A 55-year-old private investigator living in the Cotswolds has tractorphobia, and has been known to do six-mile detours to avoid them when walking her dogs.
Ali Harris’s pulse races and her hands shake when she thinks she has seen a tractor in one of the fields where she walks her two dogs, fearing that if one comes too close, it will run her over.
She thinks her fear comes from watching the 1978 version of the thriller film The 39 Steps, where the main character, a spy, is being chased by an aeroplane in a field when he is trying to escape the police.
Living in the countryside, Ali often sees tractors on the road, but she is fine when she is in the safety of her own car.
Ali only walks the dogs once a week, which helps her avoid seeing any tractors, and her husband Chris, 70, and 28-year-old daughter Alix, find the fear quite amusing.
She knows it is unusual, but cannot seem to shake it – her reaction, when seeing or hearing a tractor, remains the same as when she first moved to the Cotswolds 12 years ago from Witney in Oxfordshire.
Ali explained how she reacts if she sees a tractor, when walking her two Irish wolfhound labrador crosses, Ruby and Dot.
She said: “For some reason, if there’s a tractor in the field, I either run, which is very unlikely, with my dogs, and they look at me as if to say ‘what’s going on now?’
“Or I do a detour of six miles right around so that I’m avoiding the field that the tractor is in. It takes me hours longer to get home.
“I don’t know why they scare me. I think they’re going to come and run me over.”
Ali thinks her fear stems from watching the 1978 thriller The 39 Steps, which she watched before moving to the rural Cotswolds, explaining: “It’s nothing to do with a tractor, but the guy is a spy and he’s trying to run away and this aeroplane keeps flying down in a field trying to get him.
“I know tractors don’t fly, I’m not that weird, but I just think ‘Oh my god they’re going to get me’ when I see one, like the guy did in the film with the aeroplane.”
When Ali, who has no other phobias, sees a tractor, she goes into complete panic mode.
She said: “My heart starts really pumping and I get really scared. I don’t know why. And I’m a little bit shaky until I know that I’m out of the way.
“When I hear the tractor, that’s the first thing that worries me.
“I’ve got quite an acute sense of hearing, and I must look like an owl with my head turning round to see if there’s a tractor in any of the fields.
“So then I’m scanning around the fields to try and see if there is actually a tractor around, and where I walk the dogs there’s field after field after field.
“When it gets to a closer field, like a couple of fields away, where I can see it, I’m OK.
“But if I see it in the field next to me or actually coming in the gate, I start talking to my dogs in a high-pitched voice and get them to move with me so we can get away or try to get them under a tree so we’re almost hiding from it.”
Ali has tried to avoid them by going on walks at different times of the day, but she says it’s “unpredictable” when tractors will be there, as someone could be ploughing a field, or just driving the tractor to a different field, at any time of day.
Ali explained how she copes when she comes across a tractor: “I deal with it when I see it then and there. I usually just turn in the opposite direction.
“I don’t walk them every day, Chris, my husband, walks them mainly, I just do it once a week so it cuts down the likelihood of me seeing one.”
Living in the countryside, Ali comes across tractors regularly on the road, but this does not worry her.
She said: “When I’m in the fields I feel quite vulnerable, but I’m fine in the car, I think because I’m in control.”
When Ali explains what has happened to her husband, Chris, who is retired, and her daughter, Alix, they find it quite “amusing”.
She said: “When I told them how scared I feel when I see a tractor, I think they both just laughed.
“They think it’s really, really weird, they don’t understand it all.”
She joked that if she was given a case based at a farm she would try to avoid it, for fear of seeing a tractor.
She said: “I would feel slightly nervous and weird if I was given a job on a farm.”
Ali is not considering getting any professional help with her phobia, saying: “I don’t think I’ll ever get hypnotherapy or anything like that as it doesn’t affect me too much – I take the dogs out less regularly to avoid seeing a tractor.
“If I do see one, my method of coping is to just walk away and remove myself from the field.
“I haven’t improved much since we moved 12 years ago, and I feel the same as I did then, because I don’t see tractors when I’m walking the dogs all the time to get used to them.
“I see it as a strange quirk in my nature, not something I need to really worry about.”