'Slab Pile' John Deere D Tractor

old tractor

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6818 S. Elizabeth Street Littleton, Colorado. 80122

The story on this tractor begins a few years ago. I needed a particu-power tool and heard that a local company sometimes has slightly imperfect units for sale at attractive prices. I called to confirm this and in the process talked with and eventually met Mr. Bud Anderson. When I picked up the tool Bud and I learned we had attended the University of Missouri at the same time in the late 1950's. We had not met while college students.

One thing led to another in our conversation and sooner or later Bud learned of my tractor collecting hobby. He recalled seeing an old tractor deep in the mountains several years ago while deer hunting in the National Forest. He didn't know its make but it had obviously been abandoned many years ago in a sawmill site.

My curiosity about bested me at this bit of information, but it was not until the summer of 1982 when Bud and I found a Saturday free to do some reconnaissance. Bud mentally dusted off the route to the site since it had been 10 years or so since he hunted the area. With Bud's recollection, a USGS map and a jeep, we ventured out. I listened carefully to rancher's names and tried to make mental note of landmarks as we drove from easy going into increasingly difficult conditions. These mental notes would be useful should I later need to re-trace the route alone on a rescue mission for the as yet unknown tractor.

Bud related an intriguing tale, as we drove, of how the largest land owner in the area had purchased a ranch from Bud's rancher friend - the ranch Bud had hunted when he first saw the tractor. Bud spotted the relic as he swung off his friend's ranch onto forest land in pursuit of a particular trophy buck on one occasion. The new landowner had ramrodded an effort to close the public road through his and other rancher's property a few years back. The controversy even came to the brandishing of firearms before the matter was calmed somewhat in court! With this bit of exciting history in mind we progressed with a bit of trepidation across several ranches and associated property lines into the area along that road, opening and closing some eight cattle gates as we drove. The open alpine grassy meadows quickly gave way to rocky out-croppings and cedars, then the heavy forests of aspen and pine closed 'round us.

The road diminished to a trail, then an aged logging path, then nothing. Reconnaissance trip changed to hike the last couple of miles. Bud reacquainted himself easily with the surroundings once we struck out from the jeep and recalled we would have to walk around a finger of mountain meadow belonging to the road-closing rancher. Public land areas are commonly penetrated in somewhat random fashion by finger-like slivers of privately held land. We had driven some distance into public land forested with the pines and aspen, but we had no idea whether our progress was being watched. Our nervous imaginations were working on us a bit, so we thought it best not to cross the private land. We would be needing to scout a route around the fenced meadow anyway, should the tractor be a 'keeper'.

The faint logging trail seemed promising and headed in the correct direction. A landmark to keep our bearings was a fairly open but steep embankment we could see now and then across the meadow and to our left as we paralleled Mr. Roadcloser's fence. We remarked how quiet the forest was that late summer time of year and talked in hushed voices about our hopes that the embankment would end soon, because if a tractor had to come down that incline we had a terrific task waiting-someday. The steepness decreased noticeably as we neared a 90 degree left corner in the fence. The fence cornered and went straight up the embankment and about 200 yards beyond the corner we thought the terrain tapered off enough for a jeep to climb. We still didn't know if that would be necessary as the relic we sought might not even be in place, let alone be worth retreiving!

The fence cornered another left 90 degrees midway up the embankment, then went back toward the rancher's main body of land. We could forget it as an obstacle now. We continued our anxious walk up the hill, angling away from the fence, hurrying to peer through the trees down the other side to see if the sawmill site still contained the relic. We cast our eyes about as we walked, looking at tree density, rocks hidden by knee-high grass, fallen trees and logs to be sure the area was still navigable by jeep. Okay so far!

The terrain sloped comparatively gently toward a creek area where Bud indicated the slab piles should be. Sure enough, about another 100 yards brought them into view and not long thereafter a glimpse of what seemed to be faded yellow rear wheel spokes! A hopeful thought surged-Waterloo Boy! Dare we hope for such a find?

The pace became a scrambling run down the slope to 'round the slab piles for a better view. What's this... no front end? Maybe it's a John Deere 'GP' or 'D' with the radiator missing. Yep, around the last slump of bushes and right between 2 slab piles sat an old JD 'D'! Bullet holes in its gas tank, hood on the ground, gooseberry bush and a not-so-young balsam growing through the right front wheel. A bit pitiful and dismembered with the radiator completely missing.

A quick scurry around the 'find' revealed the mag also gone, A few engine parts missing and; doggone it, the exhaust manifold even has a couple cracks! Let's see... serial number tag still here! Low number and 20-spoke wheels. 'Gotta be an early one, Bud! Yup, it's worth pushing that jeep in here to get this ol' tractor out! You don't think a tractor collector would consider not trying it, do you! Aside from the rescue adventure the wheels alone are worth it, don't you think, Bud? Oh, yes, the guide rings are gone from the fronts, but that's not so bad. Oops, tie rod gone too. Gotta remember to bring one along when we tow this gem outta here. Might steer a little funny with only the left wheel where it's pointed! Engine stuck? Yep. Flywheel moved, oh, maybe 1\8 inch as the crank clunked against rod bearing babbit. Whatta ya know, the clutch still snaps in and out just like it ought to! Well, Bud, better snap a picture or two and head on home, huh?'

We retraced our steps to the jeep and chatted about the remarkable condition or something abandoned 20-30 years. 'Bud, did you see how good that paint was on those rear wheels? Mountain rocks take their toll on lugs tough. Those wheels have seen better days, but did you see how someone replaced some lugs with real heavy ones? Wonder if they are original John Deere.' 

'Oops, who's that guy ahead there? H-m-m, has a gun too. 'Spose it is ol' Rancher Roadcloser? What is there to hunt now? Wouldn't be turkey, would it? Might be, 'cause that guy is wearing comouflage.'

A short visit with the hunter revealed he indeed was ambling home following a fruitless day of gobbler hunting. He knew of the old tractor, but you think we'd tell him we were thinking of dragging it out of there? No sir! He might think it was valuable and beat us to it! A bit wishfully I thought, probably not, since he didn't seem interested in talking about it. Goo ! A short pause at a hillside spring and horse trough for a cool drink and we were soon back at AMC's finest 4-wheeler.

This look-see venture was in late summer. Fall and winter soon hit, then the area was quickly snowbound. Winter of '82-'83 brought a terrible snow at Christmas, and I wondered if the relic 'D' or the big slab piles even made a bump under winter's heavy mantle. Slowly spring came, then summer. Thoughts about the old 'D' came to mind, especially when flying over the area. Traffic controllers bring airline jets into December directly over the region and somewhere down below in that vast expanse of pine and aspen lies a 1928 John Deere 'D'! When can Bud and I get a day off at the same time to go for the 'rescue'? How busy we get! Snow was soon flying and again the mountains wore their winter white. Winter also brought a vow that the summer of 1984 shall not pass without a tractor rescue!