Unaware of the mini-cliff lying just ahead I drove the tractor right for it. Squeezing the jostling steering wheel, I moved at a good clip. And was clueless to any danger. The Farmall I steered was a large machine – even to a grown man. And I felt very grown today. It was my first solo drive on a tractor. I was thirteen.
Satisfied of his tutoring session with me of minutes before, Dad had directed me to slow the tractor. He stepped off the vehicle’s draw-bar and followed by foot, leaving me to it. I had accelerated, stretching the distance between us. Tall grass obscured the ditch up ahead, which I failed to consider was even there. The tractor was headed straight for the ditch. With me aboard.
Suddenly a breeze caught my dad’s whistles and shouts. The sounds were faint, fighting their way as they did above the competing noise of a tractor motor.
Muddled, I half-swiveled on the seat and looked back. Dad was a blur of action – like a physical trainer and Olympic sprinter morphed. Arms swinging wildly, he ran with everything. All the while shouting, Stop. Stop! Clearly this was urgent.
My right shoe found the brake pedal and pushed vigorously. Dust swirled near the big tires. I killed the noisy engine and a deep quiet took over. It was only then I actually surveyed the scene, taking in the cause of my father’s alarm. My eyes widened. The Farmall stopped only feet from the bank’s edge – barely short of me tumbling headlong into the creek bed. A chill shuddered through me. Then a compelling thought began overtaking my brain, and my emotions.
I think my dad just saved my life!
A friend and his wife raised eight children. He collected pithy statements on the way. Some I believe he coined himself. One of his sayings, The foolishness of youth that only age cures.
Our farm tractor collection numbered three. Always frugal, Dad bought a tractor only after it gathered a lot of miles. In plowing fields. Hay meadows. Or working wheat harvests.
We kept one squatty Allis Chalmers and two sizable Farmall H’s.
One of our Farmall’s, perhaps that same one, featured in another life-threatening incident.
Following a Sunday dinner another young fellow visiting our home joined me for a squirrel hunt. We dismounted the tractor near a wooded area. .22 rifle in hand we scouted nesting spots but without success. The day was warm and we shuffled back to the tractor. Climbing aboard, I settled into the driver’s seat and my new friend sat atop one of the big tires. Facing me, his feet rested on an axle. The rifle lay across his lap. After a quarter hour of killing time I started the engine.
Absentmindedly, I shifted into forward gear and released the clutch – forgetting that the boy still sat atop the big tire.
Memory retention is heightened when crises happen. I remember visual details of the elevator into which I stepped when hearing of the shooting of President Kennedy. An image no less vivid imbedded itself in my mind that Summer afternoon on the farm.
Thrown forward to the ground, the boy was on his back. His body – in the path of the advancing tire – faced upward toward me. In a fetal position. The sole of his shoe was inches from the hovering tire tread. He held the rifle crosswise, extended before him, as though it might restrain the thousand pounds of tire and axle coming down on him. It can be unsettling even now – revisiting the what if questions that nagged me more than fifty years ago. What if my reflexes had been too slow?, What if the brake hadn’t engaged ?. . .
Again – supernaturally it seemed – a shoe finding the brake pedal; a vigorous push. Once again, stillness. And pondering.
When spared the horror of toppling a tractor and myself over an embankment I pondered with some emotion, My dad just saved my life.
In this later near-miss, I consider another Dad. The ultimate one – intervening. Often with us unaware. In our challenges, our heartaches and mess-ups. The Intervention Dad. God. Abba. Father.
Pondering, ‘Dad saved my friend’s life being taken – and saved me from taking it.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. – New Testament. Ephesians 3
Thank you for reading. It would be great to hear from you. Is there a good ‘intervention from your life? Something meaningful that this or another story has prompted for you? Comments welcome.
©2015 Jerry Lout