“A Really Rough Diamond”
(For one dollar and the making of a gift)
“Next Stop: A place to work”
(Continued) There were four large doors on the Tool Shed. All four hung from rollers in an overhead square tract that ran the length of the building. Unfortunately, the change in ground elevation east of the middle doors prevented moving those doors to the east. This design flaw had the result of limiting the options for entry. The two middle doors and the west door could only be fully opened one at a time and although the western quarter of the shed was wide open (thanks to my shed cleaning) the balance was as full of farm equipment. Moving the 1800 Oliver out of the shed, then rearranging enough of the idle equipment to allow driving through the shed via either of the middle doors would be a time consuming proposition. My Father weighed his options for only a few minutes before coming up with a plan of attack. At the time, the back of house was about fifty feet to the north and east of the center line of the Tool Shed. The “Wood House”; so named simply because that is where the heating and cooking fuel (wood and coal) had traditionally been kept, sat due west of the back end of the house, close enough for a young boy to carry firewood and coal into the heating stoves (I’m sure the reader can guess how I came to know this fact). These buildings were built on a hill that sloped gently to the south and west; sod covered most of this ground on the north side of the Tool Shed. I say that sod covered “Most” of the ground because there were always a series of ruts carved into the sod with tractor tires. It seems now that we seldom needed to move a piece of machinery unless the ground was just right to make mud pie filling. Of course this waxed and waned too; it was usually the worst in November and March. In winter it was frozen; in summer it dried out. I’m sure this situation was typical of most farms of the time (it still is on many today, I imagine). The “Plan” went like this: With me on the “40” and Dad on the “A”, we would drive east as close to the Wood House as possible. When the front of the “40” was even with the mid-point of the middle doors of the Tool Shed, we would turn right and loop around as close to the doors as possible, then proceed west to the west end of the Tool Shed where another right turn would have us pointing north. We would then stop and push the “A” backward into the shed with the ‘40”. Nothing to it. Right? We walked back to our tractors. I went through the starting procedure as fast as I could. I looked back at Dad and he waved me on. I cranked the “40’s” steering wheel as hard as I could (it was equipped with “Arm Strong” power steering) as I let the clutch out. Once the tractor started to move, it was fairly easy to steer. The plan came together – we went east, made a wide loop and ended up with the “A” in position in front of the west door, with only minor interference from the aforementioned ruts. Dad climbed down and unhooked the “40” and told me to turn around and pull the front of the “40” up to the front of the ‘A”. When he motioned for me to stop, the front ends of the tractors were about six feet apart. I shut down the “40” and ran to catch up with Dad as he went into the garage. Inside, he walked directly to the southwest corner of the building where several pieces of lumber, pipe and steel rods of various sizes were leaning. He moved several of the items out of the way and came up with a 4×4 about five feet in length with two pieces of strap iron bolted to one end. He explained that it was a remnant of a mower hitch that had originally been used for horses then cut down so the mower could be pulled by a tractor. The two pieces of strap iron had been added so a pin could be used to secure it to a tractor drawbar. The mower had long since been junked. He walked to the work bench and picked out a couple of bolts (one about five inches long and the other about ten inches long) with washers and nuts to match. With all this in hand, we went back to the parked tractors. He told me to hold the wooden drawbar up so he could use the smaller bolt to pin the drawbar to the cultivator support brace on the front of the “40”. With washers and nuts in place we move our attention to the other end of our (soon to be) “Push Bar”. The gap between the tractors was a bit too long. Dad told me to get on the “40” and release the brake slowly to see if it would roll toward the “A”. I got on and took the brake off but nothing happened. Dad gave the wooden drawbar a tug and the “40” slowly moved into place. I was told to lock the brake and jump down to help. While I steadied the wooden drawbar against the front of the steering column of the “A”, Dad ran a chain around the frame of the tractor behind the radiator then ran the longer bolt through the chain and then through a hole in the wooden drawbar. He then ran the bolt through the chain again and secured it with a washer and nut. The remaining chain was tied to the frame on the other side of the “A”. The excess chain was wrapped around the wooden drawbar. The end of the new “Push Bar” didn’t hang high enough to suit Dad but a couple of feet of baler wire, the pliers he always carried in the side of his dungarees and a few minutes of inspired industrial design, had everything ready for the acid test. He told me to start the “40” and ease it forward in first gear, low throttle. He stood on the ground and watched to make sure everything was going to line-up then he waved for me to stop as he made his way back onto the “A” and called out, “Let’s Go”! Thankfully, I was getting better with the clutch and soon the back wheels of the “A” went through the door and crossed the foundation; by then the “40” was needed more for ballast than for power. A few minute later the “A” was sitting in place. It would not move again for almost two years but the next time it would move under its own power! With the “Push Bar” disconnected and the “40” put away, Dad walked around the “A” for a while and wondered out loud how long it had been since the last time the “Old Girl” had spent a night in side. He then said that the first thing we would have to do is get the engine “Free”. He told me to run to the garage and get the pump oil can (the one with the clean oil) and a large crescent wrench. As soon as I got back, he took the right spark plug out and gave the block several generous shots of oil. The left side received the same treatment. He said that was enough for today but next Sunday morning, after the feeding, we would give it a try. As he walked out of the Tool Shed he told me to start cleaning off the grease and rust, if I still intended to paint it. “You know where to find the putty knife and the wire brush. They should give you a good start”, he said as he turned in the door. I said, “Where should I start”? Without missing a beat, he said, “How should I know; it’s your tractor”. He smiled and told me to start cleaning off the engine. Then he headed to the house. I went back to the garage to look for the putty knife and the wire brush. The garage was probably a carriage house when Jim Roark built it. At some point the east side had been converted into a couple of small granaries. At the time of our story, there was a wooden bench in the south end and some large parts bins on the west side. Above the bins was a loft that had accumulated a wide assortment of all that was: “Not needed at the time of storage”. Most of this inventory looked as if it had been pitched up there while standing on the floor and it, very likely, had been. The balance of the interior would give you the feel of “Controlled Chaos”. Parts, tools, solvents, oils and grease were always stored in the same general areas; usually. One thing was certain: if Dad couldn’t find something, one of the boys had moved it! I searched through the clutter on the bench and found a putty knife. I also found what was left of a wire brush. The handle was in great shape but at least two thirds of the wire that made up the “Brush” part, was gone. When I got back to the “A”, I started scraping off large chunks of dried grease and dirt. To my amazement, underneath the thickest of these areas of gunk was green John Deere paint! As I continued to explore under the crud, a pattern emerged. Where ever the mixture of oil, grease and dirt was still wet, the paint was in pretty good shape. Where ever it was dried out, the paint either flaked off or the metal had started to rust, or both. After a while, I decided I was hungry. I ran to the house, washed my hands and went to the refrigerator. There was always cold milk and some leftover chicken or hamburger. Being Sunday, there should be an apple or cherry pie…..
(To Be Continued)