It happened back in the 1900′s ( my 7 year old son likes to say that I am from back in the 1900′s). A post war boom was taking place in the 1950′s some would say America was growing up. Not that glamour started at this time, for it had long since been around. What I shall now attempt to do for you, the reader is weave a tail of interesting historical fact around an ever thickening plot. A plot in which what was once sensational has now been traitorously stripped of its intrinsic uniqueness, a story of the graying out of America! Is style dead? We shall attempt to find out!
Last evening, as I was making a turn in the vineyard, preparing to mow the creeping red fescue growing between another long row of Noiret hybrid grapes, a cataclysmic event took place. My old faithful tractor, a friend of the family for over a decade, blew up! It didn’t explode per se, however a highly pressurized hydraulic component sprung a leak that drained the reservoir leaving the tractor incapacitated. Seeing that I was not going to be able to finish my chores for the evening I retired to the house with a grim fealing that the old boy might just be on life support ………beep………….beep………..beep. So, what to do next, scour the internet for a hydraulic filter housing and seal kit to fit a 1956 Minneapolis Moline 335 with live pto, high compression engine, 2 speed torque amplifier and cigarette lighter, chrome headlamps comfort ride seat and power steering? Or………..consider looking for a more modern vineyard cruiser with EPA tier 4 compliant emission rating, paint and plastic cupholder. Now enter thoughts of the long drive to the vets office to euthanize a loved one in pain. Could I really do it? Subject the 335 to a public health care death panel. Sorry, MM 335 serial number 10A 3343352 we can’t afford to replace your worn parts, here’s an oxycodeine to take on the way to the scrap yard, “ But kind sir my heart still beats strongly revvvvv, revvvvv see. ” Yes, but your old fashioned and you don’t have a catalytic converter, your exhaust is releasing carbon manoxide and that hydraulic leak contaminated 43 acres of soil that must now go to a landfill. I can envision the poor little tractor, inhaling the pain killer through it’s air cleaner and drifting off to a better place and time, back when it was still loved.
The Everly Brothers were crooning, “All I have to do is Dream” on the AM radio of the single rear axle B model Mack tractor trailor as it pulled into the stylishly decorated equipment dealership in Minerva, Ohio. The driver carefully folded down the ramps on his trailor, and with great admiration for the gleeming “Prairie Gold” paint turned the key of the new 335 tractor, and drove it past the line of used equipment. The little tractor respectfully tipped his muffler to the MM comfortractor parked in the used row. He had heard about his predecessors of which the Comfortractor, a 1938 model, was a grandfather of style in it’s own right. The first farm tractor to sport a cab, it was capable of road speeds and delivered many well to do farmers to church Sunday mornings even when other cars couldn’t make it because of bad weather. The driver, having parked the 335 in the row of new equipment, pulled out of the lot, this time The Diamonds were playing The Stroll.
Time went by and soon MM, the world’s finest machinery, was being upstaged and undercut, soldout and diluted. I could fathom the reasons why but they would be too numerous to mention. Several mergers took place and the company struggled, but the promo people at Moline did come back for a while. Why? Style.
Take this ad for example. That’s right Eva Gabor advertising for MM in the 70′s. When was the last time you saw Gisele Bundchen using seductive inuendo to woo unsuspecting vineyard owners into spending their hard earned dollars on a new tractor. Not today! Gisele’s publicist would never allow such a thing even if she had been in Green Acres.
But as is the case with many succesful businesses, eventually, many succumb. These days the Corporation known as Minneapolis Moline is just a ghost. It still haunts many farms with the sound of it’s high compression, low rpm engines and old farmers long since retired to the porch or the nursing home still here the echo in their ears of spring mornings spent plowing from the seat of a young, healthy, strong, vibrant machine with a complexion of prairie gold.
Is style dead? Could be………………… Today I brought a demo tractor home from a nearby dealership. Does it have style? I am not sure. It does have a blue plastic hood, an emissions compliant engine, four wheels and flasher lights and a fully functioning hydraulic system. The engine is made by Shibaura, Japanese I think. Possibly assembled in Italy. The tires appear to be made in India.
The dealer was kind enough to let me demo the machine for a while, ” a really good tractor he said.” I’m wondering if it will last until 2076. After all, the MM335 that I currently have, lasted 64 years. Hmmmm.
Will the antique tractor, assuming it were to have the necessary transplant, lend itself to more interesting wine as an end result? Will the new no frills tractor perform more efficiently in the vineyard?
Ahh the trials and tribulations of growing grapes.