Tractor Rescue: A Really Rough Diamond (2)

Tractor Rescue: A Really Rough Diamond (2)

“A Really Rough Diamond”

(For one dollar and the making of a gift)

  Sage on 1935 JD "A"

Sage on 1935 JD “A”

Chapter 2

“The Basics of Mechanics”


“It hasn’t got the right stock on it”.  My brother said with an air of satisfied superiority.

“What do you mean”?  I said with more than a little disbelief.

“The stock should have a deep curve on the butt-plate”.  And with that he marked a rough outline with his finger on the stock of the little Winchester.

“It’s alright”.  I said as I took the empty rifle (the action was open) out of his hands and headed down stairs.

I was around guns early enough in life that I don’t actually remember the first time I handled or fired one.  I’m sure it was consequential to my Father’s and brother’s use for hunting and pest control.  I don’t recall being referred to as particularly bloodthirsty but at the same time, I was used to the farm life and all that it entailed.  Animals were to be controlled, utilized and cared for as needed for productivity.  In most cases the end result of that production was the market or directly to meat due to the fact that we sometimes butchered our own stock for the freezer.

The model 90 Winchester ‘22 (and all of our other guns) had been kept in the corner of the stairway landing as long as I could remember.  Dad had allowed me to shoot the little pump action ’22 on several occasions but always one shot at a time with him loading and handling the rifle.  Then, after he unloaded the gun, I was taught how to clean it and had been cleaning it for what seemed like (to me at the time) forever.  Now (in the summer of 1965) he had promised to teach me how to load and fire the rifle without assistance but under his watchful eye.  I had long since become “Expert” with my Daisy BB gun (as far as I was concerned anyway) and now I was ready to move up to the real thing.

That was the first time I was allowed to handle a loaded gun by myself.  Later that summer and into the fall I was allowed to go squirrel hunting (using a .410) with my brother John (I even got one that first year!).  That winter I used that same single-shot Savage shotgun for rabbit hunting (under supervision).  So, by the late summer of ’66, I was sure that I was ready to handle a gun on my own.  Dad agreed and I couldn’t wait for the 10th of August (I believe this was the first day of squirrel season; later changed to the 15th).

I went squirrel hunting with John on the first day and several days after but by this time, John had a car and better things to do on Friday night than walk the woods with little brother.  So on Fridays I would stay at The Hill and go squirrel hunting.  I had started staying at The Hill on Friday nights about a year before.  In the beginning, Mom and Dad would pick me up on their way home. Later, I would just stay all night and Dad would pick me up Saturday morning when he came to do the feeding.  This meant that with my chores done and with Mrs. Riggins’ almost universal consent, I could do just about anything a boy wanted to do on a 200 + acre farm with 80 +/- acres of woods (containing some old growth trees).

Later that evening, I could sit on the davenport in Mrs. Riggins’ living room with a bowl of ice cream (and usually cake).  With my feet on an oriental rug and my free hand equipped with a television remote control (that was a big deal in the 60s), I could rein as a potentate (albeit a very minor one) until I went to sleep or my ride arrived.

For a boy with solitary tendencies, a grain and stock farm in Boone County Indiana during the mid-1960’s, was a wonderful place.  Oh, there were issues with family, school and of course, the War (unfortunately, we seem to have similar issues today, whenever “Today” happens to be for the reader) but for a boy, a curious, daydreaming, self-styled adventurer of a boy, this farm was a place where all things seemed possible.  I never missed an opportunity to be outside and with the help of my brother’s old Boy Scout Manual as well as a little guidance from my brother and Dad; I gained proficiency with the basics of mechanics and outdoor life.  While learning to hunt, trap, start a campfire (with matches; rubbing sticks together was before even my time) and tying knots, I developed the start of a keen appreciation of the land as well as everything on it, both natural and manmade.  This was to become a love of understanding how things work.  It was a love that I didn’t recognize at the time but one that would continue to grow.



One Friday evening, in late August or early September of 1966, I had been hunting back in the East Woods.  That particular evening I left the woods before sun down and in the softening light, I made my way back up the woods lane past the dozens of boulders that had been gathered from the fields and collected along the fences.  This was the “Old Lane”, so named for the very practical reason that it had been the first and for a long time, the only, means of ingress and egress when the farm was first organized.  It had long since (from my personal point of view) been superseded by the “New Lane” that ran directly from the house to the road.

Not quite half way up the Old Lane it was intersected by a lane that ran perpendicular to the west, going through the east barn lot, behind the house and ending at the west barn lot.  The east end of this lane was more like a rectangular lot, an acre or so in size.  The lane portion of this lot was on the south side and ran past an old tin granary, an abandon set of wagon scales and past the stock loading pens then into the east barn lot.  The area around the wagon scales had long been a relegated to the status of a junk yard in role if not in appellation.

Now sitting beside that scale pit was the old tractor that I had passed at least one hundred times.  I’m sure I had even played on it half a hundred times but for some reason this was the first time I had actually seen it as something other than the discarded hulk that, apparently, everyone else saw.

All these years later, I have no recollection of why but I noticed that particular object on that particular night.  My best guess is that it had something to do with seeing antique farm machinery at a fair or farm show but it may have only been a whim as I sat on the seat and made believe I was driving.  Still, some of my earliest memories of farm work are of my Father using that ’35 “A” and its Skyline brand loader to clean out the cattle barns (I still have and use the loader.  After its tour of duty on the “A”, it was mounted on a 2-N Ford) and his using the “A” and a “Black Hawk” 4 row planter to plant soy beans.

Whatever the reason, my outlook went from simple acceptance of the fact of its existence to one of “Future Junior Collector” as I asked myself “Wouldn’t it be neat to have this fixed up like new?  I suppose my answer was yes because in a few minutes I was standing Mrs. Riggins’ living room, next to her overstuffed brown chair, asking what she planned to do with the old tractor down by the loading pens.  The evening red sunset must have been coming through the west windows because it made the white lace she was crocheting appear bright pink.  Without looking up or missing a loop, she said “It will go to the junk man someday”.  I quickly asked if I could have it.  This time she stopped, glanced at me and said “Honey, whatever would you do with that old thing”?  I’m sure I had a very logical explanation (that is, logical to a 10 year-olds’ way of thinking).  At any rate, after a few minutes of my expansive thoughts and a few moments of silence she said, “Well, you can have it as far as I’m concerned but you will have ask Don (my Dad) when he picks you up in the morning”.  I may have had trouble sleeping that night but as I recall my television viewing habits, the problem likely stemmed more from the “Twilight Zone” than from my anticipation of tractor ownership.

The next morning I awoke to the sounds of Mrs. Riggins and Dad bidding each other “Good Morning” as Dad kicked off his gum boots in the back porch.  Standard morning procedure called for Dad to stop in for a cup of coffee just after doing the feeding.  While Mrs. Riggins poured the hot water for Dad’s coffee and her tea, I started pitching my idea even before the “Old Man” had a chance to sit down.  (One note of clarification for the reader:  No, I didn’t call him “Old Man” to his face.  That came some years later and is a completely different story).

(To Be Continued)

Art Massing
Written by Art Massing

1 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    February 21, 2014

    I discovered your page and enjoyed the stories and information. Keep it up. Looking forward to more.


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