Updated date:

The Tractor: Billybuc Photo Challenge/Prompt#3

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

Bill's Rules or Not

"Oh hell, there are no rules, folks. I’m just tossing out some photos and hoping they resonate with you. If you want to write a story or poem based on one photo, great! If you want to build a story around all five photos, great! If you want to write 200 words, great! And if you want to appease the HP editors and go for 1250, I say, once more, great!"

So, with these strict instructions in hand I wrote the following piece of short fiction.

The Tractor

As daybreak approached and the sun rose over the horizon, the first rays pushed through the gaps in the weathered roof between the rafters.

He wasn’t asleep but he just lay there on the bed of moldy hay, transfixed by the horizontal stripes of light. This old barn and outhouses had been his home for so long now -- ever since --well, he pushed that from his mind.

All he had now were memories, and so he wallowed in his reminiscing of days gone by. This was once his uncle’s farm and as a child he spend many a summer month here enjoying the freedom of rural life, helping with the cattle, and other farm chores his uncle thought a young boy could handle.

This barn and the machinery shed full of tools and farm equipment were wondrous places for a kid to act out the fantastic adventures racing through his mind. Being an only child, with no close cousins, he had to make his own fun, and a vibrant imagination certainly helped.

Barn, shed and outbuildings

Barn, shed and outbuildings

There was an old dinghy in the shed. His uncle had crafted it from the hood of an old Vanguard car. It was pockmarked with rust holes so the chances of floating were next to none, but it had oars and was the perfect prop for some pirating adventures. He’d pretend the barn was a pirate ship and would hoist an old t-shirt on a garden stake as the ‘Jolly Roger.”

The pirate ship would attack others in the vicinity, and after looting and pillaging the pirates would anchor it off shore then he would board the dinghy and row to an island where there was sure to be a buried treasure. Studying a map obtained in the raid, he’d soon dig up a chest of coins and precious jewels.

He stood up and gazed out the window. No one had visited here in what seemed like forever. He longed for company and hoped to see a vehicle or even a horse and rider venture up the overgrown driveway.

The home next door was inhabited and they ran some cattle as well, but no one ever ventured past the boundary fence, let alone visited.

The old John Deere tractor was still there, sitting idle, but still in reasonable condition for its age. Maybe the engine was seized up from just sitting, maybe not. He felt morose as he stared at it, remember how it had change “things” forever.

He was 12 years old at the time and staying here at the farm on his summer vacation. His uncle lived alone and was always happy for the company and an extra set of hands. Most farm chores were fun for a city boy, like feeding the cattle and chickens, collecting eggs, and milking the house cow. He even learned how to assemble the equipment to separate the milk from cream, and then how to churn the cream into butter.

The only thing he wasn’t allowed to do was drive the tractor. Oh, his uncle showed him how to start it and let him sit on it and pretend, but he always said it was too dangerous to drive until he was older.

Well, young boys are curious and reckless, and he couldn’t wait until he was older. One day when his uncle was away in the far paddock repairing fences, the boy climbed onto the John Deere and turned the key. It started with a chug and suddenly lurched forward. It took awhile but eventually he started to get the feel of it and started to build up speed and confidence, moving across the field at a steady clip.

What happened next was vague. He tried to search his foggy memory. He remembered feeling a sudden impact as the tractor struck something, a log maybe, in the same moment it was flipping and the ground rose up to meet him. Then there was blackness.

By the time his uncle returned and found the upturned tractor, it was too late.

Image by carolynabooth from Pixabay

Image by carolynabooth from Pixabay

His next memory was watching his own funeral, and the sadness and tears of his family and friends was heartbreaking, especially his uncle who took all the guilt on his shoulders.

They said his body had been found in the barn. His uncle had followed drag marks in the dirt from where the tractor lay. Somehow, despite the fatal injuries the boy had managed to crawl there, but died soon after.

Depression set in, and his uncle was unable to continue working the farm. The guilt was too much and he never forgave himself. He moved to town and stayed with the boy’s parents for some years, but they have all since passed away.

The farm was sold, well a number of times, and the lonely occupant was always excited especially if they had children. The tenancies, however, were always short, despite grand intentions, with the new owners always citing that the barn and outbuildings were haunted - inhabited by the ghost of a young boy.

Just then, he heard and engine rev, and through the window he saw a red pick-up truck rumble up the drive. He smiled ..



John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 16, 2020:

Thank you Ann, yes tractor and quad bike accidents are the most prevalent on our farms as well. I appreciate you reading, and you stay safe also.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 16, 2020:

I see what you mean about the similarities, John! Good story and well-told. There are so many accidents with tractors, especially on unstable ground, in this country. Many farmers don't bother with the safety stuff as it's too time-wasting and fussy. Who can work on a farm dolled up with all the gear?!

