Friday the. 13th of July, 1984 dawned beautifully. Morning news forecast a few days of excellent mountain weather. 'Wonder if ol' Bud remembers our 2-year old visit to his huntin' grounds? Well, I'll call him! Hey, Bud, remember that old John Deere out in the slab piles? Any chance have time to help me get it out of there tomorrow? You do? Good! Let me call another ol' pal who is interested, and let's give 'er a try!'
This story has other characters who must be introduced. Galen Thomas, a good friend, is 71 years of age and farmed sections of wheat in his younger days on the plains of Kansas. John Deere 'D' tractors are familiar to him so Galen indicated a keen interest in this particular slab pole 'D' when I told him of it. He asked to go along next time we went in to its location. I told him 'next time' would be to bring it out! Imagine his enthusiasm when I called him, even on Friday the 13th, with plans for the rescue of the relic the next day!
Marilyn, Bud's wife, is the sort of lady who is embarrassed if you show up at her house and she doesn't have treats to pass around. Galen and I arrived at the Anderson home a few minutes after 9 o'clock the morning of July 14th. Marilyn tore out of the house on some 'errand', only to return in ten minutes with a box of fresh donuts! By the time Bud found his heavy socks and rounded up his hiking boots Marilyn's fresh pot of coffee was ready and her two guests had significantly damaged that box of donuts! A couple of fish stories and baseball yarns later (Marilyn says Bud still plays ball with the 'old-timers') we were on our way to Mr. Rancher Roadcloser's gate number 1.
Gotta brag up m' jeep a little: It's the only vehicle in my stable capable of a tractor rescue attempt, considering the steep terrain and narrow clearances between the trees. It ought to stand a chance at pulling the old tractor up the hill out of its slab pile site with a 407 cubic inch V-8 and chained up on all 4 wheels, don't you think? A 16-foot flatbed trailer ought to follow along behind that kind of V-8 'O-o-mmph' nicely too.
Why does a trailer tow absolutely noiselessly down the highway then make a racket like a rock-crusher when you would like to slip into the National Forest, preferably unnoticed? I didn't know those loading ramps clatter that much! Little attention is paid to us three dudes driving by the ranch houses though. Figure we are on a firewood cutting trip, I 'spose. A few friendly waves, the last one at gate number 7 from a dude ranch guest. Now, on past gate number 8 and we're in the forest!
'Hey, guys, better leave the trailer here, don't you think? The road is only jeep width and there may be more muddy bogs like those two we just slugged through. Better leave it in this little clearing. What do ya think... we 'bout 2 miles from the tractor, Bud? Guess the winter wasn't too bad up here. Only one tree down across the trail, and we don't even need the chainsaw for it. Glad we brought it, but don't want to crank up that confounded noise-maker! There is one a-buzzin' in here somewhere though. Must be a firewood cutter. Galen, you're sure quiet today!'
'Yes, I've not been out in the forest like this for some time. I'm enjoying the ride and the trees. It's so beautiful up here!'
'Hold on, guys, gotta hit this next muddy spot a little fast, then up the hill we go! We're past the little sliver of private ground now, and there are some rocks in this grass. Might bounce ya around a little. Okay, here we are on top, and right down there are the decayed slab piles. Whatta ya know... ol' 'D' hasn't moved! Someone tried to snitch the serial number tag, but it's still here. Doggone it, guys know what I forgot? I was supposed to bring a tie rod! Galen, think you can jam this piece of pipe over that little tie rod arm on the right side and steer the well like a tiller on a boat?'
'You bet! First, let's see if we can even budge 'er, then let's put it in gear so we can hold it back on downhills with the belt pulley brake, if we need to.'
'Oops, ripped off a mudflap on that rock. Minor casualty! Okay, guys, let's see what 4-wheels pullin' and a 407 V-8 can do with forty-five hundred pounds of cast iron! Hah! Wheels spinnin' like crazy and the gooseberry bush in the front wheel didn't even wiggle!' Chains on all 4 wheels now, pine cones, needles, dirt and rocks a-flying! Four nicely dug holes in one hillside... same story! The 'D' stayed.
'Sorry I threw so much dirt and stuff on you, Bud! We got the power, but not the traction! Time to do some digging to give the tractor wheels a chance to roll. Better trim that gooseberry, I guess.'
This plus putting a chain over the top of one of the rear wheels for lever age and she finally moved about 12 feet! That was those tractor wheels' first revolution in some 30 years!
Tractor out of the slabs onto firm ground, the jeep did better. Power to spare, but footing softened again on that uphill tug between a couple of ponderosas and astride some stray slabs. 'O-o-o-f! Hope Galen and Bud didn't see me trip on that old slab and fall flat! Quick, dust off and they won't notice! Who is excited? Okay, one more over-the-wheel try with the chain and we're on top of the hill, guys! Let's go back a minute and see if there are any pieces of the tractor we missed. Yep, couple of bolts, good clamp, brass nut off carb bowl. That's about it. Now, with a 6-foot tow bar made from a gas pipe with tow chain threaded through-hey, not a bad riggin' for holding 'er back down this hill, eh? (it only came loose once!) Galen, you doing okay on the front wheel tiller?'
Two miles to the trailer took 4 hours! 'Kinda warm afternoon! Glad that spring is running this year, too. Let's take a little break. How come horse trough spring water tastes so good and cold, anyway? All I have in the jeep is a candy bar but let's get a little energy from it. You guys too tired to get all the way to the trailer this time? Doin' a good job on that steerin' wheel, Bud! Sure hate forgetting that doggone tie rod, Galen!'
'Yes, this pipe hits my leg once in awhile when the wheel runs over a rock. Let's rig up a small chain to our hitch to keep this pipe from swinging around so much.'
'Okay, time for some pictures. Sure doesn't take long to load a 'D' with those come-a-longs, does it? Wonder how long it's been since a steel-wheeled tractor made lug marks in that trail!' Bud thought aloud about people wondering why those tracks desappeared from the trail all at once:
'Yesterday was Friday the 13th, you know. Is it full moon, too? Maybe they'll think Martians were driving down the trail and took off here!'
Chains off the jeep, gear loaded, 'D' loaded and trailer hitched to jeep's trailer ball. 'Guess we're ready to get outta here. Seems a bit anti-climactic now.' Ranch gates opened and closed, one by one. Three relic rescuers quieted themselves as we approached gate number two.
'Is it coincidence Mr. Rancher Roadcloser put this gate right next to his house?'
'One more to go.'
'Sure hope ol' Roadcloser isn't coming up the road to his ranchhouse as we go thru that last gate!'
'Whew! We're finally back on the highway, Boys! We didn't need to be so nervous-that's a public road. It's a relief to be out of there anyway. Hey, look at that. . .there's a Model 'G' or maybe an 'A' over there in the weeds by that barn! Shall we stop and ask about it?'
'Oh-h no! Not this trip! Save it for 'nuther
'Okay, we'll need another excuse to come see Bud and Marilyn anyway!'
'Bye, Bud, and thanks!'
'Bye, Marilyn, and thanks for feeding us!' 'You guys will be back after that one in the weeds, won't you?'
'Oh yeah, 'spose so! now, don't forget our shows
this summer... especially Cider Days!'
'Ok, see you there!'
'Kinda wish it wasn't dark as we drive home, Galen. Would like to see the funny looks and stares from other drivers!'
'Long day, wasn't it?'
'Yep, quite a day!'
Nite, Galen.' ''Nite, Mil.'