I was wandering around on the local Kubota tractor lot that day, looking for a tractor that I could afford. I was taking a close look at this one, though I could tell it wasn’t worth very much anyway. There were definitely a lot of factors contributing to this tractor’s worthlessness.
It was a bright-orange tractor, with a door on each side and a claw on the back. The first defect I noticed was the “key,” if you could call it that. It was actually no more than a dial that you twisted to the left when you wanted to turn the tractor on, and to the right to turn it off.
And since there weren’t any manual locks on the tractor, it would’ve been a prime target for thieves. Of course, I wasn’t too worried about it. No thief in their right mind would want that old hunk of junk for anything more than scrap metal.
For one, even though there weren’t any manual locks, apparently, the tractor’s doors would lock if the tractor was in any mode besides park. This is what Greg, the man trying to sell me the tractor (who also happened to be the owner of the lot), told me. It might not have been the best sales pitch, but at least I knew he wasn’t trying to scam me out of my money.
He allowed me to take a test drive on it to see what I thought. At the very moment I turned the tractor on, the tractor jolted and jumped up, causing a big puff of smoke to escape from out of the hood (probably from the engine, though, frankly, it could’ve been anything).
The moment my foot touched the gas pedal, the tractor took another big jolt (followed by even more smoke) before it finally began to creep forward at the most agonizingly slow pace imaginable. I probably could’ve gone faster walking. By the time I’d gone just a quarter mile, roughly fifteen minutes had already gone by.
The steering on that thing wasn’t any better. The steering wheel had somehow rusted, inside and out. I figured that the tractor’s unbelievably slow speed might’ve actually been a good thing, considering that if it’d gone any quicker, I probably would have crashed already. And I could tell that it would take way more WD-40 than I could afford to fix.
The brakes were complete garbage. Honestly, I think I might’ve actually been going faster hitting them instead of the gas. And that claw...just…I don’t even know what to say about it. I could not operate that thing in the slightest. By the time it started moving, I was already panicking and rushing to stop it.
Thankfully, Greg came by just in time to help me before I single-handedly (er, “single-clawdedly”) turned that tractor lot into a gravel yard. After that incident, both he and I decided it would be best if I never attempted to use that claw again.
After finishing my inspection of the tractor, I got off and began to wonder if that old, rusty, faulty tractor would even be worth buying. I mean, yeah, I was pretty desperate, but was I really desperate enough to get something I’d probably end up scrapping within a week?
Now you’re probably wondering; why was I so desperate to get a tractor that I’d be willing to take one that pretty much didn’t work at all? Well, that year in Kansas was a surprisingly good year for farming. Plants sprung up left and right, crops growing so big, that they sometimes even outweighed the farmers (especially big plants, like cantaloupe and watermelon).
Of course, the harvest season wouldn’t last long. It had already been predicted by the Weather Channel that, in just a week, there’d be a big rainstorm. While it wasn’t quite hurricane weather, it would be big enough that any crops that hadn’t yet been harvested and stored away would quickly be wiped out.
The moment the news spread out, the Great Kansas Farming Rush began. Immediately, every farming store for the next five counties was filled to the brink with farmers, ranchers, and livestock owners, sold out of every product they had in less than a day.
Some farming stores wouldn’t even open, since the employees alone would empty out a store as quick as they could. As for the ads on Craigslist and Backpage, they too gathered a lot of attention, people getting their hands on whatever they could find before the advertisers changed their minds and decided to cash in on the farming. Every hour was rush hour.
So it’s no surprise that by the time I got to that tractor lot, a day after the Rush, the only tractors left on the lot were the high-falutin’ ones that only the richest, most luxurious farmers could afford…and this one. The one nobody wanted because it was so junky.
Of course, there weren’t any other tractors available for miles around, and the harvest would be gone within a week, so...yeah, you can probably imagine why I was desperate enough to go with just about any tractor that was even remotely functional.
“But wait a minute,” you might be thinking, “why do you need to buy a tractor? Wouldn’t a farmer like you have one already?” That’s a good question. I did have a tractor, whom I and all my staff had jokingly named “Trusty Rusty,” but because it was a few years old and given the name “rusty” for a reason, it soon needed a replacement.
