Route 2, Box 330 Irrigon, Oregon 97844
Cast iron and steel can also be precious metal. Especially when
in the form of a first tractor. If a person thinks for a moment the
answer to why this is true becomes rather obvious.
A person with a team of horses and a walking plow could spend a
million foot’ Steps plowing and planting twenty acres. Anything
that could save that many steps would have a lot going for it.
A million steps could make you forget about all the times you
cranked for two hours to get your tractor started and make you
remember the few times it started the first pull. A million steps
could make you forget about all the times you get stuck and make
you remember the few times you sailed through the wet spots without
slipping a tire.
One such experience started in 1941 at Camas, Washington and
went like this. On September 5, 1941, the John Deere dealer from
Vancouver, Washington brought out a new John Deere Model A tractor,
serial #508520, and a new model 4-B two bottom plow.
September 5 just happened to be Mother’s birthday and
I’m still not sure if Dad was really that smooth or if he just
got lucky. How could any woman refuse a birthday gift like
Anyway, Dad was happy because he didn’t have to walk the
plow. My brother and I were happy because it was the first new
thing our family had owned and, also, because it impressed the
neighbor kids. I’m still not sure about Mother. I think that
she was happy because she knew that it made us happy.
It even added a new dimension to our collie Slim’s life.
Slim quickly realized that he could get away with chasing the cats
when the tractor started, if he would pretend to be clearing the
Every farm that milked one or fifty cows had sixteen cats. Since
we milked about fifteen cows, we also had sixteen cats… every
kind but fat.
As soon as the tractor made its first sound, Slim and the
sixteen cats were in instant motion.
This tractor would pull the two bottom plow in third gear with
ease. Its steady, low exhaust reminded me of a long-winded story
teller. One got the impression that it was regenerating itself
while running and could go on forever.
At first, my brother and I took turns riding on the tractor with
Dad and pulling the plow rope for him. I am sure this must have
pleased Dad, because it kept him from getting the head lands too
straight and he got to stop the tractor and rest the times that we
struggled to trip the plow.
We soon learned all there was to know about this John Deere and
were performing all the duties that it was designed for, plus a few
One of my greatest performances happened while we were baling
hay with a stationary baler and using the Deere on the buck rake. I
was in charge of running the buck rake and was doing my usual fine
job. While backing out for a new load of hay shocks, I glanced back
just in time to see one of the rear tires making a vicious pass up
the side of a Model A Ford. Then everything settled into
I quickly glanced about for some reason why it was not my fault,
but even a thirteen year old knows that there is no excuse for
running into the only vehicle in the middle of a forty acre field.
I remember muttering something to myself about the clutch not
disengaging, then dropped my head a little and prepared myself for
a lot of verbal abuse from an inconsiderate haying crew.
Most people who spend time around machinery appreciate the ones
that work. These old tractors did not give you a lot of extra
monkey-motion and they worked just like they were made to work.
Many have done it for forty years or more. What makes it even more
impressive is that most have done it without recommended care. In
this age when the plastic knobs self-destruct in unison with the
warranties, it makes one appreciate the cast iron knobs and levers
that have performed flawlessly for half a century.
I could probably get used to the funny sound of those fours and
sixes, but I’m not quite ready for that now. I still enjoy
driving these old tractors as much as I did forty years ago. I
enjoy the field work and at times we belt up the old Gordon Moyer
‘bean skinner’ that my Dad brought with him from Sandusky,
Ohio in the early 1930’s.
These tractors are like oatmeal cookies and peanut butter
sandwiches. There are a lot fancier ways to go, but none are more