FORT KENT, Maine — Long, long ago, when I was a wee thing, in the days leading up to Christmas children were able to place calls to the Santa-line and talk to a volunteer standing in for the jolly old elf to plead our gift request cases.
One of the last years I dialed the North Pole I remember Santa asking my name, age and so forth and then every child’s favorite question: “And what would you like Santa to bring you this year, little girl?”
There was only one thing I wanted that year — a snazzy, shiny race car track with toy cars that ran via electric hand controls.
Dead silence from Santa’s end after I waxed poetic about how much fun I would have racing my little cars around and around the track.
“What are you?,” the Santa finally asked, “A little girl or a little boy?”
A feminist was born that day.
Truth be told, I’ve always been attracted to things that needed batteries to go whirr, zoom and belch fumes, over more static toys that required faux diapers, burping and coddling.
So it can be understood in my later years that the arrival of a new tractor here at Rusty Metal Farm is cause for more excitement than any vehicle ever purchased.
See, the old International Harvester Farmall 656 — the darling of my late husband — and I had reached a rocky point in our relationship about a year ago.
More to the point, I think it was trying to kill me, something which became glaringly apparent the day I was twitching wood and the brakes decided to not engage while I was rolling down a hill, in reverse.
OK, so maybe the attempted murder allegation is a stretch. But it was certainly a hint.
The 656 was getting beyond the point at which I, with my meager mechanic skills, could keep it healthy and happy.
So a tough decision had to be made and after much consideration, I decided to find the IH a new home in a sort of tractor assisted living situation with a friend of mine who has the same reverence — some would say obsession — with old, rusty tractors, as did my late husband, and who can give it the attention it deserves.
It really was a perfect match. I mean, this is a guy who keeps a tractor idling nearby while he works in his gardens, maintaining the sound is more relaxing than music from a radio.
Now, a gal in northern Maine can only be tractorless for a limited time, and it was not long before a newer, smaller and — dare I say it? — sexier machine was rolling into the yard.
When considered next to the behemoth that was the 656, it was initially hard not to regard the smaller, sleeker and more modern looking Mahindra 2718 as a kind of “Barbie’s Dream Tractor.”
Among the attachments for the IH is a massive snow bucket which I used a lot over the past several years to move snowbanks around.
I’m pretty sure the cute new Mahindra would fit inside that bucket.
At least it’s not pink … though it is a rather racy red.
Of course, the updated tractor means a bit of a learning curve.
Like going forward and backward using the foot controls versus actually shifting as on the old IH.
That particular skill was driven home — pun intended — the day I nearly backed it into the pond by accident when I hit the reverse pedal by mistake. Thank goodness the parking brake was engaged or “Barbie’s Dream Tractor” would have become “Barbie’s Dream Amphibious Vehicle.”
Then there are the attachments, like the brush cutter, which will have to wait until next spring, and the snowblower, which, given this is Maine and December, I should be using quite soon.
But first, I had to learn how to attach the snowblower — which is exactly what happened Thursday afternoon when the tractor’s previous owner, Nelson, stopped by for a snowblowing tutorial.
It went surprisingly well — mostly because my role was largely as a spectator — and after locating the necessary wrenches and related tools it was a relatively simple matter to back the tractor up to the blower, put the various pins and bolts into place, attach the hydraulic hoses and drive shaft and — voila! Let the blowing commence.
We got a few inches of snow here in the St. John Valley earlier this week, and it was just enough for a few practice runs around the yard where it was soon evident that the blower is one impressive piece of equipment.
Controlled by levers and hydraulics, a frightening looking augor sucks up the snow and flings it a huge distance — like, say, to Caribou.
Heck, the cab is even heated, so I’ll be clearing snow in total warmth and comfort this winter.
And if Santa is listening, all I really want this year is a cup holder for that heated cab. It can even be pink.
Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.