“A Really Rough Diamond”
(For one dollar and the making of a gift)
’35 A “Plow’n” Sweet Corn
“Next Stop: A place to work”
Soon, both rear tires were standing tall and we proceeded to the front. The front tires were in much poorer condition than the rears. One side was completely pulled away from the rim and the tire had shreds or strips of rubber coming off of it. When he tried filling that side you could hear the air escaping as fast as the pump could put it in. I immediately started to become disheartened, thinking that the “Move” would now have to wait until a replacement tire could be located. Dad only said, “God Damn it”, in a rather unconcerned way and proceeded to move the pump hose connecter to the stem of the other front tire. That tire, while bald, held air and was fully inflated in a few minutes. A quick test of the valve core indicated no leaks (at least from the end of the stem). With that, Dad waved and told me to shut down the pump down and turn off the tractor.
As I became used to the silence, I asked where we were going to get another tire. Kiddingly, Dad said, “I don’t know. It’s your tractor, not mine”. He then informed me that this situation pointed up one of the (and to his way of thinking, one of the very few) good things about a narrow front, row crop tractor; i.e., if one front tire goes flat, the other one will get you home without damage to the wheel with the flat tire.
As I wrapped the hose of the pump around the rock shaft of the “40”, I asked if he wanted me to pull up and get the ‘40” straight with the drawbar of the “A” and hook up the log chain. By this time, he was giving the “A” a good going over to assess its true condition. He said “No, not yet. Let’s see if it’s stuck. If not and the Mag works, we may be able to start it. They’re pretty tough old machines”. I was amazed and excited. From Dad’s previous comments, I had always assumed that we would have to pull it home. Until that moment I hadn’t even considered there being a possibility of starting the “A” that day. Much less moving it under its own power!
Dad walked around the “A” and pointed out the petcocks and explained that they “Let the compression off for starting”. I had no idea what he was talking about but I was enthralled. I then found out what the “Fly Wheel” was and that it was supposed to turn. This one did not. “God Damn it” he said. “I guess we’re going to have to pull it after all. Pull the “40” around and back it up to the “A”.
I jumped up quick to 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). In the mean time, Dad had taken the log chain off of the “40’s” and tied one end (we never seemed to have a log chain with a hook on both ends; to this day, I don’t know why) around the draw bar of the “A”. I pulled the “40” around to the south, then put it in reverse and slowly backed to within eight to ten feet of the back of the “A”, there he told me to stop. He dropped the remaining end of the chain through the hitch of the “40”, hooked it back to itself then told me to put the tractor into second gear and drive up the lane to the west, toward the “East Barn” lot. He then proceeded to mount the “A” in order to steer it to follow me.
Now I had been riding with my Father and/or my brother since I was awarded the job of “Gate Opener”. I had seen them use log chains to pull hog houses, stuck equipment and sometimes, even logs. I knew to take the slack out of a chain before starting the pull and driving away. At that moment however, there were two big problems (at least they seemed big to me at the time).
Number one: to say my Father was not a patient man is a gross understatement and when he lost his temper, he invariably expressed himself verbally and usually at the top (or very near the top) of his lungs. Most people, at ten or so years of age, find this type of behavior to be unnerving in the extreme. The second problem was the fact that my physical dexterity had not advanced to the point where I could, consistently; release the foot clutch of a tractor with any degree of smoothness.
So here goes – I let the clutch out as slowly as I could; the “40” inched forward and luckily the chain got tight before any lunge came. I pulled forward and started my westward turn but after about two or three lengths of the tractors, I heard “Hold it”. I stopped; let the “40” roll back enough to slack the chain, took it out of gear and locked the brake.
Dad got off of the “A” and unhooked the “40”. As he did, he told me to pull into the East Barn lot, turn the tractor around and then come back out of the barn lot and back up to the front of the “A”. By the time I got the tractor into position, he had moved the log chain to the front of the “A” and tied it to the frame behind the base of the radiator and was waiting for me. The hook up done; he said “I need to check the brakes so second gear again and go slow”. I waited ‘til he got back on the “A” then went through my procedure again – take out the slack; let out the clutch; take out the slack; let out the clutch. Hey, that worked out OK!
We were moving but not very fast. The “40” just didn’t go very fast in second gear at part throttle. I couldn’t see but I’m sure Dad was putting light pressure on the brakes; first one side then the other; to see if they would move, grab, release and actually work. By the time we reached the “T” in the lane where I had to turn north, Dad called out that the brakes worked and he wanted me to shift to third gear and keep a steady speed. I put it into third, eased into the chain and we were on our way!
As I pulled up to the first set of gates, Dad eased the “A’s” brakes on. The change in speed and the sound of the engine surprised me and I stopped a little too quickly but no harm done. I popped the “40” out of gear, locked the brakes and jumped off to open the gates. The cattle had stayed in the North Woods so in no time we were through the gates. When I stopped, Dad said that he would close the gates.
As I sat there, I know I was telling myself to watch what I was doing when I started driving again but for some reason I can remember the smell of the “40’s” hard rubber coated steering wheel. I’m sure the smell of gasoline, gear oil and exhaust was also in the air but from that warm fall day, the type of day when the wind moves the drying corn stalks and you can feel fall coming; I can, even now, remember the fragrance of that machine as vividly as a lover’s perfume. In a few minutes we were off again.
Going through the road gate was a little tricky. I opened the gate and ran the cattle (who had decided to check things out) back a considerable distance; then I ran back to the “40” and (as quickly as I could) pulled both tractors through the gate. Dad stepped of the “A” and stopped the cattle, who by this time had re-grouped for a second assault on the gate.
Getting started again was another story. By the time the “A” was through the gate, the “40” was sitting on an incline with the front end a couple of feet into the road. I got some practice at “Feathering” the clutch and brake. Luckily, in those days, there was very little traffic on the Hazel College Road (now CR 50 South) on Sunday mornings.
The trip home was uneventful (despite a bit of excitement during the process of keeping the chain tight while slowing down for the turn) and in what seemed like no time, we were pulling in the drive. After we passed our International pick-up truck (in its customary parking place at the top of the drive) and as we approached the end of the gravel, Dad called for me to stop. This left us setting roughly in front of and about seventy five feet to the north of the west door of the Tool Shed. By the time I had the brakes set and the “40’s” engine at idle, Dad walked up and said, “Shut it down. Let’s go look for the best way to put this thing inside”.