Tractor Rescue: A Really Rough Diamond (8)

Tractor Rescue: A Really Rough Diamond (8)

“A Really Rough Diamond”

(For one dollar and the making of a gift)

 '35 A

Segment 8

Chapter 5 (continued)

“Scraping, Wrenching, Cleaning & Painting”

With the Spark plugs out, he started working the pipe up and down and told me to watch the edge of the flywheel for any signs of movement. After about ten minutes of this (without success) he said, “God damn it; Go over to the garage and get the sledge hammer”.

I ran over and back as quickly as I could while carrying the eight pound sledge. I guess I expected him to take the hammer and beat on the flywheel but when I got back inside the shed he told me, “Just tap the top of the pipe, close to the edge of the flywheel”. He added, “You don’t have to hit it hard just use the weight of the hammer from an inch or two above the pipe”.

The first few taps didn’t seem to make a difference but then, all of a sudden, it moved! Not much but it did move!

“Well I’ll be damned”! Dad said as he worked the end of the pipe up and down. He told me to put the hammer down and get the oil can and pump some more oil in the sparkplug holes.

By now, every change of direction was rewarded with additional movement at the end of the pipe.

Then he stopped and said, “Let’s let her rest a minute while we go get some kerosene”.


When we got to the garage, he grabbed a small pump oil can and dumped what little oil was left in it into the waste oil. He then got the five gallon can of coal oil and had me hold the base of the pump oil can on work bench as he filled the oil can with kerosene. As we walked back to the Tool Shed he motioned with the oil can and said, “This just may do the trick!”

Back at the tractor, Dad put the nozzle of the oil can in the left spark plug hole and while pointed toward the piston, moved it all around and up and down to shoot the kerosene in everywhere inside the cylinder. He then handed the can to me and told me to do the same to the other side.

He started working the pipe again and each time he reversed direction the end of the pipe (and the flywheel) moved a little further. I started to hear air coming out of the spark plug holes when out of nowhere there was a loud “Click”.

I thought something had broken and I expected to hear Dad start swearing but he didn’t say a word and kept working the pipe. The flywheel was working more freely now so Dad took the pipe out and started turn the flywheel by hand. Just about then we heard the loud “Click” again. I said, “Did something break”?

Dad said, “No, that’s just the impulse on the magneto. It’s working as it should”.

In ten more minutes the cap screws and plate were off of the flywheel and after a few more shots of kerosene the engine was turning freely.

“Well, we got it loose”, Dad said, “Go put the spark plug in the other side’. He then added the admonition, “Tighten it snug but remember, don’t over tighten it.”

I grabbed the Crescent wrench and replaced the right-side plug while Dad replaced the one on the left. About the time I finished the sparkplug Dad added, “Turn the petcock handle so it’s pointing straight out”.

Now, as he turned the flywheel, you could hear the distinctive sound of air rushing out of the petcocks. After another turn or two, as air started out of the petcock on the pulley side, Dad said, “OK; close your petcock”.

As soon as I did, he stated turning the flywheel again but his time, not very far. He stopped and said, “Well, we have compression on that side. Open it up again”. With that, we repeated the test procedure on the left side of the engine. Then he said, (almost to himself) “The valves seem to work”.

As he wiped his hands, he said, with an air of satisfaction, “The engine’s loose, we have compression and the mag seems to work. Let’s go eat dinner and after while we’ll put some water in the radiator”.

At dinner I told Mom about all of the great progress. We had the engine turning; running can’t be far off!

Mom listened patiently and told us that one of my sisters and family would be up for a visit later in the afternoon.

As soon as I finished dinner, Dad told me to drag the garden hose as close to the west door of the Tool Shed as I could and get a clean bucket out of the barn. By the time I had accomplished these tasks; Dad had slipped on his boots and hat and met me at the shed. I ran to turn on the water as he filled the pail. When he dropped the hose on the ground, I shut off the faucet and ran back to the shed. By this time he had carried the bucket inside and was removing the radiator cap. I remember thinking that he had said we would need to get some fresh gasoline as I watched him start to pour the water into the radiator but as it turned out, we wouldn’t need the fuel today.

