Lately, I’ve been thinking of buying a tractor. I can’t afford a new one so I’m looking for an older, used farm tractor. The older I get the more I think I am turning into my dad. Marius was always searching for an interesting machine he could add to his fleet in order to make life easier.
The very first tractor I remember was a huge old red Massey Ferguson that was owned by Reg Louttit. He used it to run a portable sawmill to help produce lumber. The next tractor I came across was one that my dad purchased on a trip to Moosonee. I faintly remember that old David Brown tractor, as I was only about seven years old. I recall that it was rusty looking with white trim and a front bucket. I think it came back on the winter road as that was the only way to transport something that big to Attawapiskat other than by barge in the summer.
Dad used that old David Brown to assist him with the general contracting work he did around town. One business he started was transporting water. He picked up an old broken-down trailer, welded it back together then attached a 400-gallon tank. He used it to fetch water from the river by pump and then delivered it to community homes for a price. Back then in the early 1980s nobody had running water or indoor plumbing. We were just a short airplane ride from Timmins to the south yet we were still living as though it was the 1930s.
Soon after he purchased a newer John Deere tractor and a few trailers. At that point he started a company to haul cargo from the airport to the Hudson Bay store (before it became the Northern Store). He had established a family business with the two tractors and trailers. My brothers and I joined in to help dad run the business.
I was 12 when my older brothers introduced me to the fine art of driving a tractor. I started by hauling an empty trailer then progressed to one with a load. Soon I was an active participant in the Marius Kataquapit and Sons contracting business.
Dad also got the contract to haul cargo that came in on the summer barge. It shipped out from Moosonee and made a couple of trips a season. To make things more interesting for us he also built two trailers to hold 1,000-gallon tanks that he used to transport fuel from the barge and then across the community to the Northern Store. They had one of two gas stations in town.
When I was a teenager my dad purchased a brand new Ford New Holland tractor. Business had been good and he rewarded himself by investing in this new tractor. He brought it up on the winter road and we were all very impressed that it was new, had a bucket and a fork lift attachment. It also had an enclosed cab with air conditioning for those few hot weeks of summer and heating for the long winter months. That tractor became a big part of my life as I drove it almost every day hauling cargo, making trips on the winter road to Moosonee and dragging a huge tank filled with water around the community in the summer to keep the dust down. I became known as the dust buster.
I got very good at handling that tractor and eventually I could do just about anything that a job demanded. As my dad got older he worked less and less though he always kept his foot in the business. My brothers expanded it, purchasing more equipment to fulfil the needs of a growing transport and cargo company. Today my brother Paul mainly runs the company and is hard at work keeping our dad’s dream alive.
When I am passing farm fields these days I keep an eye out for one of those trusty, yet rusty old tractors that made my dad’s eyes sparkle with delight. Who knows? Maybe I will find a good deal and take it back to the cottage. I am sure it would be useful in many odd jobs I do these days. Most of all, I just miss the feel of an old tractor under me as I run the engine through the gears and stay busy moving things here and there. It is like meditation.