We lost another piece of our hearts last week.
After more than seven years, we still have a hard time parting with any of Dad's things. This is very evident when you walk through the sun porch door of my parents' home. Three pairs of my dad's size 13 shoes are still underneath the white wicker love seat. My mom did give away most of his clothes, but for the most part, Dad's "stuff" is still very evident throughout my parents' home, from his hats hanging on his mounted deer head's antlers in the living room to his Hank Williams singing/dancing doll on a bedroom dresser, that we still hit the button to hear him sing, "Born to Boogie," a part of Dad's own philosophy.
One of my dad's passions in life was to farm, even though he didn't live on a farm. My parents always had a garden, and it seemed to grow larger year after year. One year he planted 133 tomato plants. My mom was ready to kill him because she never canned so many tomatoes in her life. They couldn't give them away fast enough. She made him promise to never plant that many again.
The corn and potato patches expanded the most. Soon the empty lot behind the house sprouted rows of tall corn stalks and potato plants bloomed. But even that wasn't enough space. He partnered up with Melvin "Pappy" Frable and they planted corn and potatoes in other fields. A cool cellar was built under the garage addition where piles of potatoes were stored, selling them as requested by their customers.
In the beginning, Dad's small Simplicity garden tractor was adequate but as the potato business grew, Dad needed something bigger for the jobs of plowing, sowing, cultivating and harvesting his crops. So in 1979, Dad brought home Allis. She made him a very happy man.
Allis was a second hand 1962 Allis-Chalmers D15. She wasn't exactly pretty. Obviously the tractor was used hard over the years, she showed some wear and tear. A little on the shabby side. Always one to take great care of his vehicles, Allis was no exception, so she received a make-over. She came back from being painted, all bright and shiny, looking almost new. Dad was so proud of her. It was like his inner farmer persona was now complete. And he had a big toy to play with.
We always got a kick out of seeing him plowing or cultivating the carefully tended rows of potatoes, with his ever-present cigar leaving a trail of smoke in his wake.
Allis never sat out in the rain or bad weather. After a hard day's work, Dad washed and cleaned her, and in the garage she went. He thought a lot of that old tractor.
She dug up her last potatoes in 2004. She sat idle in the garage ever since. In the beginning, after Dad was gone, there was no talk about what to do with her. But over the last couple of years, after many difficult discussions on whether or not to try to sell her, we finally decided to find her a new home.
Harry and my dad were very close, like father and son. Harry helped Dad on several occasions with some of the farming.
Last Thursday, Harry washed her for the last time. He drove her to the West End Fairgrounds for the Pocono Old Tyme Farm Equipment consignment sale held on Saturday.
It was a very emotional time for him. He admits shedding several tears on that last ride. When I asked him why he thought it was so hard for him, he said, "Because I couldn't help but remember how happy he was when he was sitting on this tractor."
Saturday at noon, Diane, George and I watched as Harry pulled old Allis into the bidding area. Our greatest fear was, no one would want Allis ... and that someone would want Allis. As the bidding began, I knew we secretly hoped it wouldn't reach what we had set as the lowest bid we would accept.
I gripped Diane's arm as the bids rose higher. Her face showed the distress she was feeling. When we heard the word "Sold!" we both looked at each other in mixed joy and dismay.
"It's just a thing," she said between tears.
Ah. But it was his beloved thing. Therefore, it was our beloved thing.
Harry did everything in his power not to cry as he drove Allis to an area where the new owner would load her up to take her to her new home.
And that too we have mixed feelings about. The gentleman that bought her told me he will give her a good home. He has a museum of farm equipment and she would be on display for others to admire.
"Oh good!" I thought. "She'll be well taken care of. Dad would get a kick out of that." And then another thought occurred to us.
I think Dad would have liked knowing Allis was out there plowing up another row, working hard but doing something useful, providing food for others and maybe giving another guy a lot of happy times sitting on her seat, bouncing along as he contemplates life.
Last night I watched the TV show "Smash." One of its stars, Megan Hilty, sang a song called "Second Hand White Baby Grand." The song is part of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe's life. Marilyn's mother had a second hand baby grand piano and Marilyn said in her biography that she had spent some of her happiest moments around that old piano. She later acquired it and had it painted white. The sentiments of the song really struck a chord in me as I listened to this beautiful song. Here are some of the words:
"Something second hand and broken, still can make a pretty sound, even if it doesn't have a place to live, the words that are left unspoken, now that Mama's not around, but that second hand white baby grand still had something beautiful to give."
I couldn't help but think of my dad and his old second hand tractor and how it still had something beautiful to give ... to him, helped feed others, and gave us just another wonderful memory of Dad.
There's nothing second hand about that.