How I Came to Love Old Iron


| January/February 1988



Pearlene-1937 John Deere B

Schmidt, Rt. 2 Box 84A Hickory Hillside Acres California, Missouri 65018

It was a hot Friday afternoon in August 1984. My wife and I were visiting her folks, Raymond and Pearlene Stephens, at their farm near Bush City, Kansas. Like I said, it was hot and I was bored. I went out walking around the farm passing the time looking at old pieces of farm machinery. I had no real interest in them, I was just passing the time. In a fence row, out behind the barn, I paused looking at an old rusty tractor. I'd passed it many times before and not paid much attention to it. This time I noticed it was an old John Deere and found myself wondering how it came to be there and if it would ever be run again. Now I got to thinking that I might just try to get it running as a project for when I came visiting. If I could, it might even help Dad out a little giving him another tractor to use.

I returned to the house and told Dad my idea. He told me to have at it, but warned me that the old tractor had been setting there in that fence row for fourteen years. He said it was a 1937 John Deere 'B' and that he and his father had bought it in the spring of 1938 for $410.00. He said when they first bought it the tractor had skeleton steel wheels on it. Later they took the steel wheels off and put rubber tires on. The steel wheels he said went to the scrap iron dealer during the war years. He said they used the tractor on the farm until 1970 when, while mowing hay, the magneto bracket broke and it quit. It was pulled to the barn and abandoned.

I went back out to the tractor to take a serious look at what would be needed to make it run again. It was in pretty bad shape. The engine was stuck. The radiator had a hole in it you could put your fist through. The water pipes and hoses were rotted away. The hood had rust holes in it.

The front tires were rotten and flat, the rims completely rusted through. The muffler and exhaust pipe were missing. It was in really sad shape but I needed a project to pass the time and Dad's story had sparked my interest. I decided the tractor not only could, but would run again-it would be a challenge though.

Dad and I pulled it up by the barn and parked it under a shade tree. I went to work tearing it down to unstick the engine. The next day my brother-in-law, Wayne Anderson of Tecumseh, Kansas, came by. Wayne has at least a dozen tractors, most of them old ones. I always thought that was rather strange, who could use more than a couple? He was always talking tractors and claimed that he loved 'Old Iron', especially IHC. Wayne helped me Saturday and Sunday work on the John Deere. With the help of a sledge hammer, a 4x4 block and quite a bit of persistence, we broke the pistons loose in the engine. Due to the extent of parts needed and the distance from home, the story nearly ended here, but Wayne loves his old tractors and he wasn't about to let me quit just yet. He kept encouraging me about the John Deere and even got me to dreaming about actually restoring it to like new condition. He went a bit further and had a subscription to GEM, Gas Engine Magazine, sent to me at home.