I grew up around equipment. Trucks, tractors, implements, snowmobiles, etc. Old stuff. I was driving an International 100 tractor at age 7, I had to scoot down in the seat in order to depress the clutch all the way. I learned how to double clutch a standard transmission on a 1937 Ford farm truck. I drove a Farmall H tractor around the yard, it was a tricycle version, and I loved to lock one break, turn the wheel all the way over, and just spin around in the gravel driveway. Dad wasn’t a fan of that move. I drove Willy’s Jeeps around the yard. Those were similar to the H tractor in that reverse was all the way to the left and up, instead of the normal to the right and down position. By the time I was in my teens, I was able to drive just about anything. We had a big yard, and I spend hours driving in circles, attempting to go fast enough to get through all the gears in the Willy’s and the 37 Ford. It was easier in the Willy’s because of the low range.
When I was 15, I ended up getting a job on my Uncle’s vegetable farm. He was aware of my ability with equipment. The first day I showed up, as I was waiting for him to come out of the office there were 2 farm hands by an old International 505 tractor. They were migrant laborers from Puerto Rico, and weren’t speaking English. One man was on the tractor, the other was standing next to it. The man on the tractor has got it running and was now attempting to back it away from the barn. He would try a gear, let out the clutch, and the tractor would go forward. He would try another, and the tractor would go forward. Meanwhile the man on the ground was laughing at his inability to get the tractor to back up. After about 6 attempts, the men traded places, and the process repeated itself, with the tractor going forward every time, and the man on the ground laughing at him. Just then my Uncle came out of the office and noticed the 2 clowns trying to drive the tractor. He looked at me and said, “Go get on that tractor and bring it around the back of the cucumber shed.”. So I shrugged my shoulders, and headed over to the tractor. The two men looked at me, this new kid, and gave up the driver’s seat. They looked at each other as if to say “This ought to be good”. I climbed on, put the gear shift to the left and up (the normal position for reverse on these tractors, at least that’s what I hoped) and backed up. I then shifted to 3rd gear, and loped off towards the cuke shed, leaving the two men speechless.
I was feeling pretty happy with myself until I got to the cuke shed and hit the brakes. It turns out this particular tractor didn’t have any to speak of, and managed to run over 2 sections of 6” aluminum irrigation pipes worth about $200 before I stopped. My uncle wasn’t too impressed with that.
I worked on and off at the farm for the next 3 or 4 years. They never did fix the brakes on that tractor.