Our Versatile 'G'

Ewing using the 'G' Tractor

1957: Howard Ewing using the 'G' in building new farm house.

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3561 Sorenson Road, Everson, Washington 98247

We Ewings had an eventful year in 1980. My father sold the old family poultry farm in Kirkland, Washington, to a developer, and moved to California. Also, my wife and I moved north from that area to Whatcom County, Washington. During this transition period, the old 1948 Model G Allis Chalmers was sold. It was hard parting with that piece of equipment 1 had grown up with, but we had no place to store it, and didn't anticipate a need for it any longer.

A few short months later, we purchased wooded acreage in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range just south of Canada. Many times in clearing, burning, driveway installation and home site preparation I wished I had the old tractor back. I could have kept the Allis Chalmers quite busy.

Early in August, around a dozen years ago, I went to my first threshing bee. It was at Berthusen Park in Lynden, Washington. I was fascinated by all the old equipment and antique tractors. Some were restored to like-new condition, while others, well, they were there in all of their 'experienced glory.'

While enjoying the show and observing the tremendous variety of equipment, I realized there was nothing there that even came close to resembling the tractor of my childhood. The old 'G' with the loader was unique. The memories that came rushing back of the old days on the farm!

I remember being with my father at a tractor dealer in Everett, Washington, in 1957. The area of farming implements and equipment we walked through seemed huge and dark to my five year old perception. Here, at age forty-two, Dad bought the used 1948 Allis Chalmers Model 'G,' serial #G4926, and ordered an after-market loader for it from the East Coast. After the loader arrived and the tractor dealer installed it, they delivered the unit to our new and second poultry farm out near Redmond, Washington.

Dad put the 'G' to use immediately. In building the buildings he used the loader to raise material up onto the roofs. I can still see Dad digging out the creek. I remember him driving down the bank, scooping up a load of muck, then raising the bucket way up high so most all the weight was towards the rear of the tractor, then backing up and out with ease, over and over again.

One of the most fun tractor projects was putting in the lawn at the new house in 1957. Dad made up a contraption to drag behind the tractor to level out the yard. Around and around, over and over the yard we went. I remember riding on the drag. What fun that was!

The primary chore of the 'G' was to clean out the chicken house at the new farm. The main building was long with large doors on the far end, and sat on a huge cement slab. The chickens were in cages above the floor with aisles between hem. Automatic feeders and other equipment helped make this a state of the art, ultra modern operation. The Allis Chalmers 'G' was one contributor.

From 1957 through 1962 Dad had two poultry farms. (He never sold the old one in Kirkland, and later in 1963 we moved back to it.) There were around ten miles of country roads separating the two farms, and I remember riding on the 'G' with my dad on a number of trips between the farms. It was a long ride because of the slow speed the tractor would travel (seven miles per hour tops).

We put the 'G' into gear for many purposes. I say 'we' because in 1958, when I was six years old, my dad taught me how to drive the tractor. He would put it in low gear and walk beside me. What a thrill! I didn't even mind the two decades of farm chores that followed so long as I could use the 'G'!

We would make trails through acres of blackberries during picking season, hang the row boat up overhead in the garage, remove and install the 'cab over' pick up canopy, load dump trucks and pick ups with manure, doze snow during winter, and more.

I remember Dad getting furious on a number of occasions after a truck would drive into the farm and he would head for the garage to get the tractor to load up the truck, because the 'G' wouldn't start. It wouldn't start because his brother, who had a neighboring farm, would take out the battery for his own Farmall. Finally Dad told my uncle that if he was too cheap to buy his own six volt battery that he would buy him one. My dad depended on the reliable 'G' for so many things, that he needed to have it ready to roll at all times.

My dad had a very wide, maybe six or seven foot, bucket made, which he bolted to the existing bucket of the tractor. Then he took off the tractor's fenders and put some large truck tires and rims on the back to get the height down to fit under the chicken cages. He also clipped the wire off going to the tail light, and took off the headlight around this time.

The rear doors of the chicken house were opened and the 'G' was run between the rows at full throttle until the large bucket was full. Dad then would back out and go dump in one of the various manure piles, then go for it again until the job was finished. One problem though: the weak frame on the tractor folded up. It was braced with a small pipe. It folded again. This time a huge flat bar was welded underneath. I remember many trips being made to the welding shop over the years. The frame was pretty well cobbled up in the end.

About the manure piles: they would crust over on top after a period of time with a grass and weed covering. One day a neighbor girl ran up on one of the piles and broke though! What a mess!! I'll bet she had a good cleaning that day!

