“A Really Rough Diamond”
(For one dollar and the making of a gift)
“Scraping, Wrenching, Cleaning & Painting”
The next Saturday, I awoke to the sunlight streaming in my bedroom window. The sash was up and I could hear a mourning dove and smell the fragrance from the flower bed just below.
“Billy, it’s time to get up”, my Mother called, “You’re Dad wants you to go to town with him this morning”!
I got dressed and ready as quickly as I could (I knew that when Dad was ready to go, I needed to be too). I went to the kitchen where Mom was still canning tomatoes; I got a bowl of cereal (still not quite awake).
“When you get done with breakfast, take those pecks from the back porch and pick some tomatoes”, Mom told me. “Your sister is coming up today to help me with the canning”. She Continued, “Watch what you’re doing and don’t pick any that are green on the off side”.
I probably made some comment or complaint but I don’t recall. I finished my cereal, drank a glass of milk and went to pick tomatoes.
The garden was thirty or forty feet east of the East back porch. It was a cool, clear morning and dew covered every outside surface. Dew made the Garden Spider’s web sparkle in the sun light. Those black and yellow spiders stood sentry duty at two or three places in the garden. Dad always said that they ate bugs so we usually left them alone (unless they were in the way). There were lots of ripe tomatoes so the picking went pretty quick. The biggest danger was grabbing a tomato that was rotten on the back side (the smell of rotten tomato would be on your hand until the next day no matter how many times you washed it).
I had one peck full and had started on another when I heard Dad calling for me. I then heard Mom call back to let him know I was coming. She appeared on the East back porch and told me to bring up all of the tomatoes I had picked before I left.
Tomatoes done; I ran to the truck. Dad saw me coming and told me to “Hurry Up”, as he started the engine. No sooner had my door closed than the truck started moving.
I asked, “What are we going to town for”?
Dad said, “We have to grind feed today for the sows in the Hog Barn and I want to pick up some supplement for the mix”.
Looking back, it seems we were grinding feed every other day. I’m sure it wasn’t that often but between our Gehl portable grinder/mixer and the “Bearcat” stationary grinders (one at our place and one at the East barn at the Hill) grinding was an ongoing chore with all those hungry mouths to feed.
Dad backed out of the drive and started toward town. As he shifted through the gears, he glanced over at me and said, “After we go the elevator, I thought we’d stop at John Deere and pick up the paint for your tractor”.
My day had been made! Paint! We were going to get paint! I remember thinking that the tractor would be done in no time!
Then Dad said, “I just want to be sure, before I buy this paint, that you’ll stick with this project”.
I promised that I would.
“Ok then”, he said, “Just remember you have a lot of cleaning and scraping ahead of you”.
That morning’s stop at the Co-op Elevator was one of the longest ever recorded; at least it seem so to me at the time. The usual routine consisted of talking to Mrs. Boone and explaining what was needed. She would write out the ticket; Dad would sign it; she would keep a copy and give Dad two copies (one for the person who loaded the truck and one for our records). Then Dad would drive the truck to the appropriate area; the truck would be loaded; the “Load Ticket” (a specific color) would be handed over and we would be on our way.
However, this morning Dad had a question for Mrs. Boone on the previous month’s bill. This discussion lead to the inclusion of Mr. Ragsdale (the Manager). Finally, with the issue resolved, we proceeded to get the supplement loaded and get on our way to John Deere.
Our local dealer, Robert’s Farm Equipment, was located in Lebanon at 1501 Indianapolis Avenue. The show room and parts counters were Modern and up to date for the mid 1960’s. As we approached the parts counter, the Parts Man greeted us and asked Dad, “What can I help you with”?
Dad said, “We need some parts for an Unstyled, Model A tractor”.
The Parts Man asked, “Do you have the serial number”?
Dad said, “No but it’s one of the early ones with the oil pump behind the flywheel”.
The Parts Man, thumbing through his books, did not look up and made no comment except to say, “Well, tell me what you need. May be we won’t have to have it”.
Dad said, “Well, to start with we need some paint. How much green paint does it take to cover that whole tractor”?
The Parts Man (as he walked out from behind the counter and down one of the aisles to the paint display) said, “A gallon ought to do the green”. He added, “I suppose a quart for the yellow”. With the paint in hand, he walked back to the counter. As he walked, he said, “Will you be spraying or using a brush”?
Dad pointed at me and said, “He’ll be using a brush”.
The Parts Man grinned, then looked at me and said, ‘Well son, my dad and I used to paint his tractors with a bush. Keep the paint thin and use two or three coats”. Then, looking back at Dad, he said, “You’ll be surprised how smooth it looks”.
Dad asked, “How did you clean the metal, before painting”?
The Parts Man replied, “Used a wire brush on the rusty spots. Got the last of the oil and grease off with mineral spirits; then painted”.
Dad looked at me and told me to remember that.
With that the Parts Man asked, “What else do you need”?
Dad said, “We need an exhaust pipe and a muffler”.
As he stepped to his parts manuals, the Parts Man said, ‘The muffler is easy. They’re right over there”. He pointed to the shelves on the other side of the showroom. Dad walked over and picked up a muffler, then brought is back to the counter.
The Parts Man had been looking through the books but now he moved to the microfiche machine. He placed the appropriate transparence on the viewer, looked it over quickly and said, “Be right back”. He walked back amongst the parts bins behind the counter and walked back out with an exhaust pipe in hand. As he did he asked, “Do you need a gasket”? He pointed to the gasket selection hanging on the wall behind him.
The Parts Man picked up a pure white gasket, roughly the same size as the flange on the exhaust pipe. As he placed it in a small manila envelope you could see dust coming off if it. He said, “These exhaust gaskets are very fragile”.
It would be years later, when I received training in Environmental Management and certification as an Asbestos Project Designer, that I would recall that the pure white, very fragile gasket. It was probably Chrysotile Asbestos.
Then the Parts Man asked, “What else can I get for you today”?
Dad said, “Do you have a radiator cap gasket and the metal rim that holds it in”?
The Parts Man went through his parts locating procedure. As he did he repeated to himself, (several times), “Radiator gasket and retainer”; “Radiator gasket and retainer”. Finally, he said,” By Gosh, we have both”!
As he walked back and forth in the parts aisles behind the counter he said, “I’m kind of surprised that we have those in stock. That tractor is almost thirty five years old”!
Paint and parts in hand, Dad and I were soon on our way home. Dad told me that tomorrow morning we would work on the “A” a couple of hours.
By 10:00 AM Sunday we were in the shed and ready to start. I was anxious to see if the oil had loosened the engine and believe Dad was too. He’d found a heavy steel plate, about a foot long, with a piece of channel iron welded to it. The plate had slots that would line up with the screw holes in the flywheel. Dad got some cap screws with washers and in a little while, he had the plate bolted to the flywheel and a six or eight foot piece of pipe through the pocket formed by the welded channel iron.
I asked, “What will that do”?
Dad said, “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the world”. He didn’t give Archimedes attribution (not that it would have meant anything to me at the time).
All I could manage was, “What”?
Dad said, “It’s called “Mechanical Advantage”. Then he proceeded to explain how a lever works. He finished by using a phrase that I must have heard a thousand times while growing up, “Use your head to save your heals”.
It was good advice then and its good advice today.
(To be continued)