Of course, it chose to break down and collapse just mere days before the Great Kansas Farming Rush (and then I foolishly procrastinated to buy another). So now, here I was, looking at something that probably would only last through the rest of the week, if at all.
I asked Greg how much it cost. “You’re in luck, because today, this tractor is only the low, low price of $80,000!” I nearly spat out my own saliva (since I didn’t have a drink handy). Maybe he actually was trying to scam me out of my money.
He probably knew I was desperate. I mean, it was the best time for farming in years, and there was only one tractor left on the lot I could afford. Of course, for the price Greg was selling it to me at, I didn’t know if my budget could hold out.
I thought for a moment. “Maybe he’s desperate to get it off of his lot,” I thought to myself, “like maybe he’s had it for so long that he wants it off of his lot as soon as possible!” But then I realized that with all of the money he must’ve made off of the other farmers who’d come through here, he probably didn’t care about what happened to that old tractor at all.
That’s when an idea popped into my head. A clever idea that would help me get that tractor for as little as I possibly could. “I’m sorry,” I said, a sad tone to my voice, “I don’t have that kind of money on me right now.” “That’s fine,” said Greg, “we accept cash, check, credit card, debit card--” “But I only have cash,” I explained.
Greg asked, “well, how much money do you have?” “Let’s see,” I replied, “I think I have…” Then, muttering, I said, “two, four, six, eight,” before exclaiming, “$10,000! I have ten thousand dollars!” It actually wasn’t a total lie, considering I did have $10,000. “Well,” said Greg slyly, “you’re in luck! Today and today only, this tractor is a mere $10,000! Generous, I know!”
“I beg to differ,” I thought to myself as I forked over the money. Truthfully, I don’t even think that thing was worth ten thousand. I thought of it being worth ten nothing, at most. (Unless, of course, I sold it for scrap. Then it might’ve been worth a bit more.) But at least ten thousand was something I could get back once I sold my abundant crops.
As I helped Greg tie the tractor down to my trailer (actually, I let him do most of the tying), I asked him if there was anything else I should know about the tractor. “Actually,” Greg answered, “there is one thing…” I asked him what that “one thing” was.
“Well,” replied Greg, “you know how the doors lock in any mode besides ‘park?’” I nodded my head in response. “Well, as it would just so turn out, the tractor can’t park if it’s stuck in mud.” This didn’t come as much of a surprise to me; that old rust-bucket was so defective, it probably wouldn’t last a month on my farm.
I replied, “yeah, so? I’ll just drive out of the mud and onto solid ground.” “But that’s another problem,” explained Greg, “the tractor is so heavy, it’ll just sink into the mud!” I took a look at my trailer. The floor was already beginning to sag from the weight.
“I see what you mean,” I said. I imagined what it would be like; stuck in a tractor, unable to drive it, unable to get out. That wouldn’t be fun. I hoped it had decent ventilation, because otherwise, it would be pretty miserable to have to stay in there for any longer than half an hour.
After I thanked Greg for helping me tie the tractor to my trailer, I then drove off, all the way back to Harrison Orchards. Also known as my farm. As soon as I made it back, I jumped out of my old SUV and walked over to the trailer attached behind it.
I called my farmhands over to help me out. I shouted, “Ricky, Ryan, Carlos! Come help me out here, won’t ya?” So that’s when Ricky, Ryan, and Carlos, three of my most trusted staff, came over to help me out. As we began untying the tractor from my trailer, I could overhear Ricky joking, “look at the monstrosity that old Thomas Harrison brought with him this time!”
I could hear the other two laughing over the joke. Ricky definitely had quite the habit of making jokes and teasing others. Sometimes, right after he finished a bottle or two of beer, it would get out of hand, but otherwise he usually managed to keep it down to a safe level.
“Hardee-har-har,” I said, “laugh it up if you must, but this was the only tractor I could find anywhere around these parts.” Ricky replied, “a tractor? This thing ain’t no tractor! Looks more like a mobile chicken coop to me!” Once again, Ryan and Carlos laughed in response. Sometimes, Ricky’s jokes made no sense to me.
As we were almost done untying it, I noticed something scurry across the floor of the tractor. It looked an awful lot like a junebug, except that it had a voracious appetite for plants. “Stupid blackbugs,” I muttered to myself. Since we had no idea what type of bug it was, we ultimately just went with the term “blackbug” (because they were black bugs) to save us time.
