Up until a few days ago I had never been to a tractor pull. My Uncle Bud would pull us kids behind his tractor while raking his hayfields, so I guess I kind of get the idea. I was born in Paw Paw, Michigan, a small farm town just East of Kalamazoo. Two maybe three small diners, one fancy restaurant and a tasty freeze that was always surrounded by little leaguers and baby strollers. One hardware store where all the lies were told, and one church of your choice where all was forgiven. I remember the department store and my grandfather Louie Scarlati’s shoe repair shop. On the other end of town just down the road past the Oldsmobile dealership and across the railroad tracks, was where my other grandfather Fran Boudreau had his horse farm. The smell of fresh cut hay, the sound of tractors, swimming in the lake, this was life as I remember it back then. Small town America, was in my DNA at birth. So when we packed up and moved to the suburbs of Chicago some things were gained and some things were lost but I do know this, a tractor pull was not going to happen in Clarendon Hills, Il. The sound of tractors was replaced with the sounds of a train, and the hay fields now became a park. There were pluses and minuses but still no tractor pull.
Just down the road from where I live now is a small town called Lynnville, Tn. One dinner and sandwich shop and one ice-cream shop that shares space with the diner. No hardware store or shoe repair shop but I know plenty of lies must be told somewhere and yes one church of your choice. They do have a train but it does not move, it’s just there as a reminder of the old days. The one thing they do have and was what made me wander south was a tractor pull. I think the entire town was there, most prepared for the cold in there Carhartt overalls and plenty of camo.
I on the other hand was underdressed and looked like I was ready for a Stones concert, so freezing my ass off was my punishment. The young men sported there ball cap look with their favorite farm equipment supplier embroidered on the front.
I can’t understand the curved bill and cocked to the side look but hey when I was their age it was disco, polyester bellbottoms with satin shirts and a gold tooth hanging from our necks. Now looking back I wish I had the ball cap look. The smell of diesel fuel and fennel cakes filled the air. Now as I write this I wish I had indulged in the BBQ rather than the bad commercial pizza I had when I got home.
As the black smoke shot into the air there was that anticipation of when the engine was going to blow. I was waiting for flames to shoot into the sky but the worst was a stalled pick-up and the oil slick that remained as it was dragged off the track.
Yes this was a tractor pull filled with smells and noise, people cheering kids everywhere. As I lay in bed this morning and poured over the images I was reminded of the small town from where I once called home. I bet if I went back there today things would be much the same as they were back then. Kids waiting for their ice-cream cones, the smell of fresh plowed fields and tractors everywhere. Now that I think of it one of those diners in Paw Paw, was an old train car, just to remind us of the past. I love small town America, I love where I live and maybe just maybe I need to get a tractor.