My Life

The Farm Chronicles – Part 1

Growing up on a farm was pretty interesting. When I look back on it now, the things that excited me back then seem pretty strange to this “city boy” now.

Back in the pre-Internet days, I loved when the Western Ontario Farm newspaper would show up in the mail as well as the other tractor and farm equipment papers.

As a kid, I would scan the farm paper classifieds, looking at all the tractors for sale and occasionally we would visit a tractor dealership to check them out.

Right around 1992 or 1993, it came time to get a “new” tractor. At the time, we had a Massey Ferguson 275 with a loader. This was a respectable tractor but it was getting older so Dad thought it was time to start looking around for something else.

What you have to understand about growing up on the farm, is that tractors can be a status symbol, especially to the kids. Having a nice tractor is like having a nice car.

Our tractor looked very much like the one pictured here:

As the hunt for a new tractor started, I had my eye on something like this:

A John Deere to a farmer is like a BMW or Lexus to a city person. Of course, I figured we needed to get a John Deere tractor and we should upgrade to something with a cab, with air conditioning, a radio, and it should also be 4 wheel drive.

I knew what we needed. And the cost…well…it was somewhere around $30,000+ to get a nice used tractor with all of those options. When you’re 14 years old, numbers don’t mean much. $15,000, $20,000…they’re all just numbers on a page. I figured my parents must have enough to get something nice.

So – I put my order in with my Dad and tried to convince him of why we needed a nice John Deere, 4 wheel drive tractor with a cab and a loader. I pleaded my case over and over and was informed that Dad would keep my recommendations in mind when it came time to buy.

Then one day Dad went tractor shopping without me, while I was at school.

I came home and he told me he had purchased a tractor and that it would arrive in a few days.

I was excited!

He went on to tell me that it was indeed a 4 wheel drive tractor, it did have a cab and a loader. It also had just 700 hours on it, which if you don’t know, is like buying a car that has about 10,000 kms on it. Practically brand new.

I asked what kind it was. Was it a John Deere? And if not a John Deere, it must be a Massey Ferguson, Case or maybe a New Holland?

Dad told me it was a “Belarus” which was a brand I had never heard of before. Because the internet wasn’t available, I couldn’t just look it up, so I scanned the farm papers that we had at home and I wasn’t able to find ANY tractors of the same brand.

But, it had a cab, loader and was 4 wheel drive. This thing is going to be so cool. I’ll be able to tell the kids at school about our new tractor – or so I thought.

Then the day arrived and our “new” tractor came in the driveway on a flatbed trailer.

Surely this was a mistake.

Was THIS really the tractor Dad bought? The picture below is the same model, except ours had a loader. This had to be the strangest looking tractor I had ever saw.

It was square, boxy, and tall. Sure enough…it did have a loader and a cab and it was 4 wheel drive. What I learned is that this tractor was actually CHEAPER than the tractor we had just sold.

There was a reason why the old Belarus was less expensive.

For the first season of ownership, it rarely started in the winter, so we weren’t able to plow the driveway. We did get that solved by upgrading the electrical system eventually.

The owners manual and all the gauges inside were in Russian. We had to guess what the picture was showing or what the gauges were telling us.

And it was very narrow. I hated driving it unless the ground was absolutely flat, otherwise it felt like it was going to tip over.

The cab was nice in the winter as a way to keep you out of the wind and cold and it did have a heater, but summer was another story. There was no air conditioning and the fan only seemed to ever blow hot air. The best solution in summer was to drive with both doors and the windows open. It was HOT!

Dad was able to put up with this tractor for several years, before moving to something more conventional again. It did give us a few good laughs though. Not many people in our area had a Russian tractor!

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