When Rufus arrives at Mr Holroyd's farm he hasn't even got a name. "It was horrid to be nameless! You couldn't even talk to yourself if you didn't know what you were called." (C 1). He is called Rufus because of his red paint. But on his first day he can't start. Snowy the horse, jealous that Rufus might be replacing him, tipped a bucket of water over him when Rufus was asleep in the barn. The next day, however, Rufus can start work.
On the first day Roland the pig escapes. He wants to go to sea. But Rufus helps capture him. However Roland has another plan. He tunnels from his sty into the middle of the farmyard and acquires two cans of paint. On the next Hunt meeting, when the hunters and hounds have all gathered for a stirrup cup in the farmyard, a rather fat hound with black and brown splodges joins them, coming out of a hole in the ground. By the next day Roland has escaped to sea.
Rufus has other adventures. He pulls a caravan out of a ditch and ploughs up some Roman coins. Then one night, left under a tarpaulin in a field in the company of a posh-talking hedgehog, Rufus realises that there is a fire in the farmyard. He thinks it is a chimney fire ("I once had a chimney on fire myself. It burnt five days and two hours. A large chimney, you will say. I reply no, a small fire." says the hedgehog.) Realising that the barn is on fire and Snowy trapped inside, Rufus rushes down to the farmyard and smashed through the back wall of the barn, freeing the frightened horse.
He makes lots of other friends such as Ben the sheepdog and Stapleton the crow who tells Rufus "Always come out of the sun. Nobody can see you." (C 5)
Lots of exciting adventures. But the magic of the book is the way in which the tractor and the animals are personified whilst still retaining their essence. For example:
- When Rufus is shy "He just rolled backwards and forwards on his wheels and pretended to be interested in his axles." (C 1)
- "Rufus made such a noise that all the chickens in the farmyards ran away. The hens chased after them shouting, 'It's all right. It's only Rufus the [sic] tractor!' But they all hid behind buckets and bales of hay and peeped out to see what was going on." (C 2)
- "They ran down the street and over the bridge. Rufus wasn't ready for the hump back. When they went down the other side he felt hollow." (C 3)
A beautifully written and much loved children's book. September 2018; 88 pages