Glitter & Grease - "Machinery Monogamy"
From Section V, Machinery

In Mexico, I thought a lot about the equipment back on the farm. I sent e-mails home on a regular basis, like the following:

  • fix cooling system on delivery truck (call McGilvra Electric in Beloit, and make an appointment to bring the truck in and see if the three-phase motor on the cooling unit works);
  • clean and organize each tractor toolbox—equip with heavy hammer, large and small crescent wrench, 2 phillips head and 2 regular screwdrivers, pliers, vice grips, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8 and 3/4 inch wrenches, and any specialized tools that go with that tractor's functions;
  • Pallet Jacks—check bearings and oil level in hydraulic jacks (Primo might have rebuilt these recently).

I e-mailed pages of this kind of stuff to the farm. So, one can gather from this that I have an affinity for farm equipment. Farm equipment makes the work easier, it makes the work get done on time; it's gratifying to look at, to touch, to work on. I've traveled all over the upper Midwest finding the right equipment for our diversified farm.

In Mexico, I would sometimes go into an imaginative state and picture various things about our machines—there must be sixty or seventy on the farm. I sort of floated back to the farm and stared at the implements. What did they need? What were their shortcomings? How might they break down and how could we prevent it? Each machine would become vivid to me, and I could just sort of study it in my imagination and come up with an e-mail list of what needed to be done.

I sort of floated back to the farm and stared at the implements.

But there was one machine, the 1394 Case International 4 wheel drive tractor, that was different from the rest. The rest of the machines were on the farm when I imagined them; the 1394 resided in my bedroom in San Miguel. She was just there in my room, pretty much the whole time. I wasn't always aware of her, but whenever I paid attention to my room, there she was. I'm not sure how she got there—if she stowed away, or if I invited her to come without being fully conscious of it. (And how do I know the 1394 is a she? I could tell from her tires.)

Bob and I first spotted the 1394 at a huge vegetable farm a couple years back, where we were on the quest for equipment. On the way home, Bob said, "I wasn't inspired by much there, except that big tractor at the other end of the shed."

"I saw it out of the corner of my eye," I replied. "I couldn't face it head on. I wanted to walk up to it close, but why torment myself with something I couldn't possibly have?" (The 1394's gender was not immediately apparent; she was just an it to me back then.)

That 1394 was like that guy or girl you see on the other side of the dance floor, and the person's just too good to be true—he or she is just too beautiful or glamorous or charismatic—and you know that they would never dance with you, and you just won't go across the floor and take that chance. Knot in the stomach. Sulk. Skulk around. Go home that night and kick yourself. Suffer. Grieve.

Well, Bob is a compelling visionary, and I agreed to at least walk up to that tractor and have a look-see. We went back to that big vegetable farm and bought that 1394. And I know now why I was so shy when I first saw her. She's the perfect farm tractor; she has the perfect form, color, power, sound, seat, horn. It's been love from the get-go.

Two years after bringing the 1394 home to Angelic Organics, I was in Mexico, and somehow, so was the 1394. I was sometimes dimly aware of her; sometimes vividly aware. All the other equipment was back at the farm, and I would sort of transport myself back to the farm to look at it. But the 1394 floated near my bed. I couldn't quite touch her, but I could look at her pretty close, at her 4 big tires, her shiny red paint, her tall black stack. I looked at her gauges. I looked in her tool box. At her gaskets.

I looked in her tool box. At her gaskets.

And I could see she had her problems—her oil leaks, her starter switch, her weather-cracked tires, her lack of an auxiliary hydraulic pump. But these things never kept her from seeming perfect, the way a spouse or a lover can seem perfect, regardless of their shortcomings. When there is enough love or respect, I think anyone or anything can seem perfect.

When I got home from Mexico, I walked towards the 1394. I felt shy.

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