Box 227, Booker, Texas 79005.
Reprinted with permission from the Booker News.
One of the special attractions at the 1992 Golden Spread Antique Tractor and Machinery Show on September 19 and 20 was the Bates Steel Mule tractor that was obtained by Dan Sell.
It looks more like a cross between a small steam engine and a Caterpillar tractor .. . and you won't find a place to sit down and drive it. There is no seat. It was made to hook on to farm implements that had the seat on them.
This particular Bates Steel Mule was purchased by Arthur Phillips of Saint Jo, Texas, in the spring of 1915. The tractors were manufactured by the Joliet Oil Tractor company of Joliet, Illinois.
Dan learned about the tractor through a granddaughter, Sandra Sell, and became interested in obtaining it. He said it had been sitting out in a field in the open for the past 70 years when he dealt for it with Phillips' grandson, Leeton Joe Phillips.
'We've known about the tractor for 10 years, but couldn't make a deal for it until the grandson and his mother agreed after several collectors had been trying to get it,' Sell said. 'Sandra's family were friends of the Phillips and that gave us a little inside help in acquiring it. They agreed to let us restore it for a half interest in the tractor,' Dan concluded.
He said this particular tractor probably was the 26th of its kind to be built by the company. 'They did build tractors into the 1930s, but went strictly to crawlers,' Sell said.
He showed a letter the company had written to Mr. Phillips on November 3, 1915. It stated the company was shipping him a smooth front idler wheel and one main roller chain sprocket for his Bates Steel Mule. He evidently had run the crawler with too much slack. They told him to keep the crawler tight and how to do it by tightening nuts on the front part of the crawler. The parts were $8.40 and $6.95.
'There weren't very many tractors like this that were built,' Sell said. 'There is one in the city park in Jules-burg, Colorado.'
Sell had a backhoe to help dig the Saint Jo tractor out of the ground where it had sunk in through the years and also help load it for the trip to Booker to be restored.
One set of sprockets and chain was missing and the gas tank and another different size chain, but we went to Perryton and found an old Model D John Deere that was wrecked and got one large and one small sprocket out of it and had Bud Battin bore hubs to fit the shaft for one side,' Sell said. 'John Deere ordered roller chain for the other side and we got a gas tank from Ezra Simpson. Other than that, the tractor was in amazingly good mechanical condition to be sitting out all that time.'
Some oddities about the tractor include the single track and steering control, Sell said. Also the three steering wheels. One is the clutch, another the steering wheel and the third is the gearshift. There are two speeds forward and one reverse and he says the two forward speeds are so close it is hard to tell the difference.
You can see it and hundreds of other antique tractors, steam engines and farm equipment, etc. at the annual show at the Donald Sell farm southwest of Booker.