usually, all she had to do was shout that breakfast was ready, and Daniel would tear down the stairs. But now she practically had to shake him just to get him moving.

Fortunately school was almost over, so his grades didn’t suffer too much. Some of the other kids even took pity on him during some of the tests and let him copy their answers, though for some this was better charity than others.


The last Tuesday of May was the hottest all month, getting to nearly 90 in the heat of the day. Lester’s legs were rubber, and his face was leather from spending all day in the hot sun. When he licked his lips he could taste the salt of his own sweat. Daniel was waiting for him outside the house, his hands clasped behind his back, his face looking down in the dirt.

“What’s the matter, son? Why are you standing out here when you should be helping your mother with supper?”

Daniel’s voice was small, and Lester didn’t hear him the first time he spoke.

“What was that. Speak up boy!”

“I said I had something I want to show you!” Daniel finally yelled. Lester couldn’t remember a time when Daniel had yelled about anything. That alone was reason enough to be just a little curious.

Daniel took him out toward the fields he’d been taking care of that season. Lester assumed that Daniel wanted to show off his handiwork, maybe to get some advice from his old man on how he could make the crops grow just a little bit higher. He got confused when he saw an old brown tarp draped over something taller than Daniel. It had a familiar shape but he couldn’t quite place it.

Without a word Daniel took one end of the tarp and pulled. It seemed to take all of his strength for just a moment, before the tarp popped off of something that had caught it, and sent Daniel stumbling back a few paces. The sight in front of Lester nearly did the same.

Standing before him, in perfect detail was his tractor, rendered in thousands of tiny bricks of plastic. He ran his hand along the top of it, and found it as smooth as the metal on his old rig.

“I sanded down the pegs on the outer bricks,” Daniel said.

Lester just stared aghast. Finally he said, “The ‘M’ and the ‘E’ are missing.”

“Of course,” Daniel replied, “this is your tractor.” He got a little twinkle in his eye as he saw genuine admiration in his father’s eyes possibly for the first time in his life. Dad had always preferred Jimmy,not for any particular reason other than he’d known the boy longer.

“Hey Dad, watch this,” Daniel said, jumping up on the black seat.

He turned a golden rounded key to the right and on cue an engine roared to life, kicking back a little smoke at first, but then running smooth, smoother than Lester remembered even on his tractor’s first day.

Daniel kicked a lever into gear and inched the Lego rig forward around his father. He patted the space behind his seat.

“Hop on Dad, we’ve got to get back to the house. We’re already late for supper.”

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Massey (Part 1)

For the past month I’ve been participating in Bradbury’s 52, a writing group run by Jo Eberhardt. Each week she gives us a prompt with a person, place and object. Last week’s was a farmer, a toy and the place could be anywhere we want. I thought you guys might be interested in the result:


Lester knew that knocking in the engine was a bad sign. He’d ridden this tractor for 12 hours a day for the last ten years. In previous summers, he’d been able to keep his old Massey-Ferguson tuned up after even the slightest cough or hiccup. But even though the oil embargo had officially ended a few months ago, the price of fuel was still too high. The oil he was running through the engine was dark and gritty, blacker than the coffee his brother Jeffrey brewed. Pretty soon he’d have to strain it just so it could start resembling a liquid again.

“One more row,” he kept whispering to as he moved the throttle forward gently. “Just one more row and we can both get some shut eye.”

He wasn’t sure why he was clearing this much earth anyway. They hadn’t seen barely a quarter inch of rain all month, and the temperatures were six degrees hotter than the last summer. Between the money he’d already had to put into the tractor, and the increased price of seed he’d be lucky if he broke even, and that was only if two-thirds of his crop survived the next few months.

The big wheels on either side of him shuddered and shook, the ground to a halt as greyish blue steam began to rise from the red hot engine. Lester quickly shut the tractor off and slammed a hand down hard on the steering wheel. The rubber of the wheel had practically melted in the shape of his hands between the heat and the metal inside of the wheel, and striking it he nearly broke his hand. Since he was alone in the field he allowed himself the luxury of screaming in pain.

Jumping down a second later he kicked the big tire, which resulted in both his foot and his hand throbbing.

“Damnit!” He yelled as he kicked the tire again. Looking down the row he could see that he’d missed the edge by only twenty feet. Twenty feet the tractor could have cleared in a matter of minutes would take him hours by the sweat of his back. He contemplated the trip back to the barn to get all the necessary tools and his already aching back, shoulders, legs, and now hand and foot. He’d have to get up even earlier the next day, especially if we wanted to try to fix the tractor which was now burning oil, but right now warm food and good couple hours sleep were what he needed most.

He contemplated a final kick but thought the better of it, instead running a hand along the long since faded red paint above the engine housing. On one side his older son had scratched out the golden letters for ‘M’ and ‘E’ from Massey, a joke Lester had found amusing at the time, even though he’d had to whip the boy on principle. Somehow he continued to find an excuse as to why he never painted it back. He gave the engine a final double-pat then started the quarter mile walk back to the house.


Daniel knew that look on his father’s face before he even had to say anything. And his father never said much, at least not to him. His mother knew the look also, and wordlessly spooned out a bowl of the soup she’d kept on boil for God knows how long. His father accepted the bowl graciously, then sat down beside Daniel and his older brother Jimmy. Their mother brought each of them bowls then, making sure they each had a generous helping of the scarce vegetables inside. Her bowl was mostly broth but she always said that was where the real flavor was anyway.

Daniel’s father said a quiet grace then turned to Daniel. “How many times have I told you not to play with your toys at the dinner table. Honestly, you’re old enough that you should be out in the field working with me.”

Daniel’s mother put a soft hand on her husband’s shoulder. “I let him play on the table. The pieces are small, and can get lost in the floorboards if he plays down there. Besides I think he has something to show you.”

“Well?” Lester said, looking his son up and down. “What’ve you got for us Daniel?”

The young boy pulled the object from under the table where he’d hidden it. “It’s not finished yet.”

The object was a small rectangular block of red with grey contoured and jutting out from underneath. A half circle of smaller black bricks were attached around a larger red center piece at the back. Even in this half finished state, Lester recognized the shape of his familiar tractor.

“I know you’ve been having trouble with your tractor lately, and I thought maybe I could build you a new one.”

Jimmy chimed in from across the table, “There’s no way he’d be able to ride in something that small, stupid. That thing could barely haul a potato.”

“I know that,” Daniel said defensively. “I just don’t have enough bricks for a bigger one yet, but I thought I could at least learn by building a smaller one.”

“I think that’s very nice,” Daniel’s mother said, “Don’t you think so, Lester?”

Lester picked up the toy roughly with one hand, and examined the front of it. He looked at it sideways for a minute, then down the front. “You’ve got the front grill all wrong, and the tires at least two sizes too big.”

He put the Lego tractor down on its side, the half finished wheel spinning uselessly in the air. Daniel grabbed it quickly, and swept the rest of his bricks into a box he’d been keeping by the table. Before his mother could say anything, Daniel had taken the tractor and the bricks and was running up the stairs to his bedroom.

Without a word Lester slid Daniel’s bowl over to his place, drained the last of his bowl, then started work on the second bowl.

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