Several weeks ago, Ray let me know that he’d driven by a house in Ojai where there was an old tractor for sale out front. Now, those of you who know Ray are aware that he loves old things, and he has a special place in his heart for old vehicles, hence our ownership of a 1964 Studebaker truck and a 1970 Ford C700 cab over blue truck. My question after a long sigh was, “Any chance it runs?” Ray’s response, which is quintessential Ray was, “Does it matter?” As an expert in Ray-dom after 38 years of marriage, I know this means, “Isn’t it good enough that it’s just so cool?” I shrugged. “I’d really like it if it actually ran.”
Enough said. Standoff.
Ray: “Would you like to see it?”
Len: “Sure. Let’s go.” (I figured I could at least do that much.)
I called and arranged to see the owner at 6 that evening. We went over to the house and saw the old tractor, which was a 1953 TO-30 Ferguson. Yes, it was cool. We went up to the door and knocked. An older woman answered. “My husband’s not here now,” she said, “but will be here at noon tomorrow.” We said, “We’ll come back then.”
The next day, the man was there. He had a long white beard, bright blue eyes, and a body stooped from age. He introduced himself as Gary and hobbled out to where the tractor was. We looked it over and Gary told us there were accessories that went with it: a plow, a disc and blade, but they were at his friend’s house. We were now both excited. That was even better. We offered to buy it, but Gary looked hesitant. “I don’t want to sell the tractor unless it’s running.” We looked at him, at each other and then back at him. I said, “Do you have a timeline in mind on making that happen?” Gary shrugged. How about next week?” We nodded, surprised. “Okay, next week.”
We went home, drove by the next week, saw no progress on the tractor, called, left a message, no response. I went back by at Ray’s urging only to have Gary’s wife and daughter come to the door and say he was sick because he’d been working on the tractor out in the heat. I couldn’t tell them that I saw Gary in the far back of the house practically running out of the room to avoid me. “Okay,” I said, “but please tell him we don’t care if it’s running. We are very serious about wanting to buy it.” (At this point, I was just ready for this to be over.) The daughter took my number down. I noted as I went back to the car that the tractor didn’t appear to have been touched.
Another week went by, then yesterday:
We drove by and saw the For Sale sign was off the tractor.
Ray: “Would you mind calling and asking about the tractor just one more time?”
Len: “They have our number. Maybe he took the sign down so we’ll stop bothering him. Or maybe he’s one of those guys who doesn’t want to talk to a woman about mechanical stuff. Maybe it’s better if you call.”
Ray: “Okay. Give me the number. I’ll call.”
Len: “Do you want me to try one more time?”
Ray: “Yes. Please.”
Oh, dear Lord…
I called. The daughter answered the phone and I let her know I was the woman interested in the tractor. (How did this happen? I didn’t want another piece of yard art.)
The daughter called her dad who got on the phone. I said, “Could we come by again and talk about the tractor?”
“It’s pretty late and I can’t get the accessories tonight.”
“How about we come by and pay you and get the tractor and accessories next week?”
“I’ll need cash money.”
“We’ll be there in fifteen minutes with cash.” (I had accepted that this was a gift to Ray to make him happy.)
Gary chuckled, “Yes, that’s just fine.”
On the way over Ray said, “Maybe I’ll offer less since it’s not running.”
“Personally, I’d offer the full price and get the accessories he’s mentioned. That way we can get this thing done. But you do what you want.”
We arrived. Gary met us at the door. Ray said, “So, we’ll pay you the price you’re asking.”
Gary nodded and we headed out to where the tractor was parked. Once there, Gary slid the key into the ignition and turned it. The engine coughed a couple of times then started right up. We looked at each other in shock, then at Gary, who was smiling.
“Oh, wow, “ I said. “I never expected you’d get it running! Your wife said you’d been sick.”
Ray grinned. “I believe I need to shake your hand.”
Gary shook Ray’s hand and mine, then said, “I just didn’t want to sell you a pig in a poke.”
At that point, Gary’s grandson came out. “We aired up the tires this afternoon too. We’ve been working on it since we knew you were coming back.”
We chatted for a while about tractor parts, then arranged to meet up again in the next few days and drive the tractor back to the land. Gary’s going to work on the alternator between now and then.
As we are driving away, I said, “Thank god we called back. After all that work, they would have been so disappointed. And here I thought Gary was avoiding us.”
Ray laughed. “I think he’s just one of those old guys who takes pride in fixing things and doesn’t want to sell something that isn’t running. He told me he’d worked as a mechanic all his life.”
“I, for one, feel better about mankind in general,” I said.
“Me, too,” Ray said.
Now Ray gets his cool tractor and I get one that actually works.
Hooray for Gary!