Favorite Memory of Dad

What’s your favorite memory of your Dad?

Go-Kart Project
Go-Kart Project

When I was five or six, I loved to ride the tractor with Dad, especially when working the soil. I would run down the lane from the school bus, change my clothes and wait in the field for Dad to come around. Most of the farming was done with the red Farmall Model M, which Dad bought new in 1948. The Farmall had no fenders, so I sat on Dad’s lap while riding with him. He would let me steer the tractor while we were on a straight line across the field. I was proud of my ability to “drive” the tractor straight and true, although making turns would need to wait until my arms were stronger, as power-steering was not yet invented.

Dad was doing quite a lot of reseeding in those years — plowing, disking, rolling, floating and seeding. These tasks were usually done in the spring when the soil was moist and dust was minimal. The air smelled of fresh, moist dirt, and the open air felt good on my face.

Driving tractor with Dad also introduced me to the male mode. The weather wasn’t always balmy and pleasant and the ground was not always smooth and easy. Tractor drivers were expected withstand sudden rains, cold winds, rugged fields, and natural obstacles to farming, without stopping or complaining. I learned how to be stoic without ever hearing the word.

Later, at eight or nine, I was considered old enough to drive a tractor by myself, but I still enjoyed riding with Dad. By that time we had an Oliver Model 77, and I would sit beside Dad on the fender just to enjoy his silent companionship going round and round in the field. I learned about operating farm machinery easily because it fascinated me. Dad trusted me, even when he probably shouldn’t have. I was disappointed that he rarely complimented my skills, but Mother reported compliments he had stated to neighbors, and that helped.

I appreciated Dad’s attempts to teach me useful skills in his shop as well.

When I was about twelve, go-kart racing was all the rage in Roseburg and I dreamed of being a go-kart racer. Dad suggested we could build a go-kart as a learning experience and I liked the idea of building it together.

We started with four wheels, clutch,  sprocket, and drive-chain from Sears-Roebuck. We borrowed a gasoline engine from a haphazard and worn-out lawn mower. We fashioned a frame from angle-iron bed rails and created axles from round stock. Bicycle handlebars were added for steering, and various parts as required were formed from Dad’s metal scrap pile. Too young for welding, I was able to help with filing, shaping, bending, drilling and painting.

The worst part of our project was that we worked after dark in a farm shop building that was uncomfortably cold. This cut our work time short and the project seemed to drag on all winter.

The finished go-kart was fun. It could be driven on gravel lanes and fields at speeds of about 10 to 15 miles per hour. I thought it was underpowered, but lobbying for a more powerful engine failed. Dad apparently thought it was fast enough to keep young drivers out of trouble and had no interest in pushing the envelope.

The little go-kart lasted for several years and even my little sister Annie enjoyed practicing driving skills, after I had left for college.