An old red Pony makes friends
By Bruce R. Boehmke
One day about six years ago, while my son and I were walking in the woods near our home in Carrboro, tucked way back off the road and hidden from passing traffic we found an old red tractor. The moment I saw it something stirred in me, and I knew this old beast and I would be together for a while.
I was a recent retiree and transplant from Philadelphia, lived in a townhome, had no experience with engines or tractors, and had no business whatsoever thinking I could own, let alone restore, a tractor. It was to become a classic “fish out of water” story. And so, much to my wife’s chagrin, I bought the “Pony” (a 1952 Massey Harris), for $50 from the landowner, thus beginning a very educational and rewarding five-year journey of life lessons and restoration.
The first thing I learned was that sometimes just plunging ahead forces one to find solutions. Through a friend, George, I was introduced to Gene Johnston and his wife, Lynne, who not knowing me at all, amazingly offered space at their home for the Pony and me. Gene has not only lent a hand, but his vast collection of tools to help me bring the Pony back to life.
Lynne never complained as the Pony and I wormed our way from outside next to the garage to a nice warm spot inside, all the while supplying encouragement and her photo skills to document the Pony’s progress. And as rewarding as the Pony’s restoration has been, these new friends have been the best reward.
During the restoration I posted regular reports to a blog, which thanks to my wife, Cyndy, came to be titled “That Idiotic Tractor” (thatidiotictractor.com).
The blog brought me closer to friends and family from whom I’d drifted. And it brought people into my life I’d never known before, like the organic produce farmer up in Canada who owns a Pony, and thanks to me was able to get a clutch clearance measurement he needed. And from an online tractor forum, I got all kinds of suggestions, some very helpful and some downright scary. How about the guy who suggested that in order to get a stuck piston loose I should “fill the cylinder with diesel (fuel), add a splash of gas, set the mixture on fire, (and) drink a cup of Coffee while it burns itself out.”
Luckily, the tractor did not burn up, and I’ve still got my wonderful friends, even some new ones. Gene and Lynne’s granddaughter even spoke “Bruce’s tractor!” as a few of her first words!