Dan and Nan Wilcox with Johnny AR (Johnny is a 1935 John Deere AR).
The morning air was rather crisp but the scent of spring was in the air and it had promise of being a pleasant day. The trees were budded and the grass was beginning to turn green. But Johnny AR paid little attention to this. It had been a long, cold winter, freezing Johnny to his very marrow. The snow, there in the shade of the delapidated old shed where Johnny stood, was still several inches deep. Johnny's vision was partially obscured by last summer's burdocks and brambles, now all brown and ugly. Johnny was so glum and cold that he didn't hear the little green car pull into the driveway. But even if he had it would have meant nothing to him. He had been alone in that clump of burdocks for so long. He knew he had been forgotten years ago.
Johnny AR was tired of being cold and he was tired of being surrounded by burdocks but most of all he was tired of being alone and unloved.
Johnny heaved a forlorn sigh and closed his eyes to reminisce of happier days. He had been so happy when he was working on the farm. And he had worked hard plowing and planting and mowing hay and doing numerous other chores for his master. The times Johnny liked to remember best were the times he had pulled wagon loads of sweet smelling hay filled with laughing children.
He had served his master well but the day had come when his master had parked him out by the old shed and told him that he had earned a peaceful retirement.
Johnny AR had felt saddened, but at least the children had still come to visit him. He loved the way they climbed on him and laughed as they pretended to drive him. Johnny AR had watched affectionately as the children had romped in the grass beside him. But now the children were all grown up and had gone away.
'If only the sun would warm me up a bit, I might feel better,' sighed Johnny.
Just then Johnny AR heard voices. He looked up and saw old Joe, his master, approaching. He was stomping down the burdocks. Behind him were a young man with a beard and a young lady with long blonde hair. Johnny couldn't explain it, but there was something about this young couple that made him take an instant liking for them. They seemed warm and cheerful. They were looking intently at Johnny AR and the young man was asking old Joe all sorts of questions as he prodded Johnny here and there. He looked into Johnny's gas tank and into his radiator and then he climbed onto Johnny's seat. When he pushed in the clutch and started playing with the rather stiff shifting lever Johnny was so excited that he could hardly contain himself. The young man was saying nice things about Johnny. Then he went over and talked with Joe. Johnny couldn't hear what they were saying about him, but the young lady was sitting on Johnny's seat so he didn't really mind. Johnny could sense that she liked him. Johnny felt a glimmer of hope deep down inside him. But then she climbed down and the young man led her away.
Johnny AR wanted to shout to them to come back as he watched them leaving. But he could only close his eyes as the tears fell silently into the snow.
Summer came and the burdocks grew tall and green and the sun warmed Johnny AR's steel, but his heart was cold and empty. Loneliness is a terrible disease.
Autumn came on in all its brilliance. The leaves flashed red and gold and fell to the ground. The nights were cold and Johnny could smell winter in the air. But he cared not. His heart was broken. Nobody loved him. Nobody cared. He would rot there forever.
Johnny had been dreaming about the first day he had come to live and work on the farm, many, many years ago, when he was awakened by a noise. He peered through the burdocks and saw a white pick-up truck pulling a flat bed trailer. Johnny's heart gave a sudden leap when he recognized the young man who got out of the truck. But instead of the young lady with the blonde hair there was another young man with him. They were soon poking and prodding around Johnny AR. He felt himself being slowly jacked into the air. After much work he was loaded onto the flat bed trailer. At last he was free from those burdocks. What a wonderful feeling it was to be riding down the road.
Johnny AR learned that the young man had admired Johnny AR so much that he had persuaded old Joe to sell him the little tractor. Johnny quivered with excitement.
Soon they arrived at another farm and Johnny was unloaded. Johnny and the young man looked at each other with admiration.
Soon the blonde girl joined the young man and slipped her arm around his waist as she stood there looking fondly at Johnny. More people gathered around Johnny AR. They sat in his seat, looked at his engine and in his tank and turned his flywheel. They tinkered here and there on Johnny.
'Isn't it a beautiful old tractor,' said the young man.
Everyone seemed excited about Johnny. They all talked and made plans. Johnny soon realized that he would have other old tractors like himself for friends.
'Why, I'm going to get this tractor all shined up and get it running and take to the tractor pull at the fair just to show it off,' boasted the young man.
'I'll even be able to drive this tractor,' said the blonde girl. 'We'll be able to use it on the garden and all kinds of things.'
'It'll take a little work and some time but this will be one fantastic little tractor when it's restored,' said the young man.
The young man and the blonde girl put their arms around each other and looked affectionately at the little tractor.
Johnny AR felt warm all over from his radiator cap right down to his draw bar. Johnny knew he was home and Johnny knew that he was loved.
The story, 'The Sad Little Tractor' is based on fact in the family life of the author, Nancy Wilcox, who lives near Bainbridge, New York.
Johnny A. R. is really the tractor purchased by her husband, Dan. Nancy told us the whole family history-about being 'bit by the antique tractor bug,' starting with her brother-in-law, Lon Wilcox. He stumbled across a McCormick-Deering hidden in back of a friend's barn and is restoring it.
'The bug was contagious and the rest of us got bit, 'Nancy said in a letter to GEM. Her father-in-law's farm is near an intersection everyone there calls 'Puckerville Corners,' and when a group started an organization, they called it the Puckerville Antique Tractor Association.
Other members are Dan's younger brother, Darrell, who is waiting for the right engine to come along, and friends Larry and Sue Yaddow, who own McCormicks, Fordsons and a Farmall F-12. Nancy owns 'a cute little Farmall F-12.'
Lon sent everyone GEM subscriptions for Christmas. 'We look forward to each issue,' Nancy says, 'and whoever receives their issue usually hasn't read far before they are on the phone calling one of the other members of our group.'
Nancy's story appears just as she wrote it.