by Yvette VanDerBrink
“Dr. VanDerBrink, paging Dr. VanDerBrink.” I swear this is the sound I hear echoing off the walls of our machine shed. This is because my husband is the "tractor doctor."
Daily, I find him working, sometimes late into the night, trying to save a relic of the past, a part of history. He has triaged his patients according to the severity of their cases. In one wing of the machine shed we have a 1926 15-30 awaiting surgery. It waits patiently because the good doctor knows what the ailment is; a gasket and valve set is on order. In no time at all, the patient will be back up and running waiting for its turn to plow or maybe just give a kid a bumpy ride, proudly on its steel wheels. On the other side of the hall, we have a CC Case, frozen from time, awaiting its appointment with the good doctor. It will wait patiently because it knows the quality of care it will receive.
“Emergency, Emergency," we have an Unstyled B with weak compression. With skills of a surgeon, my husband checks all the vital fluids and then decides to carefully take off the head and gets to the heart of the problem. With his trouble-light he diagnoses the problem. Have no fear, with a little honing of the cylinders and a set of rings, she’ll be back together stronger than ever.
After hours, the good doctor can be found in his study. Finally relaxing in his Lazy-boy reading his medical journals, studying on how to give his patients better care. Countless hours are spent studying the anatomy of his patients' inner-workings and the mechanical techniques pulled from the pages of old owner’s manuals will assist him in his calling. Antique Power, Greene Magazine, and many other journals are staples of his trade. He turns the pages with his callused and oil stained hands.
And yes, the doctor does get away to medical conventions to discuss cases with colleagues. Leaning against the wheel of a tractor, I’ll find him in deep conversation, laughing and discussing his latest case with fellow iron doctors. But his work never ends, even on vacation he’ll make a house call; an old John Deere needs a little attention. With a fine-tuned ear he listens to every pop and hum of the engine, and with a little adjustment, its tuned back to its rightful melodic sound.
But a doctor’s work is never done, with so many patients and check ups to do, there's never enough time in a day. No patients are lost here though. Every old tractor has signed a Living Will, so their parts will live on so that others can have another day in the sun. All the hours spent pays off when he sees that big smile on our son’s face waiting for Dad to spin over the flywheel or turn the crank. When that motor pops off, he knows it's his time for a ride, sitting proudly on the good doctor's lap. You know what they say, "A good doctor is hard to find," but all of our patients (tractors) are lucky, they have one of the best in the business - Dr. VanDerBrink.
The Lil’ Nordstrom’s Gal