What can you do with that old tractor? Perhaps the most logical response is to forget about it, as ever newer, more powerful machines consign yesterday's models to the scrap heap of memory. This answer is also the most practical one. Given the pressures to master an ever-expanding list of technologies in order to survive in this crazy market, who can afford the luxury of nostalgia? Yet, for many, the draw back to the old, antiquated and rusted is unstoppable.
No book captures this passion (or gentle madness) with more loving care than Scott Garvey's The Tractor in the Haystack: Great Stories in Tractor Archaeology. Garvey presents the stories of more than 30 individuals who fall under the spell of old farm equipment. Some of their interest is indeed nostalgia — an effort to capture a time and place through the restoration of an old, trusted machine. Others engage in a single-minded pursuit of rare, defunct brands. And a few catch the enthusiasm by happenstance, spying an old rusted machine and slowly becoming drawn into the restoration quest. Garvey's vignettes in what he labels “tractor archaeology” are therefore part detective story, part Antiques Roadshow, and part Popular Mechanics.
Garvey takes the reader on the search for old tractors in “old haystacks” or more sedate estate sales. He captures the struggles of searching for the right part and the quiet joy of restoring a broken-down heap to working order. In this, Garvey captures the human struggle to remember, to create and to live. But forget the cosmic themes, this is a fun read with fascinating personalities pursuing their passions.