This month, Roger Evans tells us about the current craze to emblazon tractors with the owner’s name, and why, in days gone by, he preferred to retain a certain amount of anonymity when it came to driving on the public highway.
I remember digesting news of the General Election the morning after. I saw Zac Goldsmith had lost his seat and I thought ‘that is the best thing to come out of the election’.
Mr Goldsmith sits at Defra, and he is a bit like Chris Packham only with more money and influence. Our leader likes to indicate the swing to his party in the north and say ‘the people have spoken’. But if he doesn’t like what they have said about one of his chums, he puts them in the Lords so he can continue at Defra.
It is obvious why contractors would want to put their names and phone numbers on their tractors and their kit. But there now seems to be a fashion for what I call ‘ordinary’ farmers to put their names on their tractors.
This amazes me, as I always wanted to be anonymous when I drove tractors on the road. I’ve always had a somewhat cavalier attitude to lights, indicators and number plates.
The next generation on our farm keeps all those things up-to-date and working. I always used to return home with a tractor and kit and think to myself I had got away with something, which I probably had.
I can never see the point of registering a tractor every year. I can see why they do it when the tractor is new, but after that everyone knows there is no road tax to pay and it must take administrative resource, so why bother? After all, if your tractor is involved in an ‘incident’ it can still be identified, you are hardly going to make a run for it are you?
Anyway there is no such thing as tractor anonymity. If the young lads in the pub hear a tractor coming through the village they can say what make of tractor it is, whose it is and what it has been doing, long before it flashes past the pub windows.
I have also noticed these names mostly appear on a farmer’s newest and biggest tractor. There is something perverse in my nature. My first reaction was that I should put a name on my scraper tractor and give it a weekly spin through the village.
Our scraper tractor is looking worse for wear even by scraper tractor standards so I didn’t go with this idea for long. The front wheel bearings on it are a bit like my knees, they are not suitable for long distances.
But why stop at just a name? There’s a farm I often pass on my travels which has two or three adjoining farms on the same road. Hardly a rare phenomenon these days. These are signposted, Unit 1 and so on. I’ve got three landlords where I live, so really I could say ‘Roger Evans, Brunslow Farms, Unit 4’. But I don’t think I will.
Here’s a story, an old story, but I think it’s a good one. One summer, when I was home from college, I was helping a good friend of mine with some hay making. He had rented a field about five miles away and had cut it and baled it in small bales. We threw two loads off after tea and decided there was still enough light to fetch two more. But there wasn’t.
By the time we had put the two loads on it was getting dark. Then we had a dilemma. There was only one headlight on the one tractor. What were we to do?
About 100 yards from the field gate were some roadworks. These were defined at night by those red oil lamps they used to use, the ones with the hooked handles. We were driving grey fergies, one was TVO and that, along with the oil road lamps, tells you how old this story is.
So we decided to ‘borrow’ two of these road lamps and hang them on the back of one load of hay. We had one light on the front on one tractor and if we drove in convoy, we would have lights front and back. Sort of.
I elected to drive the rear tractor. But this was a mistake. We hadn’t allowed for the fact that the front tractor was faster than the one at the back. By the time we had travelled half-a-mile, there was a 100-yard gap between the two.
By the time we had travelled two miles the front load was out of sight. We had to skirt around a built-up area and this proved to be a blessing, but when that finished the only light I had to see by was the headlights of cars coming the other way.
Still we got home without incident. We certainly got away with something that night. I remember we thought we were very resourceful putting one tractor in front and putting those road lamps on the back.
However, we hadn’t thought through all the detail. I can remember that my biggest fear was that I would go over a bump, and one of the oil lamps would be dislodged and set fire to the hay.