I own a John Deere 5000 series farm tractor. It pulls at the power of 40 horses, more than enough to handle the work I do on 24 acres: light plowing and disking. I drag timber from the woods to cut and split for firewood; I mow the broader fields, stretch fence, chip tree limbs, grade the ground and haul—all with my little Deere. After having lived for more than a decade in the confinement of the inner city, to me this machine represents breadth and the breathing of my spirit. It is perfectly suited to the cultivation of our modest crops, berry bushes, hickory and walnut trees, strawberry hills, scattered stands of apple trees, a sizable vegetable garden.

The tractor allows and empowers my personal participation in the rhythms of the natural world. I can plant and pick, harrow and harvest generous crops in season. To me, my tractor seems a heroic thing.

But in the field of farm tractors, my Deere is as small as they run. Even if you're not a farmer, you've seen tractors twice and thrice the power of mine commonly plowing the dark Midwestern soil. And on the larger tracts, you've seen modern behemoths cut swaths as wide as avenues through dustier fields, wearing double tires on every wheel, pulling several gangs of plows and harrows, while the operator sits bunkered in an air-conditioned cab, watching the tracks of his tires in a television monitor.

Me, I take the weather on my head. I mow at a width of six feet. And mine is but a two-bottom plow.

Nevertheless, as small as my tractor is, smaller still was the first tractor purchased by my father-in-law, Martin Bohlmann, in the late 1940s when his daughter Ruthanne was six years old.

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