After reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka, I have the urge to write my memoirs; A Short History of Tractors on My Father’s Farm.
My story starts with something that happened before I was born. My brother, aged less than two, apparently announced to Mum and Dad one morning at the breakfast table that he was “just taking the tractor down the paddock, Dad.” Dad said, “Righto,” and no doubt, he and Mum exchanged a look expressing parental pride in their toddler. The next thing Mum and Dad heard was the tractor start up. Dad said he got out to the shed in about two seconds flat and never left the keys in the ignition ever again. *
At the age of six I remember jumping off the front wheel of an broken-down old Fordson tractor and landing on a port bottle (I think the tractor, the bottle and other rubbish had been left in the paddock by the former owners of the farm and never cleared up). My leg was cut near my knee and I was disappointed when Dad wrapped my leg up with an old rag (I wanted a Band-Aid). Turns out, I probably should have had stitches, as forty-plus years later, the scar is still about three inches long.
My next tractor story is about riding on the step of another tractor in the paddock while Dad drove. A very dangerous practise, which most farm kids from my generation would have enjoyed on many occasions. Riding in the bucket attachment on the front of the tractor with a group of friends was a real treat. I don’t think people let their children do stuff like that anymore, but we all survived. Sadly, loads of children on farms still die in accidents which should never happen.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is a funny story, told in series of paragraphs which are each little stories of their own. The story is told by Nadezhda, whose widowed 84 year-old Pappa fell in love with Valentina, a grasping, busty bombshell who is less than half Pappa’s age. Valentina wants British residency and a rich man to keep her.
Nadezhda and her sister Vera are always at odds, but on this they stand united. Against their wishes, Pappa married Valentina, who up until their marriage, allowed him to fondle her superior breasts (yes, really…)
Nadezhda and Vera are outraged that Pappa is spending all of the money that their recently dead mother scrimped and saved all of her life for, buying broken down old Rolls Royces and brown cookers to impress his new wife, but a small part of Nadezhda is grateful that Valentina will look after Pappa in his old age.
However, Valentina is a volatile character and before too long she starts to verbally and physically abuse Pappa as she becomes less enraptured with him and his pension. Even though there is nobody so silly as an old man in love with a young thing, I felt sorry for Pappa.
The story itself is predictable, but the characters are wonderful and the story-telling, which is mostly told through the character’s conversations, is excellent. Pappa is hilarious and so is Valentina. Their squabbles are legendary and while they make my family look normal, I can see bits of nearly everyone I know in these characters.
Eventually Nadezhda and Vera mend their differences and Pappa finishes his book about the history of tractors in Ukrainian. I’m sure I’ll read something else by Marina Lewycka eventually.
*The pictures of tractors are not actually Dad’s tractors, but were similar.