Tractors in Heaven: Remembering Wheeler Cobb
Do old farm tractors break down in Heaven? I sure hope so. If it weren’t for a Farmall Cub in need of repair, I’d have never gotten to know Wheeler Cobb. Wheeler was like a grandfather to me. Those who read this column regularly know I have affably dubbed him one of my favorite “boogers” because, like a booger, I was able to “pick” him to be a part of my family.
He was a lifelong farmer, rodeo cowboy, historian and tractor mechanic. And on Monday, the cowboy rode away to that great ranch in the sky at the age of 87.
Wheeler rode many fine horses in his life, but I’m sure the horsepower that took him to Heaven was the kind that is packed into a steel cube underneath the hood of a John Deere tractor. Wheeler was, first and foremost, a family man. He was a caring father and husband, even when he was stern. And he was a sweet, loving grandfather, his grandchildren say.
He liked to give people a hard time; that was his primary form of affection. If he liked you, he’d greet you with a joke that other folks might misconstrue to be an insult. If you could hurl back a quip of equal or greater magnitude, he liked you even more. We exchanged a lot of good “barbs” through the years.
Many of them came while we worked on my farm tractors. In the summer of 2016, my late friend Dennis Muret gave me a 1949 Farmall Cub that had been sitting in his barn, untouched, for years. Dennis found out through mutual friends that I was looking for a tractor to call my own, so he gave me his. Wheeler knew my family, and he showed me how to get the tractor running again. With his trusty tools in hand, he joined me on several trips to my farm to work on the pretty red machine.
I can still remember him teaching me how to adjust the points on the tractor’s distributor. How to set the gaps on the sparkplugs. How to shift it in and out of gear. And I still remember how I felt that sunny summer afternoon when I cranked the tractor’s engine over for the first time.
I heard the engine whirr and sputter to life – and I called Wheeler right away. Thanks to Wheeler, I’ve developed a passion for (more like an addiction to) old tractors. I’ve made many friends at tractor shows, and I’ve added countless tractordriving people to my “adopted” family.
Wheeler was, of course, my adopted grandpa. I’ve bought several tractors since 2016, and Wheeler has helped me work on them as well. We’ve even driven them in parades together, one right behind the other. I’ll never forget the smile on his face as he drove my McCormick International W-6, which was covered in Christmas lights for a parade in 2017.
I cried like a baby Monday when I learned he was gone. I’m going to miss that guy. I know I’ll see him again, though.
But I hope that, in Heaven, nothing is as perfect as the Bible says it will be. I once heard a pastor say that Heaven is Earth without the curse. When we’re in Heaven, we’re middle-aged, doing the things we love without any sickness, pain or stress. Everything there is perfect.
So, does that mean all tractors run smoothly, endlessly tilling up rows of heavenly soil without so much as an oil change? Do worn-out tractors like mine have a barn to call home in Heaven?
Wheeler and I made our best memories together while cussing and discussing tractors and all their problems. He came into my life by helping me make broken-down tractors new again. That’s how we got to know one another. And that’s how we came to love one another.
So, when I’m up yonder, I hope God will let my tractors’ engines fail and their carburetors go kaput. I want to make more memories with Wheeler.
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