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A Story About Dad, his Ford Tractor, Henry, and J.D.

Updated on August 22, 2017
kenneth avery profile image

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.


What this is and what this is not is up to the reader. I would think that this is might be one of two natures of the written hub and this is the first nature: a first-person narrative about a real subject with my real feelings. No smoke. No mirrors. And certainly no flim-flam. I am way too tired to launch into the second nature of the written hub. Sometimes things are just that simp

To add an additional glimmer, this hub written in thesis form takes place during one day of my young and unlearned life at age nine. My family and I lived in the rural community of New Hope, near Hamilton, Alabama, the county seat of Marion County in northwest Alabama. A very sociable locale, but it pays to not be too nosy when it comes to asking more than a moderate amount of unwanted questions when talking to the locals of New Hope. I know. These people although good hearted, hard-working souls, did have that certain type of pride that helps one maintain their self-image.

I remember the very day that this story happened. It was one of the best times of the year. When God created summer vacation for school kids, He knew his work. I loved those days when I would find myself sitting near one of the cotton fields where my dad was sitting atop a Ford tractor and plowing up a storm. I loved that yearly activity. Not because I loved that Ford tractor, but because there was something so prideful about the look on my dad's face when he was doing something like plowing.

But there again, my dad was always seen with this prideful look on his face.

Between my dad and his Ford tractor, I had a tough time keeping a clear thought as I sat in the fresh grass of summer watching each turn of the plow in dad's cotton field, which was not his own field, but the field share-cropped by my dad for (a) Mrs. Verta Dobbs. Maybe it was spelled Virtie. At this juncture I do not really know or care for I have found out that a good hub (or story) can be either messed up or completely lost when too many entanglements of details (weeds to a farmer) are not kept from stories such as this one.

I don't know about how or what you were thinking at age nine, but when I was nine, and again, sitting very still sniffling due to the dust off of the cotton field, I still recall a series of thoughts that somehow came to my thinking and the more I gave each thought a careful inspection, to this very day, I wondered if some exacting act of Providence had placed me in that very place in the fresh summer grass so I could be invisibly baptized by a rather troubling mentality that no nine year old should experience.

This is my most bothersome thought of the many thoughts that seemed to cause me to just dwell on not as much the who, but the why this thought materialized. Should a nine year old American be concerned about it be prudent to purchase a brand-new or slightly-used Ford tractor? And with the keen, rodent-like reflex of what all nine year old's are blessed with, I came up with an astounding discovery. Now even at my young, tender age of nine, I knew enough about Free Enterprise to know that America was growing rich by producing and selling brand-new Ford tractors, when the wise tractor manufacturer would have their tractors undergo a series of strenuous field tests then sell them to farmers, but not have them burdened with an inflated price.

Wouldn't this have been the best way of diverting a thing in the 1980s named Inflation? I mean. If Henry Ford, had just thought about my thinking of selling slightly-used tractors, our country would have not been staring a shaky economy in the short years to come--then, and only then--Ford who owned and ruled the Ford Motor Co., with a prosperous fist would not be forced to lay-off thousands of Ford employees and shut several of his plants as the 1990s kept feeding on my thought of selling just new Ford tractors.

If you were me, do you think that I might have enjoyed an enjoyable visit with the famous Mr. Henry Ford (inventor, Ford Motor Co.) who was standing in his usual dark, three-piece wool suit, vest, watch chain and sharp-toed slippers squatting to sit with me in the fresh summer grass to ask me what the big idea was about my somehow twisted left wing economics.

If this had happened, I know enough to keep my mouth shut. Ford's visage would have been plenty enough to scare me out of what wits that were evident in my life.

Here are just a few of those scary thoughts that I had that kept growing faster and faster almost as it they were racing with my dad on his Ford tractor. In a moment, it was fun, but these thoughts were only fit for a grown man. So I stopped giggling long enough to wave at my dad and keep thinking on my next thought.

