Most children I know are fascinated with heavy machinery. I think they imagine the machines giving them vast amounts of power far beyond the ability of their tiny bodies. Even my daughter, who was a stuffed-animals kind of kid, had a special toy truck of her own. I can still hear her humming to herself as she loaded her animals into her tractor-trailer and navigated the hallways and rooms in our house.
Now kids who visit the Museum can pretend with the real thing. They can hoist themselves into the seat of an honest-to-goodness tractor, jab at the controls, pull the levers, and roar at the top of their lungs. They can imagine themselves digging up vineyards or tearing down buildings, and they can do it with permission from adults, who usually don't take kindly to such behavior.
They might even want their picture taken as they wreak imaginary havoc.
The San Joaquin County Historical Museum holds a lot of antique agricultural machines, many of them rare and fragile. Touching them—let alone sitting on them—is strictly forbidden. But workers at the Museum recently rehabilitated a small Caterpillar tractor especially for the enjoyment of young visitors. The tractor is just the right size, and a stairway prepared as part of an Eagle Scout project helps ensure that they reach the seat safely.
For the record, the machine you see in the photograph is a Caterpillar Thirty, and it dates from 1930. Operating at its prime, it had thirty horsepower and apparently spent most of its life farming on Mandeville Island, in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. At present, however, it lacks any means of propulsion and is destined to spend the rest of its days sitting at the Museum, looking beautiful and baiting imaginative youngsters.
The Museum's "Photo-op" Caterpillar Thirty awaits admirers during regular hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.