I feel like hugging my old Mr. Massey
He stood outside all winter, the coldest on record in this area, so cold municipal water pipes froze by the hundreds leaving thousands of people in this area without running water for days and even weeks on end.
Owen Sound has asked for disaster relief from the provincial government to help pay the “unprecedented” million-dollar-plus cost of coping with and fixing the problem, including repaving streets that have been dug up to repair frozen and broken water mains.
A member of my family passing through downtown Owen Sound commented, “there’s sure a lot of construction going on” in the city. Eyes widened when I explained it was “all about frozen water lines.”
It’s much the same in other area towns and villages. I drive through to Wiarton and Lion’s Head on a regular basis and watched pavement being broken and holes being dug by public works crews in constant, virtual arctic conditions.
Whether they were municipal employees or, in those two communities, Ontario Clean Water Agency workers, they were heroes toiling away for long hours, day after day in those conditions to get the water running again or keep it running.
Those folks deserve some kind of special public expression of thanks for their special efforts.
Mr. Massey, my old Massey-Harris 22 tractor, was left parked outside beside the house. I must confess I left my old friend there in case someone from much further south in Bruce County who had expressed an interest in buying him made me the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse. I’ve acquired another tractor after all, a newer Mr. Massey Too, you might say; or Junior, ’cause he’s younger after all.
So there the old boy sat all the cold winter long. Even then he had a function, acting like a virtual snow gauge, as it steadily rose up to cover his front tires, and the better part of the big rear wheels. It wasn’t that long ago that it finally melted away and I could think about starting him up, if that was even possible.
He was a sorry sight: Big patches of faded, red paint peeling off, one front tire almost flat, and no battery because I had removed it for safe-keeping out of the very sub-zero cold. It wouldn’t take a charge. No surprise there; I knew it was weak and on its last legs. So I scavenged the battery from my old Ford Ranger, put it on the charger for a few hours, then connected it to Mr. Massey.
The sun was shining down as I put some fresh gas in his tank, flicked on the toggle switch and pressed his starter button, just to turn him over a bit to get the gas flowing through the old carburetor. I figured it was most likely gunked up with old gas. I didn’t even pull the choke on.
And my old friend started up, just like that, right away, in no more than a second or two. Not only that he purred like a kitten, as if to say, “oh, gosh, that feels good.”
Mr. Massey is 69 years old. He has broken and cultivated more ground, for me and his previous owner than I can imagine; he has sunk in Lion’s Head Harbour and lived to tell the tale. And now he has survived the coldest winter in living memory.
All he needs is his annual oil change and he’ll be ready for more work in the front field where the spring sun is warming up the soil, for a new crop of veggies.
There’s hope in the air, thanks in no small part to a faithful old tractor with a ton of spirit who just keeps going, and going, and going.
Sorry Gary, if you’re there and maybe still thinking about it; but I’m really glad I didn’t sell him. He’s too good a friend, and I need him.
Originally published in The Sun Times in 2015.
“Mr. Massey” readers may be interested in Legacy Quarterly, a magazine devoted to “Preserving the Legacy of the Massey Harris Ferguson Line.”