6750 Rattalee Lake Rd, Clarkston, Michigan 48348-1952
Growing up in a small town allowed many opportunities for me to be around tractors and equipment. Our family owned business of orchards, truck garden, greenhouses and nursery provided endless experiences with engines and machinery.
A very patient, knowledgeable, bachelor uncle made a real effort to lay the ground work for a solid understanding of all things mechanical. Uncle George was a man who liked to create special machines for special jobs. Many of his inventions consisted of model T Ford parts. One of the reasons for this was that he had more than a lifetime supply of model T parts. When things got slow in the wintertime, George would work at the Ford garage, and since model T and Model A parts were becoming obsolete, George would take his pay in NOS Ford parts. After several years of this, he ended up with all the parts, bins, and even the card locator system. George gave me total access to the parts and provided free technical assistance. We had model T doodlebugs, trucks, cars and special equipment. I drove model T's to school while teachers walked and the other kids rode bikes. What a feeling of satisfaction, to put together a car that actually would be capable of short trips away from town and back (most times). The lessons learned from experiences with model T Fords have been lasting and I plan never to be without one.
As if that weren't enough for a small town kid, the owners of the John Deere dealership didn't mind a someone, like me, hanging around their place. Some of the time I spent delivering and picking up machinery around the country. The person responsible for the trucking was a retired threshing rig owner/operator. This guy knew everybody and everyone knew and liked him. He was the
world's greatest story teller and would hold forth at almost every farm we stopped. This gave me plenty of time to explore tool sheds and groves for old iron. Since we most generally had room on the truck or trailer, a lot of prizes came home to the shop/garage at the orchard.
I may have been born knowing how to back a trailer, it was just a natural thing, like breathing or riding a bike. Anyway, my reason for being allowed along on pickup or delivery trips was to back the trailer down the long farm lanes or maneuver the rig out of yards. I always suspected the old boy was making a few bucks betting on my trailer backing ability because the directions on where to put the trailer became more challenging. It soon became apparent that my friend also had failing eyesight because he would stop the rig at the edge of town and let me drive. The truck was a 37 Ford ton and a half and the trailer was a John Deere flat bed with swing axles and giant coil spring suspension. These big springs would break and let that side of the trailer drop to the road. This trailer was soon replaced by another John Deere design that was single axle, dual wheels, tilt deck, over the wheels. This trailer had electric brakes that were capable of stopping the whole rig, a much welcomed feature. The old Ford had mechanical brakes and for some reason, when you really had to stop in a hurry, it seemed to speed up when the brake pedal was pushed down. Whenever I hear the term 'white knuckles' I think of that old, always overloaded, Ford truck sailing through stop signs with the brake pedal to the floor!
The truck owners always kept a fresh 100 HP engine in it and good tires. A piece of 2' well pipe that ran to the end of the rack was the permanent exhaust system. What a sweet sound that flat head V/8 would make rolling down the side roads echoing off barns and bridges. It also set all the dogs howling. The old
Ford was replaced by a new 1945 GMC 2-ton with no chrome trim. It had a 272cid, six cylinder engine, two speed rear axles, hydraulic brakes and very soon the same style exhaust system used on the Ford. This truck didn't have any power, we had to crawl up hills that the old Ford would have rolled right over. A few years later, while in the Army, I observed that some 272 GMC engines were eager to work and some were lazy just like the one in the John Deere dealer's truck.
Years later, while visiting at a farm in North Dakota, I thought I heard the old '37 Ford coming down the road. It turned out to be a '51 Ford loaded with about eight tons of edible beans. The driver of the truck was winding that old flat head out in every gear and the straight pipe exhaust note sure sounded good to me. When the truck pulled into the farmer's yard I was sure the kid driving would get skinned alive for pushing the old rig to the max. Boy was I surprised when the farmer's wife hopped out of the cab and said 'Hi, honey, I'm home' And that's how I met Mrs. Don Dufner...but that's the start of another story.
As the model T Ford and the Spoker D John Deere replaced the horse and wagon, our grandfathers sought to preserve and relive the past by collecting horse drawn implements to remind them how it was as they were growing up. My generation wants to remember the old cars and alpha designated John Deere tractors and seldom thinks about horse drawn implements. Today's collectors go nuts over numeric designated John Deere tractors and hi-tech street rods. 'Hard to believe that someday soon our grand kids will be dragging home junked out green and yellow Yanmar designed and built tractors for complete restoration in time for the summer shows. Do you suppose there will be a three cylinder club complete with magazine and expo?