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Story of a Farmall 460
by LeAnn R. Ralph
How many sounds can you think of that are as familiar to you as your own breathing? What about the hum of your refrigerator? Or the thump of your clothes dryer? Maybe the engine of your car? You hear those sounds every day, and you don't think much about them, do you. I can think of a few common, ordinary sounds in my daily life, too. However, I certainly didn't expect a TRACTOR to be at the top of the list.
Well, not just any tractor. It's a 460 Farmall my dad bought in the early 1960's when I was about four years old. After my brother sold his dairy cattle last year and then held an auction to sell some of the farm equipment he no longer needed, my husband and I decided to buy the 460.
When Dad owned the tractor, he used it to plow in the spring, to cut and bale hay in the summer, to combine oats and pick corn, and in the winter, he used it to move snow. As the 460 hunkered down to work, it made a distinctive thrumming roar, and the sound meant I knew just exactly where Dad was and that all was right with my world.
Randy and I only have a five-acre hayfield, though, so the tractor doesn't do nearly as much work as it used to. And I certainly don't spend as much time listening to her as I once did, either. Still, it's kind of fun to have the old girl around. Sort of like having a little bit of Dad here with me.
One day when we were getting ready to bale our second crop hay, while Randy was out raking ‹ and Dad would probably laugh himself SILLY over that one, using the 460 to rake when she's used to doing heavier work like plowing ‹ I decided to pick the pole beans.
I knew we'd be baling in just a little while, but I wanted to pick the beans before I forgot about them. As I reached the garden, Randy approached this end of the field, raking the last windrow. But I wasn't really paying attention to the tractor. I was intent on finding beans lurking underneath the vines and leaves.
However, as I searched for pole beans, an idle thought popped into my head. 'Why does the 460 sound like a John Deere? Sort of put-putting like?' I stopped, then, to listen. Randy headed back down the field to finish the windrow, and I decided it must have been my imagination.
A little while later, though, when Randy pulled up by the garden, I knew it WASN'T my imagination. The tractor definitely sounded odd.
"What's wrong with the 460?" I shouted over the sound of the engine.
"Wrong?" Randy replied, shutting down the tractor, "nothing's wrong. What makes you think that?"
"She sounds funny."
Randy shrugged. He climbed off the tractor, and as he walked around the front, he glanced at the engine.
"Oh," he said, "maybe this is why you think it sounds funny." He replaced two spark plug wires that had come off, and then he climbed back on the tractor again.
A few seconds later Randy restarted the tractor, but she still didn't sound right. "That's not it," I yelled. With a sigh, Randy shut off the tractor, climbed down, switched the wires around, and started the engine once more. And just like that, the 460 sounded like herself, humming along just as nice as you please with that old, distinctive thrumming roar. "THAT'S my girl!" I shouted, knowing once again, all was right with my world. Randy just shook his head.
During those years I'd spent listening to the 460 while Dad plowed and cut hay and baled and combined and picked corn and moved snow, I'd had no idea the sound of the 460's engine had become as ingrained as the sound of my own breathing. But it had.
And right then I could imagine Dad, somewhere in that great big farm in the sky maybe, smiling and agreeing, "Yup. That's my girl."