Tractor Rescue: A Really Rough Diamond (4)

Tractor Rescue: A Really Rough Diamond (4)

“A Really Rough Diamond”

(For one dollar and the making of a gift)

35 A and a 290 Cult

35 A and a 290 Cultivator

Chapter 4 (Continued)

“Next Stop: A place to work”

Looking through the filter of forty-plus years, I don’t recall that my Dad ever got upset with me that fall about, what must have seemed like, my incessant nagging about bring the “A” to our place so I could get started working on it.  I’m not sure I would have been as patient in his position. 

At the time, he was in his late fifties and still working 400 acres (more or less) of mixed grains with mostly 4-row sized equipment.  He usually kept two hundred to three hundred head of feeder cattle along with a thousand to twelve hundred head of hogs.  Part of the hogs came from a farrow to finish operation, the balance were purchased feeder pigs (today, much of this type of animal husbandry would be called “Free Range” style) so most of the crops were used to feed and bed the stock.  This meant finding time not only to plan the farm but also to farm the plan that (typically for that size farm in that era) called for baling hay, combining oats and wheat, baling straw, raising corn, filling two silos, picking corn, grinding feed, maintaining water for the stock.  Not to mention the negotiations with the local bank and/or the Production Credit Association and the accounting needed for taxes.  (Note: For younger farmers who might be tempted to think the labor needed to achieve the above described scope of work would be “No Problem”, I recommend that you wait until your late fifties to make the final judgment.) 

I’m sure, that in the beginning, Dad didn’t relish the idea of spending part of the little free time he had in helping me recover a worn-out piece of farm equipment.  As we delved deeper into the project, he started telling me stories; the day the “A” was first delivered; how much easier it was to use than the old Titan they had before; and how “Jeff”, the last draft horse on the farm, was pensioned-out and basically played the part of a family pet for the rest of his life after the “A” arrived. 

My Father had used the “A” when he was a young man and I now believe that after he thought about how they had both used up their strength and power through all those long years of hard work, he became my biggest supporter in the restoration.


I remember waking the morning of the big move and trying to imagine the sound when Dad and I started the engine of the “A”.  I had visions of me easing the clutch handle forward and taking off at a great rate.  With Dad following me in the truck, I’d have the “A” home in no time.

Well, everyone should have dreams.  Daydreams are wonderful things and sometimes they do come true!  However, this day was to be my first object lesson in “Planning versus Reality”.  I learned that the main thing to remember about dreaming (day or night); dream big and often but never in great detail. 

We made a fine start.  Mom fixed bacon, eggs and fried potatoes for breakfast and soon we (the Old Man and me) were out the door and on our way – No, wait, the feeding!   Chores done; Dad went directly to the garage and picked up the tire pump, handed it to me and said, “I’ll get the log chain; put this on the 40 and back it out of the shed. 

The “40” he referred to was a Cockshutt model “40”.  Cockshutt is an old name in farm equipment.  They were made in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.  Dad had started using Cockshutt tractors because they were the first production tractor to have independent or “Live” Power Take-Off (PTO) and they were marketed and serviced by the local Farm Bureau Co-op under contract with Cockshutt.

Live PTO was a very unique feature in the mid 1940’s.  Most tractors of the time had transmission driven PTO and every time the clutch was used to stop the transmission and in turn, stop the forward or rearward motion of the tractor, the PTO also stopped.  For this reason, the Live PTO was a decided advantage when running equipment in the field such as a baler or combine. During the late 1950s and early 1960s we had a Cockshutt model “30”, a “40” and two “50”s; (About 1963 the “30” and the “50”s were traded in on two Oliver tractors; a new 1800 and a used 1600 Utility). 

The tire pump was a PTO driven affair made by John Deere.  I’m sure that at one time it had even been green!  Now it was a brown/black color that would have been much like the color of the “A” except for the pump’s coating of oil and grease.  I placed the pump on the operator’s platform back by the seat support.  I climbed into the seat, pushed in the clutch, checked that I wasn’t in gear; then I pushed the throttle down as I turned the ignition key.  In less time than it takes to tell, I was ready to push the starter button; the “40” fired right up (that six cylinder Buda engine always did start easily).  I backed the tractor out of the Tool Shed and turned the “40” so it was headed toward the drive.  Dad had retrieved a log chain and was standing there motioning for me to stop.  He wrapped the chain around the rockshaft of the ‘40”, stepped onto the drawbar, told me to put the tractor into fourth gear and take it out onto the road.  After we were headed east from our drive, he told me to shift into fifth gear and we were “Off like a dirty sock!”, as Dad used to say.


As we pulled into the “Old” lane, Dad stepped off and went to open the gate.  I’m sure my memory of this detail must be tied to the fact that any other time, I would have been the one riding on the drawbar and it would have been my job to open the gate.  Gate opening was a boy’s first job on the farm and the first few times you look forward to this new opportunity.  You got to go with the Men; not stay behind with the women and girls; you were needed to get the job done.  It was exciting!  However, it doesn’t take long for the “New” to wear-off and the excitement to die down; then it’s: “Do I have to go”?  The answer was always “Yes”.


As I pulled through the gate, most of the cattle were grazing in the East woods and although the sounds of our arrival and the engine noise brought some of them toward us in anticipation of feeding time, the majority stayed in the woods to graze or lay there chewing their cud.  When I received the “Go Ahead”; we proceed up the lane (and through a second set of gates) for 80 or so rods then made a ninety degree turn to the right.  This pointed us to the west toward the East Barn; then another 250 – 300 feet and we drove right up to where the “A” stood; now for the “Fun Part”.

Dad told me to pull past and then back-up to the “A”.  He stepped off and grabbed the tire pump.  He slid it onto the PTO shaft; one stabilizer chain hooked to the drawbar and the other (with the spring) was looped around the rockshaft and hooked back to itself with the spring extended. Then the PTO was started and with the sound of air streams keeping time with the cycle of the pump’s single piston, Dad attached the hose end fitting to the stem of first rear tire.  None of the tires had valve stem caps.  No doubt, the caps had long since been removed and pressed into service on a different piece of equipment.  Almost as if by magic, the unseen force of the compressed air started to slowly raise the wheel and back axel.  As this was going on, Dad yelled over the noise of the “40’s” engine and the pump, “We’ll fill the flattest one first; if it holds air, we’ll fill the rest”. 

We didn’t have a gauge, so as soon as the tire was “Standing up good” he moved to fill the other rear tire.  As soon as Dad got the hose end fitting off of the first valve stem, he applied a generous amount of saliva to the tip of the stem to check for leaks.  This was accomplished by spitting onto the tips of the fingers, then transferring the spittle to the end of the valve stem.  To the casual observer, this isn’t the most genteel method of testing a valve core for leaks; however, it is 100% effective.  Both my brother and I still use this method from time to time. 


(To Be Continued)

Art Massing
Written by Art Massing

2 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    June 18, 2014

    Neat Stories about the John Deere A, glad you still have it.


  2. Avatar
    April 02, 2014

    Hi there!
    I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new