Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs I attended the Northwest Colorado Hay Day at the Carpenter Ranch on Wednesday determined to get answers to the question, “What makes your tractor so damn sexy?”
Even if you are not a fan of country music, you must be familiar with Kenny Chesney’s hit song, “She Thinks my Tractor’s Sexy.”
His rendition of the Jim Collins, Paul Overstreet song about the allure of a farmer driving his tractor in the hot summer sun spent 22 weeks on on the country charts in 2000 and went gold, topping out at No. 11. I never really understood the meaning of the lyrics before, but I do now.
Hay Day is the ideal place to go in order to mingle with farmers and ranchers checking out the latest tractor models. They’re all right there. You just have to get up the nerve to ask about what might be a touchy subject.
Before I tell you in detail about the enthusiastic answers I received to my inquiry (mixed together with some mild rejection) I want to remind you that Northwest Colorado Hay Day is an important annual event that takes place just as farmers and ranchers across the region are cranking up their tractors and hitching them to their mowers to begin the annual harvest. After last year’s meager hay crop, this is a time of renewed hope, with the grass standing tall and lush in the irrigated meadows.
The morning of Hay Day is devoted to educational seminars about improved fertilizer usage and water issues. After a lunch of locally grown potatoes, beef, bratwurst and buns (baked with Frentress family wheat), the exciting part of the day commences. That’s when dealers show off their newest tractors and dazzling haying implements including balers and self-propelled harrowers.
When I arrived at the ranch east of Hayden, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get slapped for my impertinence or hugged for having deep insights into rural Routt County life. But I plunged ahead and took my chances.
Karen Utterback Norman represented a safe place to begin. We’ve known each other for years, and she’s not shy about describing what makes a tractor sexy.
“They’re sleek, they’re powerful, and they move so smoothly through the field. They don’t clank and grind,” Utterback Norman said. “They can turn on a dime, and it just takes you to another level.”
Alrighty, then. My confidence buoyed, I sat down at a picnic table and gave it another try. I asked some guys why their tractors are appealing to the opposite gender, and they wouldn’t touch the question.
But Ann Crossant, a professor emeritus in plant physiology at Cal Poly Pomona who grew up in Colorado farm country on the Eastern Plains, knew just what I was talking about.
The first time she glimpsed her future husband, Gerry, he was driving the tractor for a hay ride she was attending.
“It’s the power and the energy,” she said. “It was a diesel tractor, so there was black smoke. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
Ann and Gerry, (he is a retired professor of plant and soil science at Cal Poly Pomona and the strong and silent type like Gary Cooper) just happened to be in Steamboat on vacation this week when they heard about Hay Day and decided to check it out. At last, a concrete example of agricultural-based tourism!
Candiss Leathers, of the Colorado AgrAbility Project, told me I shouldn’t have to even ask if a farm implement can be sexy.
“We just know it is. It’s a given for people in agriculture,” she said. “It’s about a lifestyle, an attitude and a respect for the land.”
Barbara Holmes might have provided the most eloquent answer of the day.
Some men reach middle age and feel in touch with their virility when they are driving a red Porsche convertible down the highway. For her spouse, it’s driving a dependable tractor while getting work done in a Routt County field that makes him feel like everything is right with the world.
“When my husband is driving his blue Holland tractor through the field at 10 miles per hour, it makes him happy. That’s what makes him tick,” Holmes said. “His soul is singing, and that’s what makes him sexy.”
Wow. Collins and Overstreet might be more insightful songwriters than I had previously given them credit for.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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