Finally, the tractor was untied, and that’s when I got the ramps out of the SUV to drive the tractor off. I got in and turned the dial to turn it on. Nothing happened. I flicked it off, then back on. Still nothing. Now I was beginning to feel a little peeved. Was the tractor dead already?
I flicked it on one more time. Suddenly, a loud roar from the tractor and a huge jolt forward nearly gave me a heart attack as the tractor came to life. “Sweet mother of--” I shouted, stopping myself short of cursing. Even my men on the ground jumped back a bit.
After I’d regained my senses, I cleared my throat and began driving into the garage, as slow as I could go. Ricky followed behind for a little while, joking about what mess I’d gotten myself into this time, before he finally laid off and went to harvest the fruit. Of course, that tractor was slow. Actually, I think it was going slower than before. And that’s saying something.
I wouldn’t need the tractor right away, but even something as defective as it would still come in handy for when I’d need to pick up something big and/or heavy, like a bale of hay or a crate of fruit. Either that, or I’d just spent $10,000 on nothing.
So me and my employees began working on harvesting the crops. That day, we harvested a lot. In fact the harvest was so good, I swear, we were even harvesting things that weren’t even in season yet!
After we’d harvested the crops, we began working on other things, such as baling hay, drying some of the fruits and vegetables (in case they didn’t start selling right away), and, my favorite part, working with my kitchen staff and making some of the produce into our world-famous fruit jelly--well, county-famous, anyway.
I was actually hoping to show Ricky how to make the jelly, since he’d probably take over the farm after I died (if I didn’t have children first). Of course, Ricky claimed he couldn’t, and that he had somewhere else he needed to be. “Let me guess,” I teased, “the bar?” He told me to “get serious” before running off. He’d be back, though.
I looked around for Ryan and Carlos, hoping to show them how to make the jelly, except that they didn’t show up. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “maybe they’re with Ricky.” I thought for a moment that maybe Ricky did have important things to do. But then I remembered; it was Ricky. Not exactly the most serious guy in the world.
So I ultimately gave up on trying to find them and made the jelly myself, as usual. The rest of the day after that had been somewhat a blur, going by fairly quickly. But then came the part of the day I wasn’t looking forward to.
I opened the garage door, looking in disgust at the orange beast in front of me. “Let’s just get this over with,” I muttered to myself. I was actually feeling tempted to just walk away that day and wait until tomorrow. But I had a job to do, and I was going to do it, no matter what.
I hopped into the tractor, closing the door behind me. I flicked the tractor’s dial to the left, half-expecting it to do what it had done earlier; not turn on after a few attempts before roaring to life and scaring me. Instead, it came on the moment I turned the dial, much to my surprise.
Actually, now that I think about it, I think the really surprising part was the lack of surprise I felt that it had turned on. I also realized that the tractor didn’t even do a huge roar and jolt like it had done before. Instead, it just wobbled a bit as the engine turned on and that was it. Of course, I didn’t think about it too long. Not when there were crates that needed moving.
So I began driving the tractor over to where the guys had left the crates and began lifting them up, one by one, and moving them (as well as the crates of jelly and dried fruit) all the way to the packaging room, where they’d be packaged up and either sold at the farm, or shipped out and sold at the local stores and markets.
I also went out and carried the pieces of Trusty Rusty (which hadn’t been moved since they fell apart) to my trailer, where I could haul them off to the scrapyard. I’d been to the scrapyard before, and I enjoyed chatting with the owner.
Once again, I was feeling tempted. This time, to quickly hop off of the tractor and go to the scrapyard in my SUV, and then not come back until late that evening. I could just sit back and relax the rest of the day. But I wasn’t going to let the devil on my shoulder keep me from taking care of my responsibilities.
Then I began to move the bales of hay…and that’s where things quickly went wrong. I was slowly riding towards the pasture, where some of the hay had been baled, and as I drove there, I had to pass through a spot that was definitely more than a little bit muddy.
You see, earlier that day, two of my staff, Bradley and Philip, had been dumping out an old tub filled with mossy rainwater from storms past. It was a big tub, and I couldn’t even remember the last time that old tub had been emptied out. I didn’t even honestly know why we still had it. In fact, we could’ve very well just sold it and used the money to get a less defective tractor.
