I was born in the south of Ireland, in County Kerry, in 1945. I was the oldest of five children in a poor but honest, hard working family. Horses were used for everything on the farm during my young years. A pony was used for taking the milk to the creamery every morning and for taking the family to mass on Sunday. The area where I was born was at the foot of the McGuillicuddy Reeks mountains, a very beautiful part of Kerry. This is where the tourist flock to every year to go through the famous Gap of Dunloe, which has to be done on horseback also. So, no tractors yet in my young life. When I was ten years old, my family moved to the middle of the county, where I attended the monastery school and got involved in sports. Us kids had to do whatever we could to make a shilling. The summer I was 11, a middle aged farmer came to the door looking for help for the summer. I started working for him right away, and in those days, pay wasn’t discussed up front. You were happy to get a job. Thus, the first time you got paid was an adventure. The first time I got paid was in the dark of night, out by the hay shed, and the money was in a small, brown paper bag: and it jingled, which was a bad sign. If it was paper money, you had a chance. Anyway, I came home and spilled my brown paper bag on the kitchen table, and I was very disappointed. Very little money for a lot of hard, long hours.
The two things that brought me back to the farm the following Monday was the beautiful young redhead that the farmer had married. This had been an arranged marriage, so an 18 year old girl married a 50-something year old man, whom she barely knew. The second thing was the FERGUSON TVO tractor, which I saw in the hay shed. Looking back, I’m not sure which was number one and which was number two. I think it was the tractor, but then, I was only 11. I learned a lot about my new love that summer. The chickens used to sleep on the hood of it at night and I hated to wake them in the morning. I would switch on the petrol tank and let it heat up before switching over to TVO. I was then set for the day. I wouldn’t stop all day except for dinner time. The farmer knew the workings of the internal combustion engine, so he taught me all he knew. I also showed safe habits for someone so young, so I would be cutting hay all day. I was alone in the beautiful fresh air with my thoughts and the sound of the FERGUSON, which was music to my ears. The days are long in Ireland in the summer time, so if it was hay time, we might be in the fields until 10:30 at night.
They grew wheat, oats, and barley as grain crops in those days. And as the days got shorter, the threshing machine would pull into the yard on an evening and set up for early start the following morning. This was powered by a FORDSON MAJOR tractor with a big belt which ran from pulley to pulley on each machine. Every farmer would help each other, so there might be 20 men working together on this day. Us younger lads were given safe, easy jobs away from the turning belts and drums, and if you didn’t listen to the men in the group, you would get a slap in the ear to remind you that this was dangerous work. The evening, there would be plenty food prepared by the women in the group working together. The men would have a few beers and maybe an accordion or fiddle would be played as everyone would sit outside after a job well done. These were the days of my youth when I think I prepared for what kind of a man I would be when I grew up. I watched the man in charge of the thresher machine, as he walked around all day, oiling bearings, adding water to the tractor. He was in charge without saying a word and everyone in the farm yard followed his directions. I soaked in this wonderful atmosphere of big men, small men, and young lads like myself, all working together, getting the job done without fuss or argument. I’m glad I had these first few years of the way it was because it changed in a hurry. In a few years, the combine harvester came, and the days of the thresher machine and the big gangs of men were history. At this time began mass immigration from Ireland. Many went to England, worked tunnels, subways, and major construction jobs were begging for men who could use a shovel or pick axe. A lot of the best men did piece work in England and made a lot of money. So, the word came home to Ireland that there’s plenty work for hardy boys off the farm. My Mom, who was very well read but with little formal education, had other ideas. She said, “No sons of mine are going to end up at the end of a shovel in England. ” It sounded like a threat, but I would wait and see. When I got to be 15, I worked that winter in the woods in West Kerry by the town of Dingle. I worked for a man who sold firewood. We drew the timber out of the woods with ENUFFIELD tractor. This was the first diesel tractor I ever drove. I loved the power of it, but in the back of my mind, I still loved the quick response of the FERGUSON. So, the years when I was 16 and 17, I spent back on the farm, but I knew that I was not destined to spend my life in Ireland. I was a good worker and needed no supervision, but the money was awful. Besides, my Dad had had a heart attack, and this changed my thinking. I always thought him to be invincible, a powerful figure of a man who didn’t say much. Just a look from him was enough in unruly situations.
So, the year that I was 18, I said goodbye to the old farmer, his redheaded wife, the FERGUSON tractor, and my family and sailed for New York. I arrived here the day they shot John Kennedy, November 22, 1963, and that was a sight to behold. The tough people of the Bronx, New York, crying in the street as they heard the news. Anyway, I have to hurry now as this story is probably too long for most of our readers. I got drafted into the US Army in 1965 and got discharged in 1967. I married a lovely girl from Queens, New York, and we found our way to Connecticut where we live on a couple of acres today.
My mind always wandered back to the years of my childhood and especially the FERGUSON TVO. So, one day I said to my friend and neighbor that I wanted to build a shed in the woods. “For what?”, he said. “For a tractor”, I replied. At this time, it was just a germ of an idea in my brain. I brought up the subject at the kitchen table one night when I thought that the time was right. “I’m going to buy an old FERGUSON tractor, ” I said. “A what?!, ” my wife said. My big redheaded son, who was 19, was speechless, which was nice because I haven’t heard silence since he was born. I sat smugly in my chair. I was like our Lord when he said, “And this too shall pass. ” My wife, who is a very reasonable person, tried to reason with me saying, “If you want a tractor, why don’t you get a fairly new John Deere or something. ” But she didn’t or couldn’t understand when I said it would have to be old and gray, and she said, “Just like yourself, ” but insults don’t mean a thing when you have tractors on your mind. So, down to the New Jersey/Pennsylvania was a young family. The man in the household had his Dad’s tractor stored in the garage while his family car froze outside in the winter. I want it out of here he wife said, with no sympathy in her voice. So, one Sunday morning, I drove down to New Jersey to look at the tractor which was outside under a cover. I stood for a long time just looking at it. People were talking to me, but I heard nothing. As I looked at the grille, it seemed to speak to me, “Take me home. We belong together. You will make me beautiful again, and we will be a handsome pair together. ” I walked away for a while just to clear my head. I knew I was emotionally challenged, but here I was thinking the tractor was talking to me. I bought the tractor that Sunday morning and a hauler on the way from Florida, picked it up and dropped in my driveway at 3:00 am. The driver and myself called up the former owner. We made him get out of his bed, and when he was outside in his pajamas, we all looked up at the moon and we toasted my new-found love. We had a few Jamison Irish Whiskeys at our end. I don’t know what he had at his. He was probably sad he sold it to me at that moment. The following morning, I called up my foreman. I have a business in New York City. I told him I won’t be in for a few days, I’ve got something to do. So, down in the woods I got in my FERGUSON TO30 from the year 1952, and little by little, I started clearing away the wrinkles that the years have put on my beauty.
My thanks to the following people: To Zane Sherman who helped my put a Meyers 7-foot blade upfront with hydraulic controls. He is on the Ferguson archives and is easy to talk to. To Jan of Pittsburgh Tractor in Texas. She is always trying to help me locate parts. I found her on this site, also. To all the people on the Discussion Board who answer questions from people like me. To my friend, Matt, who understands and helps me. And finally, to my own family, who don’t understand, but they still help me. Again, I’m sorry for taking up so much space, and to think this covered so little of my life.
The adventure continues.
Dan ct, entered 2003-07-18
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