Editor’s Note: This week’s article is written by Maggie Cooper, Jay Cooper’s wife, and is a salute to rural life — and the excuse it provides, to many a man, to purchase and bond with a tractor.
When you live in rural America, keeping up your place can be really challenging — especially without the proper tools and equipment. When we purchased our five acres in 2001, it was a former wheat field with not a tree, shrub, or anything green for that matter except for some wild grass, weeds and the occasional tuft of volunteer wheat. Of course, the contractor had to blade off the building site and dig the basement, leaving nothing but powdery, gray dirt everywhere.
The first year we were just in shock, trying to control the dust and, when it rained, the horrible, sticky mud. Many of us in the Tooele Valley “enjoy” that awful clay dirt that, when wet, sticks to the bottom of your boot and can transform its soles into platform shoes in just a few steps. Jay would occasionally mention our need for a tractor but at that time, financially, it was totally out of the question.
About Year Two, we decided to create an island in our front yard just before we planted grass, and he rented a Bobcat to do the work. Not a tractor, but pretty close. You would have thought it was Christmas morning when that flatbed pulled into the driveway. As soon as he started the thing, testosterone kicked in and suddenly he knew everything there was to know about its operation. After an hour or two, he was doing great and feeling pretty comfortable at the controls, picking up loads of gray talc and moving it to the center of the yard. Each dump created such a cloud of dust that he and the Bobcat would totally disappear from view. I had decided to brave the dust and the risk of instant dirt clods in my lungs and went out to check on him.
As timing would have it, he had picked up a particularly large load and as I looked, he accidently moved the control the wrong way. The load went up, not down, and the bucket tilted back, not forward. Instead of dumping it in the island, the majority of the load slid out the back of the bucket, dumping it smack-dab on top of himself.
When the dust cleared, all I could see was a pile of dirt where he should be with his ball cap sitting on top of it. In a few seconds, eyes blinked open, followed by a mouth ringed with mud. Eventually he dug his way out and he didn’t mention buying a tractor again … for a while.
The next year or two, we shoveled, hoed and wheelbarrowed our way into a primitive form of landscape around the place — but every task was so difficult and took so much time that after about our fifth year we had just about decided to put the house up for sale and quit. What we needed to do was buy a tractor, but we knew the kids would probably miss being able to eat.
Then one day, a miracle happened. The stars aligned, the phone rang and Jay was going to get his tractor! Not just any tractor, oh no. This was a Kubota, orange, rugged, powerful, a workhorse, man’s best friend. It belonged to his father and mother.
I remember the first day he laid his eyes on the “thing of beauty.” We still lived in Arizona and his parents had just bought it from some friends. There was no doubt that Jay was way more excited about their purchase than both of them put together. He did a great job “being happy” for his dad — all the while hiding the fact that he was (John Deere) green with envy. He told his parents, that very day, that if they ever wanted to sell the tractor, he wanted first dibs on its purchase. After we moved to Utah, he made sure to inquire after the tractor, as if it were a niece or nephew, during most phone conversations with his parents — just to make sure that they were taking care of it and that they hadn’t forgotten his offer.
Finally, that call came — the call he’d been waiting oh so semi-patiently for. They had decided to sell him the tractor — and not only sell it, they would deliver it — 856 miles — uphill — and he would have it in his possession before the month was over.
Now, many men have wanted things but few men have ever wanted something as much as Jay wanted that Kubota. He nearly counted the hours and marked the passing of time with revelations like, “It will never be Sunday again without a tractor” or “I will never go to sleep again without a tractor!” Finally it arrived — and his world was complete. As he sat down on that vinyl seat and started her up, the two became one and from that first moment, there was a bond so strong that wind, rain, dinnertime or darkness could not break it.
That was many years ago now and the Kubota still serves us well. Besides typical tractor uses, we dig holes for trees and posts, move anything heavy outside that we don’t want to tax our back with, we turn the compost pile with it and every spring, as soon as it gets warm, it becomes an amusement park ride. When the grandkids come over, they beg and beg until finally Grandpa goes to get the Kubota and they squeal when they hear that diesel engine coming from behind the barn. They all pile into the bucket and go “way high” for a bumpy ride around the property until Grandpa finally dumps them into the cool grass — while parents, sipping ice tea, watch from the front porch. The kids scream and carry on as if he was killing them during the ride then as soon as he dumps them, they beg for “just one more ride.”
Over the years, as we added more and more to our yard-scape. Somewhere along the way, Jay mentioned that “we might need to hire a little retired guy” to help him around the place. Well, now he IS the little retired guy and we are loving life. Some time back, he built the Kubota a pole barn — because we all know that tractors need their own private residence! He has lovingly cared for, repaired, worked hard and appreciated our Kubota and the place doesn’t even vaguely resemble that wheat field anymore thanks to our old, orange friend — a grand steed and the knight that rides her.
A man and his tractor, what a marriage made in heaven. Thanks for the rich blessing, Lord, and, oh yeah, thanks for the tractor, too.