6230 E. 81st Street North, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83401
This is an improbable story, to say the least. It starts on two fronts at the same time about two years ago.
To begin with, I purchased a 12-24 Hart-Parr from a friend of mine. It was missing the steel wheels, which I like to have on all my tractors. When I started whining about the missing steel, he mentioned that he had heard of a Hart-Parr in a creek. He thought it was an 18-36 on steel, but wasn't sure. He never did tell me where it was, as he had an 18-36 of his own, and the steel wasn't right for my tractor.
At about the same time, I was buying some pedal cars and other miscellany from someone else, who lived only about eight miles from my place. During the transactions, I mentioned my 'junk and rusty iron fever.' He piped right up and told me that 'over there' (with a general wave of his hand) there was a steam engine 'in the crick.' He finally pointed to a little road and said 'down there a little ways.'
When I left his place, I followed the little road 'down there a ways,' and lo and behold! 'In the crick' (actually an old stream bed, now part of an irrigation canal system), there were some submerged wheels, just barely visible under the water. But, it didn't look like steam engine parts, and I thought it was probably old manure wagon wheels. I wrote it off to the old man's memory or maybe D.T.'s.
Now, about two years have gone by, and I'm back buying the 18-36 from the guy I bought the 12-24 from, and he reminded me about the Hart-Parrs in the creek. This time he took me to about where he thought they should be, but it was fenced and he didn't know whom to contact about them.
I nosed around and asked at several farms, but no one knew of any tractor in the ditch. Everyone I talked to said go ahead and look if I cared to waste my time. I walked it the first time to about where I was told to look, but found nothing. I walked it the second time, and there they were. Two Hart-Parrs: a 12-24 on rubber and an 18-36 on steel. They had been pushed over the edge, and were lying almost upside down, not quite clear to the bottom of the ditch. It's almost irrigating time here, but they were high and dry, at least for a little while.
Well, I proceeded to arrange for a crane truck and some friends and my son to go and get them out. It wasn't easy, because the 18-36 was half buried and still frozen in to boot. But, we got 'em!
We pulled the Hart-Parrs out on a Saturday afternoon, and Sunday I said to my wife, 'Let's go over to where I saw those wheels under water a year or so ago. It's dry now, and we can see what's really there.'
When we arrived at the spot, I nearly went into cardiac arrest. I had trouble believing my eyes! Those wheels belonged to not one, but two, three-wheel Case tractors! The one 1 couldn't see before was exactly upside down right in the middle of the stream bed, and the other one, the one I had seen before, was about 60% buried, nose down, but right side up, 20 feet away. During irrigation season, the wheels were about three feet under water, and moss had grown all over it, and that's why it just looked like a set of smaller wheels. The bottom of the ditch was probably 15 feet deep, and that covered the other one completely.
While nosing around I stopped and talked to a farmer who told me there really was a steam engine in the bank just upstream from the Case tractors, so I drove up a ways, and sure enough, there it was; nearly completely covered in mud, just part of the firebox and three wheels still showing. It was keeping company with half a dozen old cars. This was the one the old man had told me about. He was just off by a couple of roads, or maybe I was. It was buried too much to get it out, so I just took some pictures and left. Even if the canal company would let me take it, most of what I could see was broken, rusted out, or missing.
But that left the Case tractors, sitting in the mud. Well, I couldn't just leave them there. So once again I started asking around, and they told me to contact the irrigation district. It was the general opinion that they had been pushed over the bank into the stream bed some thirty years ago. (It was common practice in the '30s and '40s to doze these into the canal to stabilize the banks.)
Well, I contacted the canal company, and they gave their permission, contingent on my replacing the tractor in the side of the bank with rip-rap to keep the ditch from washing out, which we did.
I gathered together the same group as before, and we had at it again. The Case in the bottom was relatively easy to get out, but we had to dig the back wheels and front casting and wheel out on the other one so the crane could lift it.
They're all at home now. The Case tractors are both 10-20s, made in 1916, with serial numbers just 21 numbers apart. I believe there is enough of the two to make one good one. I don't have a mag for either, and I need a radiator, and there are some small items missing, too. It will require a lot of cast iron repair and new sheet metal, but getting them out was the important thing right now. There will probably be a lot of good stuff left over, also.
I did find a lady who has lived in the area for 43 years, who says she may be able to find out for sure how the Cases got in the ditch, and who owned them.
And just today, a fellow came into the shop and, in the course of conversation, told me 'I used to own two old Hart-Parrs, but the guy I sold the farm to forty-some years ago, shoved them into the canal, where I'm sure they still are today.' I told him, 'No, they're not there anymore, I have them.' He was really tickled they had been exhumed, and offered to take me to another stream that might still have two steam engines in it, some fifty or so miles from here.
Looks like another story coming!