I’ve been around tractors all of my life, really. Every single one has its own history and personality.
My Dad had an old Oliver tractor when I was very young. I don’t remember much about this one, except that the bottom of the frame was about eye level. I remember he painted it a very pretty green. It looked like this, perhaps:
My grandfather, Pop had an old (even back then, it was old) International Harvester Model ‘A’ Farmall, which I had a passing acquaintance with. This is the tractor I talked about here. (Disclaimer – none of the pictures here are the original hardware). It looked like this, except the paint was seriously faded:
My first experience driving a tractor was an old Ford tractor; I don’t know the model number, as I was probably about eight years old. It belonged to a neighbor who was a friend of my Dad’s, a man named Junior (he was a really big guy). Junior, my Dad and I were out in Junior’s pasture over on Keasler Road, and my Dad and Junior had the bright idea of turning me loose with the tractor. I was not at all confident about this, but you do what you parents tell you. So they put me on it, and showed me how to start it and get it in gear. What they did NOT do was tell me how to stop it.
So there I was, tooling across the pasture in (I assume) first gear, with two middle-aged men running after me shouting to ‘push the grey button!’. Eventually, I did, and nobody got hurt. But it sure stuck in my memory. Panic will do that.
The next tractor I had extensive experience with, drove many times, worked with, repaired, was stranded by, and nearly killed by. It was another International Harvester, but it was a Model C Farmall, a tricycle tractor similar to this one; except, again, seriously faded.
Ours had a lot of special features: Dad drove the front wheels into a hole one time, breaking the casting which was both the front of the engine and the frame of the tractor. Dad put a come-along on each side between a couple of bolts to hold the thing together, and he brazed up the crack; and we used it for years after with nary a problem caused by the crack. You might say Dad had a penchant for using come-alongs in non-standard ways.
We had a big screen mounted behind the seat on this one which was for protection against debris thrown by the bush hog we had back then. This was the bush-hog with the Patton tank drive-shaft on it. It was an open design – the blades were not enclosed. OSHA would have fainted dead away. I learned the three-second rule on this tractor – if you hear the bush-hog hit something, count to three before you look to see what you hit; this way, whatever hits you will hit you in the back of the head instead of in the face.
I was ‘roading’ this machine over to another property (driving it in road gear on the highway) when the steering came adrift – due to my Dad using a nail instead of a roll-pin in the u-joint where the steering column turns the corner to go to the front of the tractor. You can just see that u-joint in the picture above. This tractor had individual brakes on the rear tires, and stopping one in a straight line with no steering is a dicy proposition. Somehow I got stopped without killing myself off. Picture a white-faced kid in jeans and t-shirt leaning up against the side of the tractor, shaking. I was in a pretty good mood the rest of the day, as I recall.
I once wrapped this tractor around a tree while bush-hogging; the wheel hit the tree trunk, then jumped to straddle the tree; I went about half-way around the tree before I managed to push in the clutch. It took about a quarter of a second, and could have been very bad.
I also used this tractor to knock the door-retaining linkage loose on my Dad’s International Harvester pickup truck. Now that I think about it, I did a lot of damage to Dad’s trucks, at one time or another.
We spent three days digging out, the time we were using the Model C to pull a breaking plow. A breaking plow is the one you use to prepare a raw field for planting – it makes just one furrow, but it digs deep. After doing this, you come back with other types of plows for the actual planting preparation. In any case, we hit a buried stump, and there it was. The tractor dug in and spun the wheels until the tractor rear-end housing was sitting on the dirt. It took a lot of digging to get it all free.
Once, I was bush-hogging in the back of the property, and started having fun using the front wheels to push over pine saplings as I mowed. The tractor would pull a bit of a wheelie as the front rode up the trunks. Being a kid, I kept pushing over bigger and bigger trees. Dad watched me do that for a while, then made me quit before I killed myself. The fact (unknown to me at that time) was that a great many people have been killed doing just such a wheelie; if the tractor comes over on you, you have nowhere to go but into the ground with the tractor on you.
I can’t say working with these tractors was fun, exactly, but it wasn’t boring.
Later on, Dad bought a Ford 3000. This tractor was quite a bit safer than the H-I tractors, mainly because it was lower to the ground, and less easy to tip over. We had a much more modern (safer) bush-hog on it, too. Dad got tired of welding up the exhaust system, so he customized it to run parallel to the engine. Dad got it stuck on top of a stump he attempted to straddle once. A friend of Dad’s almost got killed, when he was bush-hogging next to the highway, and drifted too far over the edge of the embankment; he rolled the tractor into the ditch. He would have died that day except he had the exceeding good luck to land in a low spot in the ditch, and the tractor did not crush him to death; but he was laid up for a while. It’s a good reason never to drink and mow!
Then, I had my own little Ford lawn tractor, an 11 HP that was the smallest you could get that was a ‘real’ tractor. It had that traditional vertical stack exhaust, which J bent over at an angle – twice. The thing about J is that he is consistent. In the picture below, the love of my life, Texas Grandma, is bush-hogging the front yard; note the stack bent back at an angle. J did that. I think he was trying to streamline it, maybe.
I have to mention also the lawn mower that I bought, brand new, asked (made) J use first, which got destroyed. The young man ran that brand-new mower for 90 seconds, hit a steel plow (nearly buried in the earth) bending the crank on the mower, which instantly became junk. I couldn’t say too much, because A) the plow was darn near invisible, and B) I’m the one who left it there.
So, anyhow. Fun with Tractors.