Holding onto the old, even when it's obsolete

Mychal Wilmes doesn't want to give up his flip phone in favor of a smartphone anymore than his father wanted to be done with his old tractor when it died.

mychal wilmes.jpg
Mychal Wilmes
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“You really need a smartphone,’’ said a friend after watching me yank the flip phone from my pocket. “You could take pictures and send them to me if you had a smartphone.’’

The difference between the two is explained in a definition provided online: “Technically, a smartphone is a cellphone, but a cellphone isn’t smart.’’

It could be that I’m not smart enough to own a computerized phone.

I have not memorized by cellphone number, but I do recall the party line number, which went caput more than 35 years ago.

“I can’t believe you don’t know your own phone number,’’ my friend said. “How long have you had it, anyway?”


It’s been a long time, but too much memorization can clutter the mind.

The clerk where my alleged obsolete phone was purchased said it is only a matter of time before flip phones are no longer technologically supported. So, my phone is a flywheel John Deere B, a kicking Allis Chalmers WC, or a 1930s Case tractor equipped with a turkey roost.

Given the monthly cell phone bill, the thought of returning to a party line is not unpleasant. Oh, there were drawbacks to the system — especially when a breeched calf needed veterinarian help or worse, a family member needed emergency medical assistance.

A stern “emergency’’ declaration almost always yielded phone access, but there were times when the user delayed in getting off the phone. My mother, who from time to time rubbernecked on the party line, was not dissuaded from doing so even after it was pointed out that violating another’s privacy wasn’t a Christian thing.

"Everyone does it,’’ she said before cupping her hand over the receiver. I tried without success to use the same reasoning when attempting questionable actions.

My brothers, when the time for romance became important, could not keep their phone chats from listening ears — be they owned by others on the line or a younger brother who listened through the neighboring room’s wall.

Cellphone and smartphone users don’t seem to care much about privacy, given the conversations heard in stores and parking lots. Then there is Facebook, which offers information that ought to be kept private.

There is something to be said about holding on to the old. A farmer friend still has the Oliver 88 tractor his father purchased decades ago. He would not sell it even if someone offered twice the amount it cost new. A new Oliver 88 cost $3,000 in 1954, which given the times was a goodly sum but in the same price ballpark as a similar Allis Chalmers WD.


My Dad bought one of those, which was a workhorse used to plant corn, cultivate, and harvest. The tractor continued to work well into the 1970s until a broken crankshaft ended its days. Dad didn’t say much when the WD died, but he certainly missed it.

Later, my brothers purchased a new Allis Chalmers 190XT. It was a diesel and what seemed to be monster size. The dealership flew my twin brothers to the factory as a reward and they came home with a AC pen for me. I used the pen for an entire school year before it was lost.

The 190XT had too much power for its rear end and got to be considered a bust. My brother switched to John Deere field tractors. I thought that he might repaint the tractor Allis Chalmers orange for old-time sake.

He didn’t. but I sort of did when — after using pounds of body putty on a 1962 Ford Galaxy equipped with bucket seats — I dressed it in Allis Chalmers colors.

A friend’s opinion was that the Ford looked like a pumpkin and perhaps was the ugliest vehicle he’s ever seen. I should call him on my flip phone to see if that opinion holds all these years later.

To read more of Mychal Wilmes' Farm Boy Memories, click here.

Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.

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