Dashing Through the Corn
A vintage tractor stands in for a sleigh on a moonlit ride to remember.
My cousin Gilbert brought back to life a 1957 D17 Allis-Chalmers tractor. It had been faded by the sun and was dilapidated after languishing for years in the machine shed. But it now boasted a new coat of Persian Orange paint and an overhauled engine, and the old iron relic stood ready for a test run around the cornfield on Christmas Eve.
I was the last person to abandon the warmth of Gilbert’s farmhouse to join in the fun. Excited voices greeted me as I took a seat on the trailer hitched behind the tractor.
When I was settled in, Gilbert put the tractor into gear. The trailer lurched as we bounced across the field. The temperature dipped to 5 below, and wind out of the north chilled us.
Gilbert coaxed the tractor down a slope onto a rutted dirt road, then steered it in the direction of the woods. A few dried corn leaves made ghostly apparitions under the soft glow of the moon. Light shone from one of the farmhouse windows like a star.
Someone whispered, “There’s the Big Dipper.”
We followed the road toward a stand of trees, galumphed on through, and then bounced back out into a large clearing. Gilbert’s son, Todd, began to sing, “Away in a Manger.” Soon everyone was caroling, our voices swelling to fill the air. We continued with joyous choruses of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “The First Noel.”
In the end it was not the tractor that failed us, but the trailer. Todd, realizing one of the tires had gone flat, yelled for Gilbert to halt.
I stared in awe at the stars above me. Sentimental thoughts of a Christmas Eve more than 50 years past flickered in my memory— when my father, his voice merry with the trickiness of his claim, summoned his children to witness Santa’s flight across a starry sky.
The ride had ended too quickly. But I’ll always have the memory of that night—the way dried corn leaves rustled, how my breath rose in the silence of a cold night, and the sound of the tractor’s engine as it rolled across the farm.