“God Damn the luck”! (My father could always be counted on to have the most appropriate imprecation at the ready. He had uttered this one as soon as he saw the water leaking.) As the water ran into the top of the radiator, it ran out of the core almost as fast. As bad as that was, Dad told me that the engine head was cracked and pointed to the stream of water coming from under the engine.

When I saw the leaks, I could have cried and probably would have too if Dad hadn’t been standing there.

Then he said, “Go get the tool box and socket set”


In case you’re wondering how I knew which “Tool Box” and which “Socket Set” to get; actually, it was very simple; we only had one of each.

Using the tools I have today as a standard, it really wasn’t much of a tool box. The poor thing looked as if it had come through the war (and lost). It had a few basic tools; mostly Crescent Wrenches, a pair of Vise Grips, some Chanel Lock pliers, a mixed (but complete) set of combination wrenches, an incomplete set of ignition wrenches, assorted punches, a small Allen Wrench set and a few assorted straight bit and Philips head screwdrivers. The socket set was a half inch drive Thorsen brand and was a very good set; again, just the basics but good.


By the time I got back with the tools, Dad had the taken his pliers from his dungarees and was taking the sediment bowl off. The remnant gasoline in the glass bowl was thick and smelly after several years of the slow distillation process that always starts whenever fuel is left unused.

I asked, “What are you going to do”?

Dad replied, “There’s no gas left in the tank; we’re going to pull the muffler and the air intake; remove the hood and get the radiator ready to take to Key’s Radiator Shop”. He continued, “There are two large cap screws in the bottom of the radiator that hold it to the frame. Don’t take those out unless I’m here”!

He sent me to the Wood House to get half a dozen coffee cans (people that farmed during the Great Depression never threw anything away that had even the most remote potential for future use) we were going to need them to hold the nuts, bolts and small parts as we dismantled the “A”. By the time I got back with the cans he was working to remove the bolts that secured the hood to the tank support and the radiator. He told me to get a box-end wrench and take the cap screws out of the muffler and the air intake.

The modified “Muffler” was more of a spark diverter than anything else. It came off with quickly but the air intake was a different story. Dad had to tap it with the end of a hammer handle until it decided to come out and off.

With the gasoline lines removed, the last thing to come off, prior to the hood/tank assembly, was the steering shaft. Dad used a Crescent wrench to remove the small drain plug from the bottom of the steering sector housing and used one of the coffee cans to catch the gear oil that came out (there wasn’t much). Out came the four cap screws that held the bearing quill and after removing the bolt that held the rear steering shaft bearing he turned the steering wheel so the steering worm gear pushed the shaft out of the housing. With that, the steering shaft was placed on the saw horses.

Dad grabbed a couple of wooden blocks and placed them on the work bench. Then with me on the pulley side and dad on the other, we lifted the hood and gasoline tanks off of the tractor and moved the assembly onto the blocks. That’s when we noticed that the hood had rusted through across the top at the front end of the main gas tank. After a brief inspection, Dad said that we would deal with that later. We had “Bigger fish to fry”.

With the hood gone, the “A” looked worse than ever. When I told Dad how bad I thought it looked without the parts we had just removed, he immediately said, “Hell, if you think it looks bad now, just wait until we take off the radiator and the head”!

He wiped his hands and told me that he was done working on the tractor for the day and that he wanted me to remove everything as needed to get at the cylinder head and the radiator. I listened intently as he pointed out the items to be removed. Just before he left the Tool Shed, he told me to pick up the tools and put them back in their boxes when I finished for the day.

I stood there for a moment, trying to determine what to do next. I decided to go and get my transistor radio. I might as well listen to WLS while I worked!


(To be continued)

Art Massing
Written by Art Massing

1 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    May 21, 2014

    Your writing style is witty and I like the story. Grandpa had an old model A John Deere. Keep up the good work!