The British Tractor

The old Leyland was parked on a front lawn along our road throughout June and July of last year.  I don’t remember a for sale sign on it, but it didn’t need one.  It was too ugly for the owner to have intended it to be part of the landscaping.

big bucket

 So I turned up my nose when Albert expressed a desire to buy it.  Its shine had long since worn away, yet it was too new to have rounded lines and antiquated charm like our little Ferguson.

Red Fergusen

A homemade wooden box filled with concrete hung from the Leyland’s three-point hitch so that it wouldn’t nosedive from the weight of the gargantuan forks and bucket on the front.  To my mind, the machine was without a single redeeming aesthetic quality – that is, until Albert mentioned that Leyland tractors are made in Britain.

This new bit of information so offhandedly disclosed obliged me to take a closer look at the tractor.  Why, those tires – begging your pardon – those tyres may well have borne the Leyland over Scottish highlands, hauled loads of peat from Irish bogs to a cozy farmhouse inglenook or even transported grain to be fed to the queen’s cows (Queen Elizabeth is a raw milk aficionado).  By the time Albert gave the man our money, I was convinced that we owned quite the most romantic piece of farm machinery this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

That is, until he proceeded to drive it home.  I followed him in my car just in case our new and unproven tractor should break down on the way.  Providence didn’t bless me with such an event, however.  As soon as the engine turned over and she roared off down the highway, potent diesel fumes began to pour out of the muffler.  Most tractors give off lots of exhaust, but this one could have won a prize.  The fumes floated to the grill of my car, wriggled through the rad, crawled through the vents and regaled me with sulfur dioxide and trioxide, farming and industry’s revision of Chanel N° 5.

If Albert smelled it, he didn’t seem bothered by it.  He was the picture of contentment and pride as he bounced along at a noisy twenty kilometers per hour under the hot August sun.

puffing home_edited-1

Three-quarters of the way home, I had enough.  I pulled out, passed the tractor and gunned it for home, leaving Albert to fend for himself should our smelly offshore acquisition leave him stranded at the wayside.

He made it home okay, with only one problem: so did the Leyland.

I’ve shoveled all manner of animal waste in my day: chicken manure, cow, sheep and rabbit manure.  I’ve stepped barefoot into a steaming cow patty the consistency of mashed butternut squash; if the manure spreader is hooked up to the tractor’s PTO, I am pelted with flying cow dung when I overzealously crank the throttle.  I can handle that.  It’s organic; it’s natural.  But if I’m caught in the barn with Albert when he starts up the Leyland, its pungent diesel fumes drive me out the nearest door.  There’s nothing natural about inhaling vapor that’s made to start an engine by exploding under heat and pressure.

scarf

Albert loves the stinky thing though, which means I may be stuck with it for a long time to come.  For my sake, he did some investigating to find out why the tractor smokes so badly.  His conclusion:  “That’s just how Leylands are made.”

 magnum 018

Yet Canada produces higher levels of CO2 than Britain does.  This leads me to suspect that our tractor never crossed Scottish highlands, hauled loads of Irish peat or fed the queen’s cows at all.  I’d wager that Leyland builds their tractors in Britain and then ships them across the ocean post-haste so that they don’t have to smell them.  I guess that’s our job.

 

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