As my dad's shiny Ford tractor was zooming around for the 10th round of plowing, another mystery came up in my thoughts. Of course this was perfectly fine seeing that I was sitting near our produce garden that lay adjacent to our rented house also owned by (a) Mrs. Verta (or is it Vertie) Dobbs?

I took to thinking about rutabagas. Have you ever had the pleasure of having one for a dinner? I know that as free as you are in America, you wouldn't dare to eat a rutabaga for breakfast would you? This vegetable although healthy, is not very tasty, but I think it was all about that name: rutabaga. Even the hordes of wild hippies to soon spawn upon our great United States in a short eight years away, would not dare touch a rutabaga even if they were hit with the worst case of the munchies after an all-night weed binge with friends.

In fewest words, even the name rutabaga should be spelled "root-ah-bag-ah," not rutabaga. In my hour or so of deep thinking of Ford tractors, Henry Ford, and now rutabagas, I can tell you under oath (if it went that far), that I was not about to consume any food staple with the root word of rutabaga: root. I would have have argued about Ginger Root, a tasty food additive, root cellars, which are great for keeping rural foods fresh and that lovely female actress, Ruta Lee. But I would have drawn my line in the sand when older people used to tell me at this nine-year-old age that someone was "pulling something out with the roots." Speaking about a visit to the dentist, not a luxury for a rural boy of nine.

Another thought that followed the thinking of rutabagas, was our trusted mule, "Gray Bones." No one, including myself, blame it on youthful ignorance, ever thought to ask our mule how she felt about being replaced by the "beast," that blame Ford tractor that my dad rode each day of the farming season. I am very sure that if "Gray Bones," had been given one wish by God to be able to speak, she would lament for hours about how she was always considered the most important member of our family, but with the addition of this tractor, she was deep in depression. And who among us then or now, could blame her?

With my time of sitting on the fresh summer grass and thinking deep thoughts about the above notions, one thought even sadder (for me) came aboard: I wondered in a young awareness why I was always drawn to those who were mentally challenged? I am not kidding. I did and still think this about the mentally challenged of America.

But as the years piled up from 1961, that day of my deep meditation, I was always thinking about my good friend, the now-late J.D. Glenn, which was his real name. And I say this with a full measure of respect for his life and his siblings.

In my adult years, when I heard the term, mentally challenged, someone, maybe Hilary or Bill Clinton, in their early years in Washington, D.C., instigated America being told to call these Americans of the mentally challenged, to being "special" people. I had to agree. And I agreed that about my friend, J.D. He was every bit the first real giant that I ever met in that time and place near where I had those deep thoughts while my dad plowed his cotton field.

J.D. was every bit six foot, six inches tall and was stronger than two oxen and two Clydesdales, a special breed of drought horse named for and derived from the farm horses of Clydesdale, today known as Lanarkshire, Scotland. I am not kidding in the least. Glenn was stout beyond his knowing the exact degree of his own strength.

Many is the time that J.D. would walk on our Farm/Market non-striped asphalt road, that the State of Alabama was gracious enough to give us asphalt to begin with, and help any and all neighbors that he saw our in their yards or fields. And all for free. Nobody at this time did things for free. All except J.D. He would have given his very life for the asking. I am not exaggerating.

One sunny day, my cousin, Debbie (nee Williams) Sullins, (who still lives in the same house as when her and her mom, Evelyn and dad, B.F., lived back when I was nine), were outside doing a few Science experiments that she was showing us from a book of such sorcery that her mom had given her as a gift for always making great grades at New Home School. I told you many times about this place.

I was amazed. I would say that my mouth was agape and probably drooling, but Debbie, my female cousin with consummate manners, never let on. We learned how to make a sun dial by using a stick and a few rocks, and how to make water evaporate and I was just getting into this learning event when up came J.D. walking in long strides down the road. He stopped to see what we were doing. I thought I was going to lay down and cry. I was scared, buddy.

But Debbie knew J.D. a lot better than me, so she explained that we were being good kids and wanted him to give us an exhibit of his strength of how far that he could throw an iron ore rock, one of the heaviest rocks of that rural area of our county.

