Today's topic is an essential part of Dales life, whether it's using them directly or simply seeing them in the fields, but it's one I have to admit knowing little about: tractors.
Where would we be without these work-horses, ancient and modern, used as transport, haulage and even a focus for leisure time tinkering?
I've often thought that if tractors carried a list of the jobs they do on their rear, bad tempered motorists travelling behind them on narrow country lanes would feel very differently.
When I say I know nothing about tractors, that's not strictly true. Many years ago I worked in what was then East Germany as a translator. I spent several weeks translating a mighty construction and operating manual for a tractor company, from German to English. Not being very technically minded, this was a job I was totally unsuited to do but there was no one else to do it. The result was pretty appalling, a bit like those nonsensical instructions you used to get for Japanese electronic equipment. I still have a horrible picture in my head of someone receiving their unassembled tractor pieces, setting them out on the ground Ikea-flat-pack-style, and desperately using my terrible translation to put them all together. I'm haunted by the hundreds of different elements that went to complete a deceptively simple piece of machinery.
Thankfully Dales farmers don't have to rely on my technical expertise, and their tractors generally come from more reliable sources. Is there any other vehicle that inspires such incredible love and loyalty as the humble tractor? Obviously much of this is due to the tractor's many essential roles in farming but it feels like more than just that.
Vintage tractor runs around the Dales attract big audiences and admiration. Helen Benson recently raised over £4000 on her revamped 1968 David Brown 880 tractor on her 400 mile tour of Yorkshire for the Farming Community Network. I also heard of a friend organising a Swaledale pub crawl by tractor for her delighted husband's big birthday.
I wonder how many years ago that piece of carpet was added as the latest in comfort technology?
So next time you're stuck behind a tractor, perhaps take the time to ponder the many hours of work they do, the pride they engender, the difference they make to many farrmers' lives, and the enormous love they command?