There is something special about having a legacy with farm history and connections. When I meet someone, invariably, the person tells me about their grandparents or uncle or cousins that farmed at one time. The conversation usually connects with the individual’s childhood and his or her memories gained through visits and moments on that farm. I am so glad that farm experiences are a special connection we all commonly seem to share.
Over Thanksgiving, my Dad, the Farmer, shared a farm legacy story. Dad told me that my brother was recently contacted by a friend with a question. That friend purchased an antique tractor, an Oliver 770, and found the name “Rohrer” in the tractor owner’s manual. The friend asked my brother if “the Oliver 770 was owned by one of his Rohrer relations?”. After some quick research (through Dad), my brother was excited to learn the tractor was originally owned by our great grandfather, Elden Rohrer.
Great-grandpa Rohrer had sold the Oliver 770 tractor at a farm auction upon my great-grandfather’s retirement from farming in the mid-70s. I can remember seeing (and climbing on) that Oliver 770 tractor parked in the corn crib on great grandpa’s farm. I can also remember that auction day almost 50 years ago with hayracks loaded with smaller farm items that were auctioned off upon by great-grandparents retirement.
This tractor legacy story caused me to reflect on my scattered memories of my great-grandfather, Elden Rohrer (and my great-grandmother Alta). Their farm affected my life greatly. However, I only have vague memories of it. Great-grandfather’s farm was where I lost my left arm in a grain auger accident at age 3…obviously affecting and impacting the rest of my life. It may have been that Oliver 770 tractor that was driving the pto (power take off) for the auger that day?
My accident was certainly not a family first. In fact, my great-grandfather lost his index finger off of his right hand prior to World War I. I regret not knowing the circumstances.
I do know that my great-grandparents were born in the late 1800s and were part of the generation that lived the experience of farming transition in our country from “horse” power agriculture to horsepower agriculture. They saw so many revolutionary changes during their lifetime. Way too late now, I think it would be great to sit down and hear those transition stories first-hand from my great-grandparents.
My memories of their farm are well removed from the horses. They lived on and rented a farm (when I was young) next to strip mine operation … I’m not sure how that farm never fell to the coal mining land destruction. They lived in an old farmhouse that came with the rented farm. Oddly, I think it had running water but no toilet as I vividly remember the home’s outhouse. That outhouse was a “two holer” and a thick catalog was a special feature in it. The “two-holer” potential scenarios generate questions in my mind.
I am struck by the sentimental tug to my heart I experienced through the connection discovery of this Oliver 770 tractor. Many times, all we need to keep “family history” alive is an object, a symbol, that connection. In this case, a tractor. Maybe because it makes the family history real. I guess it just comes with that sense of pride that I came from farm background with deep farm roots. That piece of history helps prove it!
Through quick action, my brother set up a “visit” so that Dad, the Farmer, could a look at the Oliver 770 as a piece of family history. My brother is working hard to achieve “favorite son” status with Dad and he may have done it!
My Dad, the Farmer, checks out the Oliver 770 originally owned by his grandfather, my great grandfather.
My brother has told me he has offered on several occasions in recent weeks to purchase the tractor from the current owner. I found myself saying to him “hey, I’m in on that!”. Why did I say that…What am I going to do with a tractor and where would I put it?
The plan: I could gift it to the Farmer and regain favorite son status!