My (Evil) Tractor

I knew something was wrong when no one else bid on the tractor – but by then it was too late and I owned it.

It happened at an estate auction not far from home. The only thing of value was an old Minneapolis Moline tractor dozing in the weeds. So when the auctioneer started the bid at fifty bucks, I raised my hand – everyone else kept theirs deep in their pockets.

Soon after, a neighbor shuffled up and asked if I ever heard of Old Bill Dahler.

I said no.

“He lived to be a hundred and fifteen years old,” he told me, “Do you know how he managed that?”


“It took over a century for the devil to work up the courage to take him,” he said.

I laughed, he didn’t.

“Neither God nor nature created anything vicious enough to tangle with old Bill,” he said, “the man was so vile that rattlesnakes refused to bite him and tornadoes veered out of his way.  In fact the only thing that had anything to do with him was that tractor and a lot of folks say a bit of old Bill still lives in it.”

I figured he was pulling my leg.

“Have you thought about how you are going to get it home?” he asked.

“Well, if it starts,” I told him, “I’m going to drive it.”

“I feared as much,” he said. “Mind if we move our trucks first?”

So they did. The circle of pickups parked around the auction site unspooled itself and threaded its way down the driveway to form a long line on the shoulder of the county road.

Everyone wanted to watch me attempt to drive the tractor.

I borrowed some jumper cables and some gas and in less than a minute I had the old thing snorting black smoke. 

I swear I didn’t touch the clutch or the shift lever but the instant I got settled in the seat, the old tractor reared up on its drawbar like a warhorse and bucked me off. I rolled frantically out of the way and lucky I did because then it snarled, spun around and pounced.  If I hadn’t scampered onto the boggy ground of the Minnesota Mosquito Preserve, I would have been a goner.  

Then it turned on my neighbors, who beat an undignified retreat – leaving me to slush about in the swamp while the tractor patrolled an adjoining field.  Every time I stepped onto firmer soil, it pawed at the ground with its big rear tires, snorted blue smoke and charged.

So I called my buddy Stan.  He can fix anything.

“Have you ever driven the devil out of a machine?” I asked.

“Not yet,” he said.

“Do you know how?“

“Not really but I can ask around.”

By the time Stan arrived, the tractor had run out of gas.  So we winched it up onto a trailer and lashed it down with logging chains, least it get any ideas, and hauled it back to my shed.

There – Stan began an elaborate ceremony.

He produced a cardboard box full of candles and set about arranging them in a complex configuration around the tractor.  He formed a ring around each massive tire with multi-colored candles made of wax poured into canning jars.  He lined the hood with smaller ones, ensuring that each was a different color and shape.  Next he carefully placed candles in the recesses of the engine and radiator.

After he lit the candles, he turned off the shed lights and in the eerie glow of hundreds of flames, he set about sprinkling herbs, leaves, twigs and husks onto any surface of the tractor that would hold them.

Then he stepped back and folded his arms to watch and wait.

“Gosh Stan,” I asked, “aren’t you supposed to recite incantations or read from an old scroll or something?”

“What for?” he asked.

“To drive old man Dahler out of my tractor,” I said.

“Naw,” he said, “I’m going to let the scented candles and potpourri do that.”


“Dude… have you ever been to a tourist town?” he asked, “the next time you go, watch how the wives drag their husbands into the shops then watch as the guys come running out as soon as they catch a whiff of that nasty stuff.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Hey, I figured it would work on the spirit of old man Dahler just as well.”

And it did.

Author: Almost Iowa

47 thoughts on “My (Evil) Tractor”

  1. That’s the most unusual exorcism I’ve ever heard of, and one of the nicest, too. But then again, if they’d done that with Linda Blair, The Exorcist would have been a really boring movie. And Barb is right: your posts are always worth reading!

    1. I wonder how The Exorcist would have fared using potpourri. The movie would not have been as scary but a whole lot more realistic. Few demons can put up with the stuff for long. I believe the subject was covered in one of my all time favorite books (seriously) Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore.

  2. Great story. I wanted you to know that there are a handful of blogs that I try to always read. Yours is one that I always look for, although I’m sure I’ve missed some when I’ve been MIA from blogging. This year I’m trying to post more consistently. Which also means I’ll be reading yours more consistently.
    I just wanted to tell you that you are one of my favorites. Happy New Year!

      1. So I read your reply and then replied to you, asking if you could check out my blog. Then I scrolled further down on my comments and there you had hours and hours ago. Oops. Thank you for your support, as well!

  3. Have you ever thought that the tractor might be grieving for old man Dahler. I think I would be ashamed of myself. I mean, tractors have feelings too. Then on top of ignoring the tractor’s feelings, you call in Stan. I think you need to get down on your knees and apologize to that tractor. I know of what I speak. I am a retired tractor psychologist. If you show the love, the tractor will respond in kind. And you will get many more years of usage from that tractor.

    1. “If you show the love, the tractor will respond in kind.”

      I have found that to be true with most things… but tractors? Naw, they are too stubborn for love, rage suits them better. Same with bulldozers.

  4. But what happens when all the potpourri falls off the tractor or wears out in the shed? Old Bill Dahler may re-inhabit the cranky case, and you might need to visit one of those lovely stores…

  5. Stan knew what he was doing. There are shops I refuse to go into as soon as I open the door and get a whiff of that overwhelming stench scent. The good news is, those shops often have a rocking chair out front, where a person could sit and wait for a wayward tractor to come by.

    1. And if one has the foresight to have reading glasses and a good novel on hand (one should never leave the house without them) then a great afternoon can be had by all.

        1. Ooops, I always had a problem with set theory. It’s those circles that slice into other circles that always drove me nuts. It gets worse as you approach Quantum Physics – which was actually how old man Dahler got into the tractor. Everything really is a part of something else and we swap so many atoms and electrons that it is hard to figure out who and what we really are….

  6. Our first tractor with power steering was crazy. Of course, it had a spinner attached to the steering wheel. At the end of a row when you had to turn around, the steering would lock and head you at the fence row. Or, it would lock in the turned position so you couldn’t straighten out. Both those force a frantic pull on the clutch handle to stop. Scariest of all was when it locked going down the road in high gear.

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