A Man on a Tractor, by Rodney Atkins

This is one of my favorite songs by Rodney, and probably the first one I really saw myself in. Even though I do live in the country, it’s a quite frequent occurance to look out the kitchen window or off the front porch and see how much “more” there is to life than what I’ve already got. In that moment I’ve felt myself longing for this or that, only to come back to reality a while later and realize “that’s not me.” In a way, that was very disappointing. You see someone who’s “got it together,” maybe in their little farm on 5 acres, or even beyond the realm of stuff to the man and wife sitting on the front porch, relaxing, just enjoying life. And I wonder, “can I have that?” I think that’s what this song is all about. Coming to that realization that while there are an infinite number of other lives out there for us to idolize or wish we had, there is only one that we do have, and that’s our own. The question is, what will we do with it? Will we “make the most of it,” but still always be comparing our life to that of someone else, or will we take that image of the “ideal life,” boil it down to the values it really means to us and what draws us to it, and then see where that fits into the life we’ve been given.

I woke up the same way this morning
like a stranger in my own life
tired and confused with too much to do
nothing left for my kids and my wife
oh I clung to that first cup of coffee
praying god, won’t you show me what’s real
then out in the distance I saw through the window
a man on a tractor with a dog in a field

How many mornings have I woken up to this feeling? Like I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’m lost. Not like lost for eternity, but just plain old lost… don’t know where I am, where I’m going, where I should be, or how to get to any of those places. You sit there at the kitchen table, coffee in hand, looking through the steam at the imaginary world that “could be mine.” And then you see it. In your minds eye, a vision comes to mind. A farm on 40 acres. A career that lets me take a month off every year. A family full of happiness and smiles. And you want it. You wonder what it would take to get “that” for your life.

the dog walked just like it was smiling
the man drove like the world was all right
the tractor hummed on like a part of a song
that you sing to your children at night
his work was laid out there before him
in rows of green, his whole life was revealed
oh what I wouldn’t give if I could just live
like a man on a tractor with a dog in a field

Peace. Joy. The good life. Clear direction. A friend you can count on. “What I wouldn’t give for that,” I think. How much of the life I’m living now would I sell just for that life. The life that may not have all the stuff, but at least it has peace. At least it has clarity.

let me do what I’m doing
let me be where I am
let me find peace of mind
on my own piece of land
when I’m lost, help me to let go
and find someway to feel
like a man on a tractor with a dog in a field

The chorus in thing song says it all… I see all that’s out there, I dream “bigger” than will fit into my life, but I have to find some sort of compromise, don’t I? I’ve got to be satisfied, don’t I? If i can’t have “that,” I can still “make do” with what I do have, right? I’ve got a good family… a nice home… a home for eternity… but is that really enough? Am I really satisfied to the point that I don’t sense that longing for the life of a rocking chair on the porch, or strumming a guitar into the night, of spending all day plowing a field, planting seeds, and then spending the next several months watching what I’ve planted come to life?

There I was watching and wondering
my wife came down and sat beside me
she said. “It’s not about living another man’s life
it’s about seeing your own differently
oh this home that I love and my children
what more could one man hope to yield
then she touched my face
and said, “there’s more than one way
to be a man on a tractor with a dog in a field

I love how the last verse goes here. It takes an intervention. It takes that friend – that spouse – that other set of eyes – to help you see that what you’ve already got in front of you IS all that you could ever want, or dream of. “It’s not about living another man’s life; it’s about seeing yoru own differently.” And that’s what it takes. It may take it over and over again, but that’s what it takes. Realizing that this life I have to live is worth every ounce of effort and heart I can pour into it, that the “home” I live in has very little to do with drywall, 2×4’s, and dirt. That my children, my wife, my job, or even a lack of any of those things, is so much more than many people would dream of. For that matter, someone might be looking at my life and say, “wow, I’d love that.” What shall I model for them? The constant desire for more? Or true satisfaction. With what I have, where I am, and probably most of all, who I am?

I know the answer to that. Most of us do. But it’s songs like this that remind me, put it in perspective, and make me proud to just be… me.

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