Losing track of tractors

By Clyde Davis: CNJ Columnist

The other day, as I drove home from work, I noticed that the field of tractors on the Portales road has been greatly reduced in number. Apparently a great many of the old, even antique pieces of farm equipment, informally displayed on that field, have found new homes.

I am not surprised that they were rather quickly adopted. Each one of them, in some way, represents a piece of High Plains farming heritage. In fact, having grown up in Pennsylvania, far from here, I would also say that many of them represent a piece of farming heritage in general, as they looked very familar.

Unfortunately, the several junkyards that exist, a couple of football fields away in the direction of Clovis have, not been moved.

That seems important because the reason given for asking the owner of the tractors to take down his machinery had to do with pristining and cleaning up the entrances to the county. I personally never considered the field of tractors an eyesore. It was, in contrast, an interesting place to show out of town visitors,very much akin to the windmill collection in Portales.

As previously mentioned, visitors from Pennsylvania enjoyed spotting some very familar pieces of farm machinery, as related to ones from our part of the country.Perhaps this entire piece is spurred by nostalgic memories of riding on the back of my uncle’s tractor, or of learning, even before puberty, how to drive that same machine.

Perhaps it is spurred by something deeper.

Do we really want to abandon our roots, just because ranches and farms nowdays rely just as much on the Internet as any other business does? Do we really want to pretend that those historic tractors — or Santa Fe railroad diesel engines — or stocky, tightly muscled cutting horses-are not somehow integral to the heritage of the area?

And just who are we trying to impress? Who doesn’t want to know this community has agriculture for shoulders ?

Maybe I shouldn’t say we. This is my adopted home. But by way of analogy, I grew up in Western Pennsylvania. The steel mills of today — the few still working — are much different than the ones of 75 years ago. Many of them, in the towns that dot the rivers, are no longer working.

Some of those- actually a fair number of them — have been turned into something else. In some cases, they are openly historic, honoring the men and women who worked in the steel industry during its prime. In other cases, they are commercial buildings, still keeping the external appearance.

At some point, the analogy between a building and a tractor breaks down. Perhaps, though, my point is still valid. A piece of history, giving perspective and perhaps enlightenment, to passersby, is not the same as a junkyard.

So who are we trying to impress?

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: