Acquiring A Custom

By Staff
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HCR 1, Box 54, Rockham, South Dakota 57470

This story takes place in the winter of 1989. First, let me say
that I am fairly new at the game of collecting old iron, but I
enjoy attending shows and sales where there might be something old
and interesting.

We have several tractors, a couple of trucks and several engines
here on the farm. My son Dennis farms with me, and shares an
interest in old iron as well.

One day a friend of Dennis’s by the name of Jerry was out to
the farm looking at some of our antiques. In the course of the
visit, he said he knew of a tractor I might be interested in. I was
all ears and started asking questions about it. I asked what kind
it was, and he answered it was a Custom. I said I had never heard
of one of those, and he was right, I was interested. He said it
belonged to his brother-in-law, that it hadn’t been run for
years, and that he thought it might be for sale.

Jerry said he would be glad to take us to see it, if we could
find a day when everyone could get away. I must point out that it
was the first part of January, and that the weather here in South
Dakota sometimes dictates when and where you go. After a phone call
or two, arrangements were made to go the following Saturday to look
at this piece of tired iron. Jerry insisted on driving that day.
The fact that he had just bought a new four-wheel drive pickup
might have had something to do with it, but as it turned out it was
a good thing we had a four-wheel drive.

The three of us struck out after the chores were done on
Saturday morning. Jerry’s brother-in-law lived north of
Kennebeck, which is what we call the west river country here in
South Dakota. It is about a three hour drive from our farm. We did
not have any snow on the ground at our place, but it wasn’t
long before we started running into snow. The further we drove, the
more snow we noticed along the way.

We arrived at our destination a little after noon and to our
surprise there were two to three foot snow drifts all over, and the
roads had been plowed. We met Glen, Jerry’s brother-in-law and
visited for a little while. Jerry had neglected to tell us that the
Custom was located on a vacant farmstead about a mile from
Glen’s place on a dead-end road that had not been plowed, and
was clearly impassable. Glen suggested we might get to the other
place by going through the fields and picking our way through the
drifts. So off we went.

First we crossed a winter wheat field, going where the wind had
blown the snow clear. Glen knew the lay of the land, so he would
say, ‘better head in this direction,’ or ‘there is a
low spot over there, and the snow will be deep there.’ We came
to a gate in the fence and I walked ahead to open it. There was a
draw just in front of the gate, and the snow was deep, so Jerry got
to try his four wheel drive. Even with all the four wheels throwing
snow, he didn’t make it.

Luckily, we’d had the presence of mind to throw in a couple
of shovels at Glen’s place, so we started shoveling and soon
were on our way again. Now we were angling across a pasture, over a
barbed wire fence that was down arid went into a milo field. Strips
of standing milo had caught the snow, and we could drive where the
fodder had been cut off for silage.

We were able to drive within a city block of where the Custom
was sitting in a fencerow with a snowdrift beside it. We walked the
rest of the way, and I saw my first Custom tractor. I walked around
it and thought it looked remarkably good for sitting in the
fencerow for so long. The front tires were flat and the rims were
sunk into the dirt, but the back tires looked pretty good, and all
the pieces seemed to be there. I decided right then and there that
I should be the new owner, if we could work out a deal.

After looking it over pretty good, we all piled into Jerry’s
pickup and made our way back to Glen’s place. We were invited
in for coffee and fresh rolls, which hit the spot after being out
in the cold for so long. After a little bargaining, a deal was
made, and the Custom was mine.

We decided to go back the next Saturday and get the tractor.
Glen said he would have the road plowed out so we could drive right
up to the other place and load. We had our plans all made, but
Mother Nature would play a dirty trick on us. During the following
week we experienced a typical South Dakota winter cold spell. On
Friday night the thermometer stood at 27 degrees below zero. Glen
called late that night and said he didn’t think we would be
able to start his loader tractor to help us, if we came. I
wasn’t anxious to try to get it in that kind of cold, so we
decided to try for the next Saturday. Glen said the road was plowed
and we should have no trouble.

The weather warmed the following week and the forecast for
Saturday was to be mild and sunny. Just what I was hoping for. We
did chores extra early that morning and Jerry, Dennis and I, with
my pickup with trailer in tow, took off to bring home our prize. It
was a beautiful day as we traveled along, but as we neared
Glen’s place we sensed that all was not well. They had
experienced a severe ground blizzard the night before and the road
to the other place had drifted in worse than before. Glen’s
wife informed us that Glen was out with his loader trying to open
the trail through the fields so we might go that way again.

We started out following his tractor tracks but didn’t get
very far as my pickup was just a two wheel drive, and with the
trailer on behind, it was tough going. Soon Glen came back with the
tractor and hitched on to us, and away we went through the wheat
field, across the pasture and into the milo field right up to where
the Custom awaited our arrival. By now it was thawing real good,
which made everything wet and the ground was getting smeary. This
made loading a real challenge, but after several attempts we had
the tractor loaded and securely chained down.

I thought with the extra weight on the back of the pickup, I
could probably make it back to the road on my own, but it was just
too slick on top and still frozen underneath, Once more Glen
hitched his tractor to the front of the pickup and away we went.
Kind of a weird looking caravan, if I do say so.

When we got to Glen’s place, his wife had dinner ready,
although we were late. After we ate, payment was made, and we
started the long trip home. We took a shorter route home, through a
small Indian town and across the Missouri River on the Dam at Fort
Thompson. It was a long pull up out of the breaks along, the river,
but soon we were cruising along and arrived home about dark.

The next day we unloaded our prize and pushed it in the shop.
Upon checking it over I was pleased to find that the motor was not
stuck. Three valves were rusted, but after some soaking and
coaxing, these were loosened up. After a valve job, some cleaning
up, some temporary wiring, some gas in the tank and a battery, she
roared to life. That was a very exciting moment.

But as happens every year in spring, calving time arrives and
then spring field work, so the Custom got pushed aside while more
urgent things were taken care of. During the next couple of winters
I have gotten it cleaned up and painted, and it looks very nice, I

A few interesting things about this tractor are that it has a
fluid drive coupled to the Chrysler six engine. It also has a hood
that tilts to the front and a factory installed tach. I have had
the tractor to a couple of parades, and it always has lots of
lookers. It has been a fun experience to track down and restore
this Custom.

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