Cliff and I bought a place in the country not long after we married and of course, he bought a tractor. John Deere came out with the 4020 around that time and he'd pull off the road and park just to watch a farmer plowing in the field.
My husband says he first met Gerald at one of my family reunions. We were newlyweds, and I imagine he felt somewhat awkward not knowing anyone. He remembers Gerald being the one who met him as he got out of the car, introduced himself, and made him feel welcome.
When we had our babies, Gerald and his wife were having babies too. We'd travel north to visit them often. The men would head to the shed so Cliff could admire the tractor and implements. We women would compare babies.
A time came when Gerald called and asked Cliff if he'd consider coming up for a couple of days to help him with the spring planting. Cliff's dream had come true. He was going to get to operate a big tractor.
Gerald put Cliff on his biggest tractor, an Allis Chalmers D-19 with DUALS on it, pulling a spring-tooth harrow. Cliff was beside himself with excitement. Gerald was following behind him on the D-17, planting. Cliff made too sharp a turn at one point, and the spring-tooth harrow hit a tire and climbed up on it, scaring and embarrassing my poor husband. No permanent damage was done, though, and Cliff's dream of sitting on a big tractor and actually working a field had come true.
Gerald bought a motorcycle and started planning a long trip out west. He invited Cliff to go along, as well as another cousin, Doyle. I wasn't crazy about the idea, but tried not to pout. They rode for days and saw all there was to see, coming back wind-burned and worn. Cliff, back then, wasn't an early riser, but Gerald was. Cliff said they'd wake up to see Gerald sitting there smoking his pipe, motorcycle loaded with his gear and ready to go. Don't even think about waiting until the dew has dried off or the chill is out of the air, because time is wasting! Then in the afternoon around four o'clock, when Cliff was ready to ride till dark, Gerald would announce, "It's time to pull in our horns and look for a place to stay."
And they'd go get some bologna and beer and call it a night.
Meanwhile, Cliff had gotten enough of a taste of farming, hanging around with my cousin, that he wanted to try it himself. We sold our little place at Oak Grove and moved within a few miles of Gerald to a rental house, hoping to get situated and find someplace to set up a small farm. This was 1974, a bad year for farming, and we ended up going back where we came from within ten months. But while we were there, Cliff got to help Gerald farm again. This time Gerald's big tractor was a 1750 Oliver. That was a thrill, Cliff says, because of the size of it. You knew at a distance it was the 1750 by the noise from the transmission gears, he said. Tractors are Cliff's passion: He has a big Oliver tractor and an Allis Chalmers D-17 today because those are the ones he first fell in love with helping Gerald.
But Gerald's passion has always been in restoring classic cars to like-new perfection. He taught himself to paint and do the body-work and wiring. He did the motor overhauls. When he was done with a car, it was an unbelievable thing of beauty.
Gerald was a perfectionist in everything he did. He built cabinets. He could weld like a pro. When he made up his mind to do something, it was done right. He once built a huge blade from scratch that Cliff couldn't even believe, it was so marvelous in its perfection.
Cliff carries Gerald's influence with him always, and speaks of him often, referring to him at times as "genius". I hope and pray my cousin realized we held him in high regard and how much he has always meant to both of us.
I leave you with a quote from my favorite movie, "It's a Wonderful Life":
We are going to miss Gerald. I hope he knew how we felt about him.
Keep the light on for us, Cousin.
"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
Keep the light on for us, Cousin.