JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME

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Marlene Schnell Box 330, Irrigon, Oregon 97844

It was one of those late summer days when you know fall and the first frost is soon to come. The haying season and the irrigation was over for another year. Now there should be enough time to do a couple of handsprings and sit down and pet the dog or take a walk to see what you had been too busy to see. But this is not the case.

Deere hunting season opens tomorrow in Oregon, so Marlete and I will start by heading for the coast.

It's an unwritten law. The people from the coast must drive to Eastern Oregon, and we in the East must go West.

We packed the 'Ghost' and headed West from Irrigon along the Columbia River at 10:00 AM Saturday for whatever was to come. (The Ghost is a gray, 1966 Plymouth four door sedan-the kind that you can leave the keys in and be confident that it will be there when you come back.)

As this was to be a leisure hunt, the first order of business was to stop at The Lone Pine at The Dalles for lunch. My experience has taught me that if you treat your cook to whatever she likes, it increases your chances for going a next time.

Heading West at Mosier, I noticed four old tractors lined up in a yard. Must be a sensible person so will stop and talk sometime.

Going on West past Rowena, Marlene spotted an LA John Deere with a mower on it. Looks like it's still in use, so didn't inquire.

Our intentions were to head to the coast and visit our daughters for a couple days. Then we could pretend that we were from the coast and could come to Eastern Oregon to hunt. The Deeres seem to keep better in the dry desert of Eastern Oregon.

We visited our youngest daughter, Lori at Monmouth and our oldest daughter, Susan at Eugene. We bought them each a couple of meals, as we know college people like eating when someone else is paying.

From Eugene we headed East over the Willamette Pass to LaPine and then to Fort Rock.

At Fort Rock we had an in-the-car picnic lunch and watched the final touches being put on some crops. Then we continued on our way so we could get to Burns before dark.

The next morning we checked out an old model D by the grain elevator at Burns and some old model A's and B's at the wrecking yard in Hines. This, of course, whetted our appetites, so it was on to the Silver Sage for breakfast.

The next couple of days were typical head-bobbing days: straining to see what's behind a bush or behind a shed, or for a glimpse of an exhaust pipe or wheel to tell you there is more if you probe.

We concluded the hunt by going East from Burns to Vale, North to Unity, Durkee, Baker and West to Pendleton and back to Irrigon. All this without bagging a thing!

It was to our family's for Thanksgiving a couple weeks later at Vancouver, Washington.

While Marlene and her mother were visiting, I slipped down to see an old neighbor, Karl Bakker. He usually insists that I take some tractor magazines off his hands and I'm too polite to turn him down.

Karl is the kind of friend a collector needs. He has a couple of nice Ford cars and a W-30 McCormick Deering, but seems to have no desire to expand. So, what he locates is up for grabs!

Karl started, 'I know where there is a John Deere GP. Vern Loy has one that he will sell or trade. He lives on Kramer's old place. It came off of Prune Hill.'

By then I knew it was the one my folks had sold thirty years ago. I remember driving it some thirty-five years ago. The sound of the steady, mellow exhaust, the smell of the stove oil and the most true, blue smoke rings come to mind. Most would float and expand into oblivion, while occasional wild ones raced skyward and vanished in a puff.

Then there was the neighbor's dog, Teddy, who would suddenly appear when the engine came to life and fall in beside the tractor and follow as if held in position by small invisible wires.

I knew I must have it and as the irrigation company in Irrigon had all my money, a trade was in order.

I like to trade only items that I have duplicates of and items of approximate equal value. So, I proposed to trade a Lindeman crawler that Marlene and I fetched off a mountain at Hayden Lake, Idaho, (one hundred yards with a powerpull)

Vern readily agreed to the deal and he also included a three-point hitch adapter as a bonus.

After the negotiations were finalized (this can be a time consuming process because you must be courteous and examine all the other treasures the person has and listen to the related stories), it was time to make use of contacts. (Contacts are people who are foolish and will do things for you just because you ask them.) My brother, Louis, lives on the old home farm not more than one-quarter of a mile from where the tractor was located, so he was selected to fetch it and store it until all the conditions indicated GO.

When G Day arrived, we mounted Ol' Rusty (short for Old and Rusty), a 1949 Chevrolet 1 ton truck, and headed for Vancouver. A few miles down the road the tires warmed up and rounded out. The humping motion and door rattling reduced into a steady whine of gears, valve train and exhaust noises.

The next morning with chains and binders strung tight, we turned East for Irrigon. Even Ol' Rusty must have had a good feeling, as he seemed to lengthen his stride for home.