Too bad I’d forgotten Greg’s warning. Fortunately, I soon remembered what he’d told me…after the tractor had already gotten stuck. I soon realized that I couldn’t move the tractor; the tires had sunken too far to get out.
Thankfully, the engine of the tractor wasn’t very loud when not moving, and the doors weren’t exactly soundproof, and my fieldsmen (who’d just returned) were a few yards away. I yelled at them for help. “Ricky, Ryan, Carlos,” I shouted, “I need you guys to give me a hand here!"
The moment they saw me stuck in my tractor, they raced over to me. Though I’m not sure it was to help me out. “Hey, Tommy,” said Ricky, chuckling a bit, “is everything all right? ‘Cause it sure seems like you’re in quite the pickle.” I think Ryan was snickering a little bit too, though the noise of the engine made it hard to tell.
“No,” I answered, “everything is not all right. I’m stuck in a tractor without any food or water and I’m gonna die in here if you guys don’t help me out!” “Aww,” Ricky said in a babyish voice, “is widdle Thomas afwaid of being stuck in his twactor?” Cue Ryan and Carlos laughing a bit louder this time.
Ricky was definitely beginning to get on my nerves, and I began to wonder if he’d been drinking lately. “Listen up,” I said, “if you guys don’t start trying to get me out of here in the next ten minutes, I am going to fire all three of you men!”
“Uh-oh,” said Ricky, still with that annoying voice, “is widdle Thomas having a temper-tantwum? Noh-uh-uh! Widdle Tommy needs spankings!” The others were laughing their heads off now as Ricky continued to joke around. “Hey, Thomas,” said Ricky, who’d finally ditched that baby voice, “if you die, can I have the farm? It’d be a good vacation spot, and I could use some rest.”
Yup, just as I figured. He’d gone to the bar. And now, he was drunk yet again. Only this time, I think he’d downed more than just a couple of bottles of booze. And of course, his awful jokes were really beginning to make me mad. I screamed, “Ricky!!! If you don’t help me out right now, then I will murder you once I do get out!”
Ricky, of course, didn’t seem frazzled. Instead, he continued to tell jokes. “Murder me? Uh-oh! Looks like I’m gonna have to call the cops!” Ryan was now doubled over with laughter, while Carlos was rolling on the ground laughing. Literally. Finally, I’d reached my boiling point.
“That’s it,” I shouted at the top of my lungs, “all three of you are officially fired!!!” All of a sudden, Ryan and Carlos weren’t laughing anymore. And Ricky’s smile had gone upside-down. “Tom,” began Ricky, “I hate to break this to you, but I don’t think that’s gonna work out. Right, guys?” The other two nodded in agreement. I didn’t like where this was going. Ricky continued.
“You think you’re our boss? Ha! I laugh at the thought of it.” The three began moving in closer, and I could tell that it wasn’t to get me out. I began to pull out my cell phone so I could call the police. And maybe an ambulance, too. Except my cell was out of battery. Great.
“You’ve never been our boss. The whole time we’ve worked here, we’ve been working for ourselves.” Ricky, Ryan, and Carlos all moved to one side of the tractor. As they put their hands against it, my blood suddenly ran cold as I realized what they were about to do.
The tractor might’ve been heavy, but it didn’t have very good grip on the side of a hill, even when the tires were stuck in mud. Plus, all of them were fairly strong from constantly lifting crates. And I could tell that this time, it wasn’t just Ricky who’d been drinking. Though I certainly wished it was that way.
“You’re just the guy who makes the money, then gives us barely any of it at all.” “Maybe because you’re treacherous fiends,” I thought to myself. But I didn’t say it out loud. I didn’t need my hospital bill to be any larger than it was going to be.
“Well, we won’t stand for it, will we?” The other two shook their heads in response. I just hoped that the seat-belt on this tractor worked better than the doors. “You’re going downhill fast, Harrison.” The other two laughed at the joke. I just sat there and prayed that if I died, that it wouldn’t be too painful.
All of a sudden, I could feel the weight of the tractor begin to move over to one side as the three men began pushing the tractor, causing it to start tilting. I sat there in that tractor, praying to God that these guys didn’t kill me. And then, in the craziest, scariest way possible…my prayers were answered.
