As a young wife, I found myself in the unique position of being the only person in the position to help my father-in-law during the day when he was building their home. We had moved our mobile home onto their land while we were getting our own land ready to live on. At that time, my father-in-law was leveling an area of land so that he could build the home he planned to build on it. His way of leveling the land was to have me drive the tractor…something I had never done before…while pulling a scoop, guided by him behind it. My first worry was that I would go too fast and end up dragging him behind the tractor. He reassured me that it would be ok, and I knew he needed me to be there for him, so with a pain in the pit of my stomach, I set out. There were a few jerky movements, but in no time, I got the hang of it, and found that we worked well together. It was an experience that I will never forget…for a city girl, who had never driven a tractor, it was…well, amazing!
As I was scanning pictures from my Uncle Bill’s lifelong accounting of our family history, I came across something that made my experience look like learning to ride a bicycle. My Great Aunt Bertha, my Grandpa Spencer’s sister, was raised by a family named Hoover. I don’t know all the reasons behind that situation, but Uncle Bill simply states that she and her mother could not get along. The Hoover family used a steam tractor, and Great Aunt Bertha learned to operate them very well. Today, that might not seem like something so awfully special, but that was back in about 1910, and the girls didn’t do that kind of work much. Nevertheless, there were then, as there are now, people go beyond the normal expectations to do the extraordinary. Great Aunt Bertha was one of those people. She was well known for her ability to operate the steam tractor…so well known, in fact that in 1956, while attending an antique tractor and thresher show, one of the old timers, who knew Great Aunt Bertha, offered to let her take the steam tractor for one last spin.
He didn’t have to offer twice. Great Aunt Bertha jumped at the chance to drive that incredible machine one more time. She got on and drove it like she had never been away from the farm. I suppose that it is like a bicycle in that way. Once you have learned to operate it, you never really forget. So here was Great Aunt Bertha driving around on that old steam tractor again in the year 1956, at the age of 61 years. I would have loved to be there to see that. There were likely men there who would not have been able to run that machine, and here was this little old girl, driving it like she was born there. Amazing!!