Historic preservation is everywhere. Appreciation for our past is comforting to find beyond our typical conversations, meetings and writings. Recently I found preservation in a unexpected place, from someone who is not a preservationist by trade, schooling, self proclamation, or profession, yet it can easily speak to preservationists. Presenting a video and its companion essay shared by the talented Bus Huxley. I could not give Bus nor his work the introduction they deserve, so read on and enjoy the video. I recommend that you watch, read, watch.
A few years ago I was care-taking an old farm when I came across the chronological collection of the N-news. This is a quarterly publication dedicated to Ford and Ferguson tractors from the middle part of the last century. I poured over each magazine, starting from the earliest and looking forward to the next installment as a kid anticipates the new issue of a comic book. Hidden in these pages were countless tips for maintenance, improvements, operation techniques and a detailed and rich history of Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson’s brilliant and tumultuous partnership and collaboration. I was eager to glean as much information about the first machine I ever piloted while perched on my dad’s lap at seven years old.
At its essence, my 1945 Ford 2n is a combination of simple machines working together to make hard jobs easy. I stopped in to milk an old timer at his Ford shop for sage mechanical consultation in northern Vermont one snowy afternoon. After dolling out the solution to my problem, he began to wax on about the year 1942, when he and his brother were dairy farmers, and had always used horses. The look in his face as he described the vast improvement in their two lives upon purchasing a Ford 9n for the farm was fantastic. They no longer needed to grow ten more acres of hay for their pulling power. When the tractor went to sleep, it did not need to eat or drink, and it could lift massive weight with an ingenious hydraulic lift mounted on the back of the rig.
Operating this tractor most of my life, I’ve mown countless acres of field, twitched endless cords of firewood from the forest, moved piles of rocks, pushed tons and tons of snow, and trailered decades of split firewood into the barn for the winter. It’s also taught me how to work within very specific parameters of power and ability. This is by no means the strongest machine in the world, and two wheel drive has some limitations, but with careful planning and gentle throttle manipulation, the old Ford/Ferguson can do all I ever ask of it. And I can fix it! Anything on it, no matter what, can be mended. I have no idea what kind of steel or magic alloy this was made of, but there is not a bolt on it that won’t thread out if I ask it. There is practically no rust on it, and its been outside for 70 years!
Don’t get me wrong and chalk me up as some nostalgic troglodyte, wishing for the good old days. I love the internet in my pocket, connected to my telephone that also has the sharpest camera I own, but I also love a well designed, innovative and wonderfully overbuilt contraption like the old Ford tractors. I’ll own this rig for the rest of my life, and look forward to working together whenever we get the chance.
Thank you, Bus!