Grandpa Smith’s Bulldozer

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In the summer of 1980, my dad (22) dug out a pond on our new land with Grandpa Smith’s Caterpillar D6 bulldozer. It was loud, it was old, and it was dirty. I (3) loved it. The rhythmic sounds of the insanely loud diesel engine would somehow lull me to sleep. It was wonderful.

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There were things you needed to know about the bulldozer before operating it. For instance, you could only turn in one direction. If you turned the wrong way, you would soon learn that one of the tracks had a tendency to journey off independently of the rest of the bulldozer. This could make your already long day a whole lot longer. Also, the blade was cable operated, which meant there was no down pressure beyond the weight of the blade–this was an issue when trying to maneuver a fallen tree that still had its attitude intact.

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I bet if you walked the road in front of Grandpa Smith’s house today, you would still find marks left from that bulldozer’s tracks. My dad was elementary school age when Grandpa first brought it home. He said he followed the tracks down the gravel road after school that day and found it dead and abandoned in road. Grandpa Smith is known for taking in things that need a little work.

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I’m told that Grandpa Gleason was excited to get onto Grandpa Smith’s bulldozer, he was even known to reminisce about it years later. Looks like my appreciate of heavy equipment comes from both sides of the family.

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Several years later, Grandpa Smith was clearing some recently purchased land to prepare it for farming. The land was fenced and had previously been used for livestock. One day Grandpa and I fired up the old D6 and headed out to the new property. It was thrilling for me as a kid (and I think for Grandpa as well) to plow through a fence like it wasn’t even there. We then headed to a large pile of burning trees. We began pushing another tree toward to fire. To my amazement, Grandpa didn’t stop when we got to the pile. He continued pushing the tree as the bulldozer began to climb onto the blaze. Grandpa pulled me close to protect me from the scorching heat surrounding us. A great sense of relief washed over me when we backed off of that burning pile of trees. I’ve never felt heat quite like that before or sense–even when I worked at a steel mill. Looking back, I’ve realized that most of my favorite memories with Grandpa Smith have involved an element of danger.

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