Anyway, well done with this. I'll read number 4 soon (I'm still working on that!). Keep safe and well.


John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 21, 2020:

Oh okay Flourish. Thank you for your comment and also sharing what happened to your dad. I am pleased this story seemed realistic to you.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 21, 2020:

How spooky and also realistic. My father grew up on a farm and nearly lost part of his finger from a tractor accident. He was driving the tractor doing work on the farm as a 6 year old when it overturned. Part of his finger was hanging off and now it’s permanently wonky.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 04, 2020:

Thank you so much, Lori.

Lori Colbo from United States on March 04, 2020:


John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 25, 2020:

Thank you, Chris. I greatly appreciate your comment. This was written partially from memories of my visits to my own uncle’s farm..though I never tried to drive the tractor, fortunately. Yes, I could see you put a lot of effort into your stories from Bill’s last two prompts. Cheers.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on February 25, 2020:

John, you laid such a great foundation for this story. We loved the boy and were excited for his time on the farm. How sad. I wouldn't be able to bear the death of a nephew or any child whose care was entrusted to me. But in the end, maybe the ghost of the child learned something. Don't spook off the newcomers. haha. Great story, John. I enjoyed it. I'm glad you tipped me off that you had written it. After I saw Bill's photos, I did nothing but write and rewrite, so would probably have never found your story.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 25, 2020:

Thank you Jason. Glad the story got you hooked and kept your interest throughout. Cheers.

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on February 25, 2020:

Hi John, what can I say? Great story. I really got sucked right in from the beginning. It was interesting and intriguing all the way through. Great curve. I loved that it was a ghost story. Nice job on "Bills challenge"!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 20, 2020:

Thank you for reading this Alan and offering some insight. Yes, there will always be “what ifs” and yes, it just anyone has what it takes to run a farm. I also could have taken the story further to elaborate on his haunting activities but as you said, “he wasn’t a poltergeist” and all he wanted were friends to play with.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on February 20, 2020:

Pithy tale, John, and salutary. Uncle should've disabled the tractor, eh?

Guilt trips aside, no-one seems to have made a determined 'go' at running the farm. You're either born to it, or you're doomed to failure. Maybe that's what haunted these tenants. In the backs of their minds there's a;ways that fallback: I can always pack it in if things get out of hand.

Maybe you could've made something of the boy's haunting, but then he wasn't a poltergeist and the haunted were kith and kin.

Good on yer, John!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 18, 2020:

Hi JC, thank you for taking the time to read this story. Glad you enjoyed it.

JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on February 18, 2020:

Great story John. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 17, 2020:

Thank you for reading Meg. I am glad you felt sorry for my ghost. Yes, children's sense of adventure and daring often gets them into trouble, fortunately not always with such dire consequences.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on February 17, 2020:

Oh, the poor ghost and such a shame that every family moves on quickly. We are adventurous as children and sometimes that leads to tragedy.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 16, 2020:

Thank you, Liz. I appreciate that. It is what I hoped to do with the story.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 16, 2020:

This is a well-written story with a tragic twist. You keep the reader hooked.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 15, 2020:

Hi Venkatachari, I enjoyed writing this story from Bill’s photos. They really spoke to me, or my muse at least. Glad the story kept you guessing. Thank you so much for reading.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on February 15, 2020:

A fantastic story, John. Thanks for the treat.

Your muse always works wonders. I enjoyed the twists and the ending. A great response to Bill's challenge.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Thank you, Bushra.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on February 14, 2020:

Good story! Thanks!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Hi Linda, it is good that you felt sorry for the ghost. I was hoping to get that type of reaction. Thanks for reading.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 14, 2020:

I felt sorry for the ghost at the end and was interested in his future, which is a mark of a good story. You've made great use of Bill's photos, John.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Thank you Peg. I haven’t written many ghost stories before, in fact I think this is a first. I am so happy that it worked out ok. Thank you for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Ruby, the photo of the window was actually attracted me to do this challenge the most. I didn’t know where I would go with the story at first, but then the tractor took over. I am just glad it worked.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Thank you Devika. I enjoyed this challenge. The pictures were great.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 14, 2020:

This is the best ghost story that I have read in some time. Thanks for the ride!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 14, 2020:

This was such a great story, a bit sad, but the surprising twist made it a paranormal read, which I love. It's funny how you picked the tractor to write about. When I saw the picture of the black building with the window, I immediately thought of a bank robber hiding. I always like what you write, be it a short story or poetry.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 14, 2020:

