Looking back, I can remember that awful moment when I became old enough to realise that my dream of being a professional footballer was mere fantasy. After that life changing revelation I was stuck for an answer to the question asked by my grandma each and every time I saw her: “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I could have plucked out of the air one of hundreds of careers but no one in particular ever captured my imagination enough to warrant that sort of verbal commitment. So I would always simply answer with “drive a tractor!”
Now some 15 years later, I have achieved my long-held career ambition. The opportunity arose courtesy of my mum’s new abode in the middle of nowhere (also known as ‘Wales’). In that part of the world ‘laptop’ refers to where the cat sleeps and the ‘keyboard’ is where the barn keys hang. Needless to say, tractors aplenty! So a quite word in the ear of neighbouring ‘Richard the Farmer’ and mother dearest had arranged me a drive on one of his five tractors.
A vintage Massey Ferguson 135 was to be the deliverer of my afternoon’s jubilation. “The older and rustier the better” Richard the Farmer reliably informed me. I was provided an alarmingly short crash course in the vehicle’s controls (including two gear systems and a hand held accelerator) before being unleashed on the open road. What followed will long be remembered as the most enjoyable half mile of driving of my life.
Without a speedometer I cannot say for sure how fast the old MF135 carried me. However, the 40-year old 3-cylinder Perkins Engine never faltered, the power of 49 horses laughing mockingly at the road’s incline. But, before I could even say “lambing season” I approached the farm which was, reluctantly, my destination. Upon entering the gates I was greeted by a look of sheer disbelief on the face of a young girl. The sight of ‘city folk’ erratically driving her father’s tractor not exactly what she’d been expecting!
This, although short-lived, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The best ones are so often those you can experience for free. So I would whole-heartedly encourage you to cheekily ask any friendly farmers you may know.
Since I’ve now driven a tractor, I now need a new answer to my grandma’s favourite question. I’m not sure I have a job title these days, but I hope she’s looking down on me happy with my new choice of occupation. I still wouldn’t mind driving a tractor for a living though…