I wake up with that early morning feeling that this will be the perfect day to cut hay. The air is crisp, yet the sun is shining brightly as it rises over the hillside on the far side of the creek. I check the forecast, and it is not supposed to rain for the coming week.

The day’s temperatures will stay in the mid-70s. It seems as though on this morning, there will be no time for a leisurely second cup of coffee.

Greg pulls the little red tractor out of the barn and greases her fittings. He tops off her oil and gas and even rubs an oil-soaked rag across her hood. She gleams in the early morning sunshine. Her bug-eyed headlights seem to smile. Her sickle bar that Greg rebuilt to perfection is sharp and ready. Greg gives me a refresher course on starting and stopping the tractor and on engaging the sickle bar, and we are ready. The hay field awaits.

As I drive up the creek road to or first field, I remember the cautionary tale of a fellow we met years ago. He had only nine fingers.

I do not recall that I asked, but as we talked, he held up his hand to show me his missing digit. A sickle bar, on a tractor just like ours, had eaten his finger because he had not been cautious.

Greg had also reminded me that the cut hay, if not perfectly dry, would occasionally clog up on the sickle bar, and then the bar would stop cutting and would simply bend the stalks over.

Greg had reminded me to stop the tractor, disengage the bar, turn off the tractor, dismount and clear the bar from behind, keeping my fingers well away from the sickle’s serrated cutting teeth. I had thanked Greg for his reminder. I have no desire to lose a finger.



I arrive at the first field. The air feels almost cold, but I do not want to return to the house to get a flannel shirt. I am ready to cut hay. I make my first pass around the outer edges of the field. The tractor runs beautifully, and as we clatter along, it occurs to me that we are both about the same age.

The little red tractor was built in 1956. I was born in 1954.

Perhaps we are sisters of a sort. The tractor’s paint is not perfect, and her seat cushion might be worn, but she runs like my father’s trusted mechanical watch, keeping perfect time to the blue sky over our heads and the gentle breeze blowing wisps of gray hair across my face, I could not be happier.

The hay cuts cleanly, falling backward with the pass of the clicking sickle bar, as the little tractor’s trusted engine putters with a gentle strength. At the end of each pass, I smile to see the progress we have made. In time, I begin to feel thirsty, and hungry, but I do not want to stop what we are doing. I am transfixed, welded to my task, and then Greg arrives with lunch.

We eat, sitting on the tailgate of Greg’s pickup truck. A most perfect lunch on a most perfect day, and then the little tractor and I are off, once again circling the field and cutting hay.

My little red tractor may not be show perfect. Her paint is dulled and grease has balled up on her fittings, but she is absolutely picture-perfect in my eyes. I really do feel a kindred spirit in this little machine, and I would not part with her for the world because even though we may both be well into our 60s, we are still happily chugging along.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.