I grew up on a farm but it would be a pretty big stretch to call me a farmer.
I can handle a tractor or a combine, shovel grain like a champ and I don’t mind occasionally getting elbow-deep in engine oil or hydraulic fluid.
But nowadays, I prefer to tackle that kind of work on more of a part-time basis.
Over the years, I have drifted toward a slightly less labourious — though no less demanding — line of work in the newspaper industry.
I guess you could say I’m the ‘city kid’ of the family, but I still maintain a strong connection to my farming roots.
My grandpa Leo spent nearly all of his life farming through the toughest times our country has ever seen.
With back-breaking effort and determination, he and his family scraped out a living on the often-unforgiving Alberta Prairies.
Thanks to his grit and perseverance, the Paré name has remained in an area where many names have come and gone.
With his sight and hearing nearly gone and his strength failing, Grandpa Leo spent his last couple of years in a hospital. Right up until his dying day, he spoke as if he planned to return to farming “as soon as the damn doctors fixed his eyes.”
Despite the wear and tear from decades of unimaginably hard living, Grandpa Leo toughed it out to 88 years old before passing away in 2004.
While helping dad around the farmyard a little while ago, I made a remark about the resiliency of our beat-up 1970 Massey-Ferguson 1130, which launched dad into a lengthy story about how the old tractor came to the Paré farm.
In the early 1970s, Grandpa was in need of a bigger tractor. The old 1950-something Massey-Harris (the farm’s only tractor at the time) was on her last legs.
Newer models were beyond his modest price range, so Grandpa had been browsing the used-equipment lots. He thought he’d found a good deal on a well-used machine in Lloydminster and took out a hefty bank loan to pay for it.
But before making the deal in Lloydminster, Dad and Grandpa went to an auction sale in Provost, where they first laid eyes on the 120-horsepower 1130.
Grandpa had never owned a tractor with lights and a cab before and he assumed the almost-new Massey-Ferguson was far beyond his budget.
My dad, knowing that he’d be logging some serious hours on whatever machine was purchased, liked the idea of a heated, dust-proof cab, so he urged Grandpa to put in a bid.
Not wanting to be embarrassed, Grandpa was reluctant, but after some coaxing from Dad he shouted out a bid for $7,000 — certain the tractor would sell to someone else for much more.
The auctioneer yammered on for a few more minutes, then shouted “SOLD!”
Grandpa stood on his toes and scanned the crowd asking, “Who got it?”
Dad replied, “I think you did!”
Fate had cut the old farmer a rare break.
Grandpa’s bid was the only one, so to his surprise and delight he got twice the tractor he’d hoped for — for far less money.
Dad had the honour of driving the new machine home to the farm that afternoon and he recalls Grandpa following in the truck, occasionally passing then falling back so he could admire the tractor from all angles.
For many years, the 1130 was the Paré farm’s crown jewel and No. 1 workhorse.
Now, almost 40 years later, she’s a bit worse for wear but the old engine still purrs like a big angry kitten.
Too small and too underpowered for most of our modern implements, the 1130 has been semi-retired to strictly auger duty, where she’ll likely remain until that old diesel motor finally stops ticking.
After hearing Dad’s story, I definitely look at that old Massey with a greater sense of fondness and nostalgia.
To the casual observer, it’s just another beat-up old tractor, but to our family it’s a time capsule, a heirloom and a monument to our family history. It’s got some hard hours on it, but just like the man who owned it, the ol’ 1130 has more than paid its dues.
Neither time, rust nor the latest advancement in farming technology can take the place that tractor had in my Grandpa’s heart and my family’s memories.
Leo Paré is the Advocate’s online editor.