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Much of the yard’s perimeter equipment is dark with rust, having been there longer than the paint-bearing machinery nearer the center. The place is literally ringed with rust, with pipes and levers jutting out at angles. On snowy days, these ragged skirmish lines appear almost black against the horizon. They’re fighting a holding action, infilling the flanks for a strategic retreat. Most of these edge machines are partially parted out, but no one seems to want what’s left. They’re only worth what the iron’s worth, which is quite a bit these days. Paul says he’s selling out, “one piece at a time.” He is, but energy is finite, and I’d guess most of this material awaits a new owner. The new guy will be the impatient type, with a crane, a cutting torch and a wall-eyed flunky. He’ll make of this enterprise yet-another acreage, complete with a huge house, spindly trees, a long drive and an ersatz horse barn. Its new residents will be steeped in the smug fictions of the meritocracy. They’ll embrace the old salvage story, appropriate its authenticity and keep a tractor book open on the sofa table. Should they buy a metal detector, it would all but whistle Dixie.
Most of the achievement in a life is the product of momentum—it’s why we keep busy—but eventually we all wind down. Action degenerates into motion, motion into puttering, puttering into contemplation, contemplation into daytime TV, or dozing on a call button. This was a good business years ago, with plenty of satisfying wheeling and dealing. Paul even sold British Leyland tractors here in the late ‘60s, when farming was changing and tractors were scarce. He hauled them up from Texas. Now many of his customers are sentimental baby-boomers, intent on restoring Dad’s old pride and joy, or one they’ve found just like it. And all to hear it idle or bog down under a load, to feel its front end jump when starting out in fifth gear. These restorations are all good news, but they’re a bit like wearing fedoras.