Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Toolbox memories

I logged several hours in the tractor seat today preparing the new ground for planting. One of the minor improvements I made to my John Deere was attaching a small plastic toolbox on the right rear fender to hold miscellaneous tools, spare parts and sundry. It keeps me from having to go to the garage every time I need a tool or a nut and bolt.

The toolbox brings to mind the magic one on my grandfather's Ford 8N tractor. The metal box rested underneath the cowling and very close to the engine block. The only things I can remember being in the toolbox were some rusted bolts, an adjustable wrench, a pair of pliers and some baling wire. It seemed much of the tractor was held together with baling wire.

What made the toolbox special, however, is the way it warmed our lunch in the field. My grandmother would take leftovers (ham and biscuit, tenderloin and biscuit, ham and cornbread) and wrap them in waxed paper or a brown paper sack. Aluminum foil had not made it to the Vawter farm in West Tennessee yet. My grandfather would stuff the goodies in the toolbox and take off for the field. After strategically placing two fruit jars full of ice underneath a shade tree, the day of plowing would begin. I would hop on and off the tractor, sometimes untangling roots from the turning plow or chasing baby rabbits along the fence row. The scrumptious smells coming from the toolbox were never far from my nose.

My grandfather would glance up at the sun to make sure it was noon and we would proceed to the shade where the feast would begin. A ham and biscuit cooked for five hours in a tractor toolbox has no epicurean equal. Ice water from a fruit jar on a 90-degree day is the nectar of gods. There's no better luncheon companion than a grandfather for a 10-year old boy who has trouble talking.

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