J.D., with swift precision, picked up just the exact rock that Debbie asked and before we knew what was happening, the rock left his hand and went clean out of sight. I was still scared. But a bit of early wisdom told me that Debbie, although sensitive to the mentally challenged, was only using the strength test to divert J.D.'s attention from himself to us. A handy thing for any nine year old kid to have is a sharp nine year old female cousin.

And after J.D. received several atta-boy's and whistles from Debbie and me, he smiled that huge smile and continued to walk on down that Farm/Market non-striped rural asphalt road until he was clean out of sight.

That first meeting with my big-hearted giant, J.D., is still with me. Not as much about those other thoughts about Henry Ford and his tractors and rutabagas.


© 2017 Kenneth Avery


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    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      18 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Linda, dear friend,

      Thank you for such sweet words. And I would definitely entertain the idea of writing a book of this nature, but years ago, I tried on two occasions to write with two different co-writers and both bailed.

      And there went the time spent drafting, outlining, and I just quit looking at writing books.

      I will pray about this, Linda. And God bless you for your sweet friendship and following.

      What I said about a famous producer buying my ideas, well the part about sharing with YOU, is TRUE. Count on it.

      Write soon.

    • Linda Courtney profile image

      Linda Courtney 

      18 months ago from Bensalem, PA

      In reading these stories I did think this would make a great memoir. You seem to have lots of great memories and definitely know how to make it interesting for the reader.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      18 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Linda,

      "Thank you so much. I appreciate your input and how your comments encourage me to dig deeper into my younger life. Who knows? Maybe a powerful book agent or screenplay director may contact me and buy these true stories. Then I would treat you with a three-month cruise, pay your bills off, and then I would just sit in my living room and watch life go by.

      Write soon and thank you so much.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      18 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, MizBejabbers,

      Ahhh, the tractor. You are so right. I am very glad that you shared your interesting segment about how you learned to operate the double-brake. Me? I loved to just ride near my dad while I held onto the fender.

      I loved those days and memories of that part of my life.

      I am sure that you feel the same way about your experiences.

      You should write a book about your adventures.

      Write soon.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      18 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, RoadMonkey,

      Lennie would pass for J.D., in his excessive strength and big heart. J.D. did not know what "stranger" meant.

      The best reward any columnist could ever receive was the time that I wrote a column in my newspaper days, about my friend, J.D., who at that time was staying in a nursing home assisted by his sister and not having many good days.

      Somehow and without me knowing, the sister got our paper and read the column about him and his sister (came to our office) and told me that she saw a great big smile come across his face--and yes, tears came to my eyes. I could not speak.

      Moments like this are very rare when you work for the public. This was one moment that stood out. Not for me having wrote that column or any column, but simply because God blessed (this) situation with sending the paper with his sister and reading it.

      J.D., is one of the first friends I meet when I reach Heaven.

      Write me anytime.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      18 months ago from Beautiful South

      Kenneth, the more you write, the more I find that we have in common. I had an uncle who owned a Ford tractor, and his son, J.D. would take us younger kids out to the crop and let us drive it, including nine-year old me. J.D. was our older cousin and had served in WWII. I remember how jealous I was that my other two cousins could drive it by themselves, including Jerry, who was nearly a year younger than I was, but had bigger feet. My feet were so tiny that I couldn't operate the double brake on one side with one foot. So J.D. always had to ride along with me and operate the double brake pedals with his big foot. I always thought if I'd learned to drive that tractor by myself, I could graduate to a car. Ha! By the time I was older and might have jumped into a car and taken off, Uncle, aunt and cousin J.D. had moved back up north and sold the tractor to another uncle, sold the farm, too, but it was the tractor that was important. I never got to drive it again.

      Yes, those tractors were very important to us Southern kids. Have a great week, my friend.

    • Linda Courtney profile image

      Linda Courtney 

      18 months ago from Bensalem, PA

      You do have a way with words. I love your stories from the past. Keep them coming please!

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      18 months ago

      I love reading these memories from your childhood. Maybe J.D. was the model for Lennie, in Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men.


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