John you met this challenge through your great talent and imagination.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Shauna, boys are forever curious and reckless unfortunately. I could have made the story longer and had interaction with some of the later tenants I suppose, but I simply hinted that maybe that was to come with the arrival of the red truck. Who was in it is up to the reader’s imagination I am afraid. Yes, I know you are partial to the paranormal so I hoped this would appeal to you. Thank you for reading and for your insightful comment.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Bill, as soon as I saw this weeks photos I felt a story forming. Not sure where this idea came from but a muse often works in mysterious ways. I changed the tractor pic just to make it a little different. I am happy that you enjoyed the read. Thanks again for setting this challenge and the encouraging comment.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Hi Allen, Thank you for reading my story and for your fine comment. I admit the setting was somewhat of a hybrid from my Australian upbringing and based a lot on my childhood memories of my own Uncle Bill’s farm and what I imagine a typical US farm setting might be like (hence the pickup truck rather than a Ute as we would say in Australia.) it was fortunate that your tractor episodes did not end tragically. My experiences would also have been red (Massey Ferguson.) I appreciate the interesting exchange. Take care.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 14, 2020:

John, at first I thought perhaps the young boy accidentally ran over his uncle, but that wasn't the case at all. Too bad he didn't listen to his uncle's warnings. He missed out on life because of his defiance.

I would have loved to perhaps have some interaction between one of the many tenants and the ghost-boy. You know how I love the paranormal.

This is a good story, John. Your muse kicked into gear right away with this set of photo prompts.

BTW, who's in the red truck?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 14, 2020:

A wonderful imagination, John, and a treat to read. You took us on all manner of twists and turns in a short period of written time, not an easy thing to do. Beautiful read, and thank you for taking part.

Allen Edwards from Iowa on February 14, 2020:

Good day John..Your wonderful story set a charge flowing that conjured up, in my rapidly degrading -- pre-intergrated circuitry -- memory bank, many similar emotions that you must have drawn on to write it.

Having lived and worked in Australia for quite some time, I found the similarity of your rural setting scenery; characters; and plot, to be easy to accept, and relate to my own: "growing up on that Iowa farm"..even though, I am fairly certain, quite a few "Yanks" could not.

I spent many an hour in our barn, trying to bring alive those comic book characters and movie heroes, in as many death defying scenes as i could conjure up.

I also, can completely put myself in the situation of the tractor versus boy boy tragedy. My own(2) episodes did not end with such deadly consequences, but were it not for that extra 15 feet of field or that 3 foot of extra road width..Things could have gone really bad! And, last, but certainly...not least, both my tractor rides were of the "red" variety(Farmall)

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Thank you Eric, glad this left you intrigued. Come back as many times as you wish.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 14, 2020:

A treat to read. OK not joyful. I not sure why this intrigues me so. I will back to read again.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Yes, manatita, Bill was very flexible with the rules for this one and it certainly offered the writers a chance to do there own thing so to speak. When I studied the photos, the idea for this one just came to me in an instant and the story flowed quite easily surprisingly.

manatita44 from london on February 14, 2020:

Good of Bill to leave this one so freely open. More opportunities, I guess. You've done a great job with the kid and scenery. Took him through death and the afterlife. Ingenious, he was, but a good case in point that curiosity can be fatal, as was this cause. A Poignant piece.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Thank you very much Pamela. Yes, tragic I admit, but I am happy you found it enjoyable.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 14, 2020:

I would definitely say you met the challenge. This is a tragice tale but a good story. Well done, John.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 14, 2020:

Hi Nikki, thank you for that wonderful comment. I am glad you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it.

Nikki Khan from London on February 14, 2020:

Excellent and ingenious piece of writing, John.

I didn't expect such a horror story at the end. Bit of creepiness and irony on boy's side, I loved it.

You did it so well, well done!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 13, 2020:

Hi Rosina, thank you for reading my little tale. I am glad you enjoyed it even if I kept you wondering at the end.

Rosina S Khan on February 13, 2020:

This was definitely an interesting story following Bill's photos. I wasn't prepared for the young boy's ghost at the end but it closes the story on a curious note, left to the imagination of the reader. Thank you for your superb contribution.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 13, 2020:

Val, your comment humbles me. I am glad I succeeded in painting a picture that you deem worthy to grace the wall in front of your desk. Cheers, my friend.

Val Karas from Canada on February 13, 2020:

John, my friend -- With this one, you (again) succeeded to create in my mind such a beautiful picture that I wished I could frame it and place it on the wall here in front of my desk. Bravo!

Related Articles