Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thinking Those Tractors Are...

Earl Pierce on 1929 (?) Farmall tractor

Included in the stash of photos I found this week were several of horses, farm equipment, and old cars and trucks.  I've had an interesting time reading about early tractors, and based on that I think this one was a 1929 Farmall Regular, battleship gray with red wheels.  The earliest tractors were mammoth, and needed crews of men to run them, but after World War I they scaled down in size and price, and became affordable for smaller operations. This first photo is of my grandfather and his tractor.

Ralph Pierce on his 1940's gray Ford tractor

My dad had several tractors when I was growing up, but I remember the little gray Ford best, perhaps because it was small enough to ride on comfortably.  Our farm was set far back from the county road, and had a gravel driveway that drifted shut after snowstorms on a regular basis.  He usually could plow it out with this tractor. I remember being allowed to drive it summers to rake alfalfa.  I loved driving round and round the field, thinking thoughts, watching for meadow larks and red-wing blackbirds.

Ralph on his Farmall, probably 1956 or so

Dad had a larger tractor too, for planting, cultivating (pre Roundup) and harvesting.  I liked to ride with him, standing on the bar in back, which was no doubt dangerous, but was lots of dusty fun. 

Dean Pierce on the Farmall, about 1961

I like this picture of my brother Dean.  It's funny because now he sells John Deere equipment.  The picture appeals to me also because it shows the old milk house and the barn, both of which burned in 2008.

Do you have old family pictures featuring vintage farm equipment?  I'm interested in posting some here.  Maybe there is potential for some paintings!

The Poet at Seventeen

by Larry Levis

My youth? I hear it mostly in the long, volleying   
Echoes of billiards in the pool halls where   
I spent it all, extravagantly, believing
My delicate touch on a cue would last for years.

Outside the vineyards vanished under rain,
And the trees held still or seemed to hold their breath   
When the men I worked with, pruning orchards, sang   
Their lost songs: Amapola; La Paloma;

Jalisco, No Te Rajes—the corny tunes
Their sons would just as soon forget, at recess,
Where they lounged apart in small groups of their own.   
Still, even when they laughed, they laughed in Spanish.

I hated high school then, & on weekends drove
A tractor through the widowed fields. It was so boring   
I memorized poems above the engine’s monotone.   
Sometimes whole days slipped past without my noticing,

And birds of all kinds flew in front of me then.
I learned to tell them apart by their empty squabblings,   
The slightest change in plumage, or the inflection   
Of a call. And why not admit it? I was happy

Then. I believed in no one. I had the kind   
Of solitude the world usually allows   
Only to kings & criminals who are extinct,
Who disdain this world, & who rot, corrupt & shallow

As fields I disced: I turned up the same gray
Earth for years. Still, the land made a glum raisin   
Each autumn, & made that little hell of days—
The vines must have seemed like cages to the Mexicans

Who were paid seven cents a tray for the grapes
They picked. Inside the vines it was hot, & spiders   
Strummed their emptiness. Black Widow, Daddy Longlegs.   
The vine canes whipped our faces. None of us cared.

And the girls I tried to talk to after class
Sailed by, then each night lay enthroned in my bed,   
With nothing on but the jewels of their embarrassment.   
Eyes, lips, dreams. No one. The sky & the road.

A life like that? It seemed to go on forever—
Reading poems in school, then driving a stuttering tractor   
Warm afternoons, then billiards on blue October   
Nights. The thick stars. But mostly now I remember

The trees, wearing their mysterious yellow sullenness   
Like party dresses. And parties I didn’t attend.   
And then the first ice hung like spider lattices   
Or the embroideries of Great Aunt No One,

And then the first dark entering the trees—
And inside, the adults with their cocktails before dinner,   
The way they always seemed afraid of something,   
And sat so rigidly, although the land was theirs.

1 comment:

laura said...

The photos are just a pleasure to look at (CHarles Reid paints from old photos and there are several here that are inspiring!); I agree the one of your brother is really exceptional!