THE GRAVEYARD RESCUE By Danny Doyle
When I wrote my first tractor story about Ferguson #1 in July, 2002, I didn't know that in a short while I would be writing about Ferguson #2.
I found her up in Westchester County New York this spring: all the names and places have to remain confidential to protect the people involved who are all mostly dead now. You see readers, this tractor had spent a lot of its life in a graveyard, digging graves and closing them back up. It had done this job faithfully through the years and spent not one night in a shed or under any type of shelter. Now time and appearance have caught up with it, and the good people of this Westchester town wanted this old piece of machinery out of their graveyard. They wanted to be buried by a new shiny modern piece of the latest technology. To me I didn't understand the logic -- I mean who the hell cares if the machine that buries you is old or painted nice a green and has writing on it? So being Irish and superstitious and having listened to a thousand ghost stories by the fireside in Ireland, I had visions of this old tractor sitting under a tall pine tree in the moonlight with a figure sitting in the driver's seat. Who knows, there had to be one tractor nut buried in this graveyard that would rise up at night to sit in his favorite seat and disappear as daylight appeared.
My first call was to Zane Sherman. Zane who is an inventor of all things good and a friend to everybody on this site is a man whose advice I cherish. I thought maybe he would talk to me about the errors of my ways and tell me to stay away from my latest adventure. He said, 'Danny, your other Ferguson TO30 needs a stable mate as it's lonely.' Just this one sentence from a normal, rational man had told me what I wanted to hear -- go for it!
The next conversation I had was with my bride of 32 years. We sat at our kitchen table and I waited for the proper moment that never comes anyway. I said that I am looking at a backhoe. Being a city girl she didn't know what a backhoe was, so I explained what it did. I failed to mention that the backhoe came with a tractor attached. Being devious and Irish I figured, just give her this in small doses. Anyway, when I told her that a backhoe digs holes in the ground, she said the first one you dig should be for yourself and then jump in it! Now I know she didn't mean this, but being German, she is very analytical and purposeful in her approach to most things: but like she says to people who are close to us, I don't make a lot of mistakes in life, but when I do they are whoppers -- like the one I made when I married this guy, meaning me!! So one morning I sallied forth up into New York State to rescue my latest maiden. As I drove along the Taconic Parkway, I had visions of myself rescuing a damsel in distress from some old castle and the old Pontiac I drove was my steed. I got to the town in Westchester and it had begun to rain, and was foggy as well. The owner met me and took me to where this old 1949 Ferguson sat forlornly in the corner of the graveyard. It looked very bad as I approached it and it looked worse when I got to stand near it. Again, like I heard when I looked at Ferguson #1, it spoke to me. Not a loud, firm voice like the first one, but a dying whimper as if I were its last hope, it said 'take me out of here, please'. It had a loader on the front end and a backhoe in the back. It hadn't been started for a long time and the ignition wiring was all missing, but I said to the owner that I would take it. Just then a chipmunk poked his head out of the air filter assembly and looked at me quizzically as if saying 'do I have to move: is somebody going to actually buy this?' Now for all you tractor lovers here, I am far from the road with a tractor with a backhoe dug into the soft, wet ground and a front loader on the ground, also, and no means to lift them up to see if the tractor even rolled on its wheels. As I walked out to the road to my car, an old lady came by and I saluted her and said what a beautiful morning it was. She said, 'What the hell is wrong with you? It's pouring rain: it's cold and foggy: and my arthritis is killing me.' She asked me what I was doing in the area and I told her that I bought the tractor in the graveyard. She said, 'You bought that? There has to be something wrong with you!' I already knew that, so I took no offense. I asked her if she had any chains around the house. She said, 'Yes, my husband was a nut and a collector of junk. You two are probably alike: so you can take a look in the back of the house and see what you can use.' I said that I would send it back to her by UPS and pay her also. She said, 'I don't want it back and I don't want money either.' So, there in the back of her house, were some sturdy chains and a Come-Along, also very old and rusty, but perfect. So I said a silent prayer for the nuts of the world who collect junk and I thought to myself how great it is when little things come together to make a beautiful story. I tied the backhoe up first and then the loader and then tied them both together and a passing man on a Caterpillar had pity on me and that and 20 got me out to the road.
By now, the man who came to haul it back to Connecticut was waiting and when he saw the 1949 Ferguson in all her glory appear out of the graveyard, I think he was sad for me and when we had it loaded on the flatbed, even I had to admit it looked disastrous. It was a slimy color green and rust combination. Poor Harry Ferguson would have a fit if he were around to see how one of his babies was so abused. Strange, though, like faded beauty, if you can look behind the wrinkles, the beauty is still there. I got in my old Pontiac and drove back to Connecticut to await the arrival of my latest purchase. I now had a slight dilemma, as I didn’t want my wife around when my treasure arrived. It would be wigs on the green for me if she was at the house and she would surely try to have me committed to the lunatic asylum. I called a doctor friend of ours to have her work in her office for a few hours that evening, and now the coast was clear. So now it is dusk: it’s still raining and foggy: and I am pacing the floor like an expectant father. It finally arrived and the driver did his best to put it where I wanted it. My friend, Matt, drove the Ferguson TO30 and with the help of another chain, we pulled it into the wooded area where I do my work. This was also an adventure on the hills of Connecticut, as the brakes didn’t work, the clutch was stuck, the gear box didn’t move as it was bone dry and climbing over a Dearborn loader to get on and off the tractor leaves an awful lot to be desired. Anyway, it is home tonight and my wife’s comment when she saw it, “You are out of your mind”, didn’t even penetrate the warm feeling that surrounds me as I look at my latest beauty. Strange as it may seem, I think the Ferguson TO30 is starting a lot quicker since I brought the other tractor home. Maybe Zane Sherman is right, maybe it did need a stable mate! So, in conclusion, I think I have rambled on enough and bored you readers to death. I have a TE Ferguson from 1949. It has a Dearborn loader up front and a Wain Roy backhoe on it and slowly but surely I will get it back to life. My thanks go out to the following people: Zane Sherman, who is always willing to talk and help in any way possible: my friend, Matt, who is always there when I need him: my family, who are there watching and worrying: and my wife, who is softening, somewhat, and I saw her one day recently taking photos of my beauty. Maybe she will have them in her lawyer’s hands when I am certified as unbalanced! The adventure continues…Danny Doyle
Danny Doyle, CT, entered 2004-08-11
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