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The buddy seat

Erica Louder for Progressive Forage Extra Published on 07 April 2022

Last month, my family and I relocated to my hometown. It wasn’t a move I ever expected to make, but when the chance came up to live near our people, we took it.

While the builders are finishing our house, we live with my parents. Moving back in with them is another thing I never expected to do, but it's been good – like an extended visit. Yet, the longer I’m here, the more I fall back into the role of daughter and less the “head of household.” It’s that feeling of deja vu when my dad hollers down the stairs that cows are out. But I’m not 17 anymore, I’m 30, and those cows belong to me.

That feeling of having been here before and felt this way is chasing me around our rural county, every country road, co-op visit and tractor ride. Last week, my husband was out of town for a couple of days. One evening, as I was getting my kids tucked into bed, my dad called me, and the evening went like this.

“Are the kids in bed yet?” he asks.

“In bed, but not asleep,” I say.

“Let your mom know and come over to the Dolvan place. Nate and I are going to teach you to use the GPS.” Half my lifetime ago, when my dad said jump, I jumped. But back then, Nate was a kid, and I was his boss around the farm. Not anymore, and I jump again when Dad calls.

I sit in the tractor seat of the big Versatile, the disk ripper attached. For the moment, Dad is in the buddy seat, and my brother Nate is crouched on the floor. Nate is talking to me about fuel efficiency, the foreground and theories on working fields. For a moment, I am amazed, but I remember he is not the kid I dragged around to help move water. He is almost 25 and loves to farm. When we near the end of a pass, the GPS cues me. I turn the tractor, doing my best to keep to Nate’s theory. I line up my tractor tires and punch the GPS. The tractor pulls me in line, and we go. We are farming with just the headlights now, and my world is narrowed down to those tractor beams.

Later, Nate hops out of the tractor. His wife is waiting for him, and he has homework to do. Then it’s just Dad and me. I switch him seats. Now I’m in the buddy seat. Without Nate in the tractor, Dad goes rogue and forgoes the GPS. He tells me to watch my tires, lift the disk just a little when turning, and pay attention to my temperature gauge. We drive for a while in silence, and then my dad starts to talk.

At first, nothing too consequential. He tells me about his day, and I talk about mine. Sometimes we drift into silence, and he asks how my kids are adjusting to the new school. Soon my watch pings me, reminding me it’s time to get some rest. It’s 10:00. The later it gets, the deeper our conversation dives, and I feel closer to my dad in a way I haven’t since I was a teenager riding in the passenger seat of his truck. It is deja vu from my vantage point of the buddy seat.

There have been moments over the last few weeks I’m not certain this move was right, but at this moment, I know it is.  end mark

Erica Ramsey Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

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