Rusty iron yard ornaments are scattered around our place. Some I mow around. Others are relegated to weedy corners. These are my husband’s “projects” that await his attention—parts machinery as well as mostly-intact units that will be lovingly restored to be as close to original as he can make them.

Finding the right parts is a major part of the challenge of reconstructing old iron. He attends auctions, tractor shows and farm shows, join clubs, and gets to know people who know where to find the pieces he is looking for. While my husband thrives on the hunt, I go along for the ride.

Doug suggested a long time ago that I write a story about a tractor. Most of our vacations, if not exclusively centered around a farm show or tractor club gathering, seem to include a stop at one. Why not incorporate some of the knowledge from these shows into my novels? he wondered.

I have to admit, it took a while for me to get a vision of what I should do. When a friend suggested that I write about the circumstances that eventually led to the formation and naming of a local steam and gas engine club, the wheels began to turn. I started a new novel, then decided: Why not write a series of stories showcasing different makes of tractors? In different communities? In different eras?

But what could I do with a tractor? How many different ways could I use tractors in a story? I certainly didn’t want to animate machinery and make it talk. I didn’t want objects to be the main characters. That role must be reserved for the realistic characters I create, for they give the most appeal and excitement to my stories. Also, I had been writing romance into my novels and I had no plans to create a tale about a man in love with his tractor!

I created a long list of ideas. Besides the common uses or source of income for farmers and mechanics, sales people and manufacturers, here are a few more:

• A source of great pride or… a source of covetousness and jealousy.
• The object of a theft or… the get-away vehicle which escapes unsuspected from the scene of a crime.
• A wonderful gift or… a source of contention between husband and wife (or father and son) who disagree on a purchase.
• The cause of an accident or… the means of achieving a daring rescue.
• A murder weapon…
A murder weapon? I write fiction. I make up stories.

So if you see me at a tractor show, you may wonder how I can appear interested in row after row of farm machinery—much of which I know little about. It may look as though I am idly standing by while my husband talks tractors, but in reality, I am listening. There are stories being shared and experiences that are seldom written about. Those tidbits add up to information that I can use to bring a whole story together. And in the end, I find that I can do a lot with a tractor.

Author Sharon Balts brings you Fiction From the Farm with
“Common People” Characters, Uncommon Stories.