The empty farmhouse stood on the property for a very long time. It was in the middle of that field when the farmer bought the acreage years ago. Cows grazed near it. Weeds grew up next to it. Tractors plowed around it. But one day, the farmer had an idea, a simple, yet brilliant idea: Move the house. He thought, what if that old farmhouse could be moved just across the field, next to the barns? It would open up additional soil for planting. It could also be filled with hay, or tools, or something useful.
He made up his mind and he went to work.
First, he needed a way to move the house. The farmer believed, in theory, he could slide it across the field. But how? The saying goes, with a large enough lever, a man can move the earth. Farmers have large levers but nothing that big. He would need more power. Farmers had power: Tractors, and lots of them. His two John Deer would not be enough. And so, he went to work explaining his intent to all his neighbors. If the Amish could meet to raise a barn, Farmer Dean reasoned, why couldn’t their tractors work together to move a house. Of course, food would be served. Yes, beer would flow. The only requirement: Bring your tractor and a long chain.
And so on the appointed day, every farmer from Grassy Creek met at the farm. They arrived on shining tractors of every kind, freshly washed for the special occasion. Galen, from down the road, came on his red 255D Massey Ferguson. Mr. Blevins pulled into the drive on his International, black smoke billowing from his exhaust. Old Man Wilson chugged into the farmyard with pride and tobacco juice on his face. He drove the only White in the county. Jimmy, who everyone said didn’t know a thing about farming, came putting in on his 1958 D14 Allis Chalmers. It died halfway up the drive but he quickly turned it over and joined the rest of the crowd. Dean’s two sons sat astride their two old John Deer, awaiting their father’s instructions.
It was a good turnout. All his friends had come. Dean promised it would be a day no one would ever forget: The Day We Moved A Farmhouse. While Dean explained his plan, the families, who had followed their husbands in pickup trucks, unloaded the food for the afternoon celebration. The children played in the barns and with the pigs.
Dean gathered the crew around and carefully explained every angle of this project. First, they would need to get every tractor moving at the same speed. And so, for the next few hours, the farmers drove circles around the old farmhouse changing a gear, resetting the throttle, adjusting the idle, until every tractor ran at the exact same speed.
Next, they drilled bolts into the north side of the house. To these, they attached the chains. To the chains, they would hook tractors. The plan was for Dean to cross the field, hold up his hanky, and drop it. When it hit the ground, every farmer would slowly pull forward in unison and the house would follow.
With much anticipation, the men lined up their tractors and hooked onto the house. The women and children, from the safety of the farmyard, gathered to watch. In all, there were nearly 75 people to witness the event. By any measure, it was an impressive turn out.
The tractors in place and idling at the right speed, Dean ran across the field to raise his hanky. There was a moment of anticipation as the hanky fluttered in the day’s warm breeze. Black smoke poured from the tractors. Their combined rumble was deafening. Dean said a prayer of thanks for all these friends who would come to make this day possible and dropped the white cloth. It drifted slowly to the ground. It landed gently on last fall’s corn stubble.
From his vantage point, Dean witnessed the tractors roar into action and slowly move forward. The chains groaned under the strain. The house began to move, one inch, and then two inches. The house was moving!
Then, it happened. The entire north side of the house pealed away from the structure. The tractors were no longer pulling the house across the field, only the north face. As they looked back over their shoulders, they watched the three remaining sides of the farmhouse fold in on themselves, like a simple house of cards. What was once a quaint farmhouse was now a huge pile of rubble.
At first, there was a great, collective gasp. This was followed by silence as the tractors turned off one at a time. Every head turned to the corner of the field. Every eye looked to Farmer Dean. He stood frozen, his gaze fixed on the tractors, the house, its north side sprawled across his cornfield. And then, he laughed. He roared! He laughed so loud the entire gathering could hear. Immediately, the tension broke and suddenly every member of the tractor crew down to the smallest child was screaming with laughter. They laughed until tears ran down their cheeks. And when they sat down to the greatest carry-in feast they had ever known, their sides hurt from the hilarity.
Dean had promised them a day they would never forget. He was right. What promised to be an unusual house moving ended as the best bonfire Grassy Creek has ever known.
Copyright 2005, C. Curtis Austin, a 2BlackDogs Production