It wasn’t long before my explorations of the Hollick’s farm led me to their utility shed. This was a small wooden building, perhaps 20 feet wide that reminded me of a barn. I knew that the green “John Deere” garden tractor lived inside and I wanted to see it.
The door of the shed wasn’t locked, so I slipped inside carefully. Compared to the bright mid-day sun outside, the interior of the shed seemed almost pitch black at first. As my eyes adjusted to the relative darkness, I started feeling pretty pleased with myself for not having been noticed.
I saw the garden tractor parked in the middle of the shed floor, and next to it was something I had never seen before: an old motorcycle. It was dark and quiet inside the shed, and the odours of gasoline and oil were pretty strong. I monkeyed around with the tractor’s controls a little, imagining that I was driving it around the yard all by myself. But after a few moments, I was becoming more curious about the motorbike. I had never actually seen one before, so I spent some long moments contemplating it’s many different shapes, surfaces, and textures.
Then I made my big mistake…
By hopping up, I was able to stand with one foot on the tractor and the other foot on the motorbike’s foot peg. To my delight, I found that bouncing up and down made the bike rock a little on it’s stand. Unfortunately, I rocked once too hard, and before I knew what had happened, the bike came off it’s kick stand, fell over and pinned me against the side of the garden tractor! It knocked the wind completely out of me. Being only about four, I pretty much figured that this was how I was going to die, so I did the natural thing: I panicked and yelled for all I was worth! After a moment or two, my sorry bleating was heard from the house, and Dad and Murray came to see what the hell was going on. Dad was pretty worried that I’d been seriously hurt, and I was whisked off to the living room floor for damage assessment.
It was quickly determined that nothing was seriously wrong with me (physically if not mentally anyway), so of course now I started to get in trouble for my mischief. Dad was pretty angry, and I was embarrassed like nobody’s business. After that, I resolved to leave the utility shed and its contents alone forever.
Dinner time at the Hollick’s place was even better than breakfast! I remember us eating out of doors along some long tables located by the vegetable garden. Just like at breakfast, there was a large amount of food all over the table: rolls, potato salad, and tomatoes fresh from their garden. Chomping down happily on a big ear of corn, I forgot all about the disaster with the tractor and the evil motorbike.
At night time, Kim and I shared a bedroom on the top floor of the house. Most nights we would chatter the time away until we fell asleep, but one night, we heard the sound of a big vehicle in the distance. We both ran to the window, brimming with curiosity. It was a clear night, and the moonlight shone brightly over the fields outside. We quickly spotted the source of the noise – it was the oldest of the Hollic’s big dump trucks.
Mr. Hollick owned two dump trucks: a shiny new red one named “Fargo”, and a dirty old yellow one named “Jimmy”. I remembered Jimmy particularly well because it had this weird “old truck” smell: a curious mix of diesel, dust and old upholstery. Jimmy also had a driver’s-side door that would stick shut at the worst times. Kim and I found this out once the hard way when she climbed into Jimmy’s cab and I slammed the door shut behind her. She screamed her face off while I tugged frantically at Jimmy’s door, finally getting it open.
Anyway, there we were in the bedroom window, watching Jimmy noisily tool along the access road bearing a full load of wheat. Our window was of the older type that was hinged at the bottom, and opened in. This made for a handy platform, and we both leaned on it as we peered out the window to get a better look at Jimmy.
All of a sudden, the glass gave way and Kim and I found ourselves amidst a great pile of broken shards. Kim shrieked and I felt my heart rise in my throat as I imagined the consequences of this latest accident. It was at this point that I, as a little kid, wanted to remove myself from blame as quickly as possible. When Sally, Mum, and Dad burst into the room, we immediately received a string of scalding verbiage proportionate to the magnitude of our predicament. If only I could have been more articulate – perhaps blaming the inferior grade glass pane, or pointing a finger at the window manufacturing industry for not yet inventing double-glazed windows. But alas, I was only four years old. When faced with the question “What happened up here?!?”, all I could come up with was “The window broke”. Rats.
I was never sure what Dad actually did on the Hollic’s farm. I knew it had something to do with farming and perhaps something to do with wheat (my four year old brain at work). It seemed that I needed more information.
When we got to Dad’s tractor, he lifted me up into the cab, and I saw the most wonderful thing I’d ever laid eyes on. It was a little black padded leather seat just like the one Dad had, but smaller! Dad had installed it just for me so I could see what he was doing and still have a good look at everything outside. I was thrilled to have a box seat for the afternoon’s events.
Once I was belted in, Dad fired the tractor up and the whole cab was filled with the loud roar of its big diesel engine. You had to yell pretty darn loud to be heard, which Dad did as he told me what we were going to do that day. Our tractor towed a set of blades that would cut down all the wheat like a big lawn mower. We would go straight from one end of the field to the other, and then would turn around and go back to the other end to cut down the next row.
After about a half an hour of this, we saw Murray Hollic coming the other way in a nearby row. I waited for Murray to look at us, whereupon I would wave – I had it all planned out. But Murray never looked up. Then I saw why: he was wearing headphones and was watching soap operas on a little portable television inside his tractor! I was amazed that he could do this while driving a tractor! All this seemed so routine to Murray, and it struck me as quite odd, since I was about as excited as the family dog out for a Sunday drive. I was fascinated by all the controls, noises, sights, and smells, so Murray’s lack of enthusiasm in the fascinating world of wheat tractoring seemed weird to say the least. I asked Dad about it and he said “Murray likes the soaps”, and that he does it all the time. Murray’s a good driver too, I decided.
After having seen the Jimmy doing a late-night haul and watching how wheat got harvested from the field, I wanted to know where they took it in those big dump trucks. Sure enough, Dad soon took me with him on his next trip to the grain elevator. This time Dad was driving “Fargo”, the newer of the Hollic’s two trucks. Fargo was not only newer than it’s older sibling “Jimmy”, but bigger, brighter, cleaner, and better-smelling too. I can’t quite explain Fargo’s novelty, but there was just something cool about riding in the “new truck”. Maybe some kind of Hollic family pride had rubbed off on me… it really did smell a lot better though.
When we got to the grain elevator I was at somewhat of a loss. I could not see anything that looked like an elevator at all – just a big square building thing that was painted blue. It looked like it was a billion feet high to me, and I was pretty awe-struck by the sight of it however. Looking back now, this was probably the closest I will ever get to experiencing what those prehistoric characters in “2001: A Space Odyssey” felt when they saw the big black monolith for the first time. Except, they didn’t dump a big load of wheat down a grate in front of their monolith and then drive off in a Fargo.