During the Sixties and Seventies, my father and I did many odd jobs with the Allis for neighbors. Dad was always helpful if a neighbor needed a tractor project done, and I was volunteered for a number of these projects.

Over the years the old Continental, flat-head, four-banger developed a knock, so Dad would just slow the throttle down as the knock got worse and keep on truckinger, tractoring.

Oh, the memories that came back to me while I toured the tractors at the threshing bee. I came down with the 'old iron bug.' I realized then that when that tractor had been sold, along with it went a big part of my past. It was even the first thing that I had ever driven. Oh, how I wanted to get that machine back!

Several years went by. Every now and then, I would look through the ads in the papers to see if whoever had the 'G' was trying to sell it. Nope! Finally I bought and restored a Gibson tractor to play with. Jack Johnson of the tractor club helped me with this project, which turned out quite nice with a dozer blade and a plow on a Model A. But nothing could ever replace that unique old 'G' I grew up with.

One day while at Jack's shop I was reminiscing about the old 'G.' I was describing the tractor to him, when he took over and finished describing it to me! I couldn't believe it! He travels far and wide looking for tractors and implements and several years earlier had been down in Granite Falls, Washington, looking at a' Gibson, when he saw the old 'G' next to it in a barn. Jack even knew the owner's name!

To shorten a long story, I eventually was able to purchase the 'G' and bring it home. It sure looked tired and sad, engine knocking and smoking, tubes poking out the sides of the tires, etc., but it ran! It ran good! When Dad set eyes on his old 'work buddy' upon his visit from California in 1992, he exclaimed, 'I never thought I'd see that old thing again.' He maneuvered his tired old frame onto the driver's seat and promptly raised the loader to the max and said, 'Take my picture!' It was a proud, happy moment for him.

I did a number of odd jobs with the 'G' to earn money that went toward a trailer to haul it on, as well as new tires. A year or so later restoration began.

It went into Jack's shop in April 1993 to start the long process of a major everything. It was knocking and smoking, but running good when I backed it into the shop.

Sadly, that very night at Jack's shop, I got a phone call that my father was in the hospital in critical condition. A blood clot to his heart. The next morning he passed on. Everything was suddenly put on hold while I went out of state to take care of matters.

Upon my return we continued work on the 'G.' Jack totally overhauled the engine, including a much needed crankshaft turning. We had the starter, generator, radiator, and hydraulics completely gone through, and replaced all the wiring, gauges, clutch, etc. Then I took the tractor to Tri Star Fabrication in Everson, where Brent made a new gas tank and battery box, changed frames, made new bracing, and a complete new loader.

August 1993: Threshing Bee time. The old 'G' went 'as is.' It ran great. It looked good and solid now. All it needed was paint.

September 1993: Back to Jack's to be painted. I got some Persian Orange from the dealer in Lynden, and had it color-matched in acrylic enamel. We also used a hardener and primer sealer. We were finally able to get it put back together, and I installed the decals. With a few smaller touches, it was looking good!

As I display the 'G' in various shows it will be in loving memory of my father, Howard Ewing, and of the good life I had in growing up on the farm. I wished my dad could have seen the finished product. Jack said that it probably meant more to my dad seeing it as he remembered it.

On January 22, 19941 had the privilege of visiting the farm my father built in 1957 using the Allis Chalmers. The old poultry house is now part of a beautiful complex that is home to the Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center. They are a non-profit organization serving children and adults with disabilities by providing a unique, recreational approach to therapy through the use of horses.

I was invited to speak on the history of the farm at their grand opening celebration. I parked the 'G' next to the speaker's platform in the large indoor arena, and I displayed a few other mementos of the old farm days. It was a very nice event in beautiful facilities carpeted therapy rooms, offices, and meeting rooms looking out over the indoor arena. A grand piano was being played, punch served, and a catered dinner and cake finished it all off. The Allis Chalmers and I were very much a part of a wonderful ceremony for a very worthy cause. It was a once in a lifetime event.

History repeats itself. Now I am forty-two years old, not purchasing the 'G' as Dad did at my age, but setting out with it, newly restored, to plow a new chapter of a new generation. I plan to continue two family traditions involving the 'G': First is towing Heidi, our daughter, behind the tractor on a sled when it snows, as my father did for my sister and me years ago. Second is helping neighbors and acquaintances with small odd jobs. Using the 'G' is all part of the fun!

The restoration is the result of the help of many different people, especially Jack Johnson who helped me, from finding the 'G' in the first place, through the final painting. I thank everyone for making my dream become a reality.