Most pre-teen girls celebrate their birthdays with sleepovers, pool parties, or shopping at the mall. Not I.
For my 12th birthday on October 5, 2006, my Dad “gave” me the exciting yet nerve-racking gift of driving his 1486 International tractor about 10 miles down the road.
Unlike modern tractors, this older-style tractor was equipped with a manual gear shifter that posed major problems for an 80 pound girl hardly tall enough to reach the clutch, let alone simultaneously shift between sticky gears.
Of course, I was not left completely alone. Dad and my older brother Rob drove ahead of and behind me in other machinery. I had driven this tractor in the field before, but never on road in high. My chattering teeth let me know how terrified I felt.
After turning onto the gradual, sloping hill at 1012 Lumber Avenue, I methodically followed my dad’s shifting instructions. “Pull the TA back. Push in the clutch all the way. Work quickly so you don’t have to put it in park. Shift into High 2nd, then High 3rd. Give it some throttle. Don’t slip the clutch!”
Immediately, my scrawny arms struggled to jerk the old-school lever into gear. Once I got it in gear, I moved on to the next challenge: letting the clutch out. My heart sank as I heard the engine bog down and sputter to a halt. I killed it on a hill. Awesome.
If we had CB radios in the equipment, I’m sure I called to Dad in a panic. If not, it didn’t take him long to notice that I wasn’t moving. After bringing the old beast back from the dead, Dad lovingly reassured me that I was going to be fine.
Trying to regain my composure, I wiped away my tears and tried again, only to fail once more. At this point, every shred of my dignity was gone. By some miracle, I managed to eventually get the thing going. When I finally arrived at the other farm unscathed, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who breathed a sigh of relief.
All in a (birth)day’s work for a 12 year old.