“Ow,” yelped Ricky as he stopped pushing and held his hand up to his cheek. The other two also stopped to see what was wrong. Ricky looked at the thing in his hand and saw that it was a blackbug. I figured that it’d flown into his cheek at a pretty high speed. He simply looked at the creature for a moment. Then, with both hands, he squashed it. Or so he thought he did.
I could hear him chuckle as he squeezed his hands together, feeling the bug go flat. After a few seconds of squeezing, he unclasped his hands to look at what was left of the insect. It was still sitting there, looking perfectly fine, and completely unflattened.
As Ricky and his goons looked at the unsquished bug in surprise, we all watched as the blackbug flew out of his hand and up into the air. Then I heard it make a strange, buzzing noise. And to this day, I swear, that buzzing sounded almost exactly like one of those cartoon bugles making a call to battle.
All of a sudden, I watched as the second blackbug flew, hitting Carlos smack-dab in the elbow. Then another one whizzed by, whopping Ricky in the forehead. Then a few more. Then some more after that. Then many, many more after that. Many, many, many more.
I could hear the trio’s stifled screams for a moment before all went silent. Pretty soon, I was so surrounded with blackbugs, I couldn’t see the sky above me or the ground below me. It was all covered in blackbugs. And the only thing keeping me from them was…the tractor.
The defective, old tractor whose doors were locked shut. I decided that if I lived through this moment, I was definitely not scrapping the tractor. All of a sudden, something happened that nearly made me jump out of my skin when it did.
BANG!!! I looked in horror at the right window. A long, jagged crack ran up the window, which only seemed to grow longer and more jagged with every bug that hit it. I braced for dear life, ready for the moment when the blackbugs busted apart the window, swarmed inside, and finished me off, once and for all. But that’s not what happened…
It started with an odd, muffled noise, coming from the window. It sounded similar to a zipper being zipped closed, except that there was barely any sound whatsoever (though with all the blackbugs buzzing, who knows?) I looked to my right. And I watched as the long, jagged crack on the window began to shrink before disappearing completely.
My mouth was gaping open pretty widely from what I remember. After I finished feeling amazed, though, I began feeling grateful that even the windows were defective. So defective, in fact, that even the cracks were defective. They just shrank away as soon as you left them.
Of course, the blackbugs attempted to open the door. Apparently, not only could they multiply at a rate of a thousand times more blackbugs a second, but they were intelligent too. They had formed a giant hook to pull open the handle.
“Why,” I asked myself, “why do they want to kill me so badly?” But no matter how many blackbugs attempted to yank open the door, it remained shut. Finally, the blackbugs gave up and simply kept flying around me in a blackbug whirlwind. That’s when I realized that the blackbugs were lifting up my tractor.
I was scared at first, praying to God once again for dear life…and then I made a realization. Greg said that the tractor couldn’t drive in mud. He never said anything about blackbugs. I immediately took hold of the steering wheel with one hand and the stick shift with the other.
I set the tractor to “reverse.”
The tractor let out an epic roar as it flew back, out of the storm of blackbugs and onto the ground (and this time avoiding the mud). That’s when I saw the outside of the blackbug wall. It was a giant sphere, flying around and around in circles at a dizzying rate. “Huh,” I thought. “Sort of like the Earth.”
I then realized that I wasn't able to look away. My gaze was transfixed on the swirling sphere of insects that I saw before me. I stared, hypnotized, at the spinning globe of blackbugs. The buzzing was near-deafening, but it seemed to fade as the bugs kept going around and around.
Suddenly, the blackbugs began flying up into the air, still in perfect sphere formation. It was sort of like when a kid lets go of a balloon into the sky. They just kept going further and further up, until I couldn’t see them anymore. Finally, I snapped out of my trance. “And good riddance to those pests,” I thought.
I don’t talk about this story much. Ricky, Ryan, and Carlos were never seen nor heard from again. I could care less. Bradley and Philip became my new right-hand men, and did a much a better job at it than those three ever did (partly due to being sober, not drunk). As for the tractor, I still have it.
It’s still in the barn behind my house.
I have a new tractor, one that’s better for farming. So I haven’t used that old thing since.
But I’m definitely keeping it, just in case.
And as for the blackbugs, I haven’t seen any around these parts for a while now.
Written by Postuhenin