THE INTERSTATE TRACTOR

By Staff
article image
Interstate 1917-1918, with four-furrow Keans plow. Photo date unknown.

Reanacoolagh, Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland

On a fine day I was driving alone from one town to another in
the southern part of Ireland, where I had a good view of the
Atlantic Ocean shimmering in the sunshine. A walled fence along the
roadside had some gaps where cattle had knocked the stones off the
wall. The gaps were replaced by timber to fence off the gaps.
Passing one of the gaps I noticed something like an old tractor,
beside a tree-lined fence. This was in the early 70’s. I
stopped my car, as I had an interest in old tractors and any old
farming implements that go with them.

I crossed the road, got over the wall, and walked along beside
the fence. Of course you will understand, rows of wire were tied
onto the tree trunks dividing one field from the next. I got to the
tractor. There were cattle in the field. It was late June, but the
cattle had plenty of grass. There were plenty of cow hairs on the
tractor. Even though it looked to have been there for a long time,
little damage had been done. I walked around it.

Hitched to the tractor’s draw bar, by a rusty chain which I
had to pull out of the ground, was a three-piece Springtime harrow.
A bit further back by the trees was the funniest trailing plough I
ever saw. Both the harrow and plough were in fair condition, but
plenty of dust and rust everywhere, some parts missing here and
there, but things didn’t look too bad. I had no idea what make
or model the tractor or plough was, and I had never seen anything
like them before. I thought of Case-Massey-Harris, and an Austin
tractor. I had seen them in collector’s sheds and at ploughing
matches. But this had no name, no number, nothing.

I was brought back to earth when I looked after hearing a noise
behind me. I was confronted by the nicest herd of Shorthorn cows I
had seen for many days. The general of the herd was a Hereford
bull. He came a bit closer to the tractor. He must have been about
three years old, and his weight must have been near one ton. He had
a large pair of horns, one of which he caught between two rods that
reached from the governor to a point near the steering wheel, and
he pulled the rod out of place. I walked over and replaced the rod.
It was then that I noticed that the engine was an overhead value
model engine.

Just then two young chaps, I would say they were in their mid or
late twenties, came up the field. They had a white collie dog with
them who barked on seeing me. The cows took off with the bull
following them, but not before he hit the wide wing of the old
tractor with his hind part, putting part of the wing almost against
the right iron back wheel. Both back and front wheels were made of
iron or steel. There were cleats on the back wheels which
didn’t seem too worn. The boys asked me who I was, after a
friendly greeting from the dog. He was a big strong dog, with one
black ear and one black eye. ‘We have this dog for to handle
the bull. You had a trial; he is not cross, but we need to keep him
under control.’

We talked farming for a while, then I asked, ‘Is this
tractor a Case or a Massey-Harris?’

By now they had told me their names were John and Pat
O’Reilly. They lived in the house in the trees. ‘Our father
and mother lived up the country,’ Pat told me as he pointed
northwards, ‘but after World War II our father bought this
place and we all came down here to live. We like the place. Our
mother is still alive, but our father passed away eleven years ago.
This old tractor was here when we came. The makers of the tractor?
It’s a U.S.A. tractor, made by the Killen Strait Manufacturing
Company, Appleton, Wisconsin, to the Strait design. This is the
Interstate tractor made about 1917 or 1918. It was a World War II
colonel by the name of Bush that lived here after the war, but he
had gone into the city a few years before. We found all the details
relating to this outfit in the house. He had had a room converted
to an office, with a large desk in it. Well, that’s enough
about us.’

‘Are you a farmer or a scrap dealer that you have an
interest in this old tractor and plough?’ asked John.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘if I could buy the lot, I could do
something with it.’

‘If we were to give it to you to take it away, you could
restore it and keep it,’ said John.

‘Would you consider giving me the whole outfit, tractor,
harrow, plough, the lot?’ I asked.

‘Right,’ they said in one voice, ‘but you must buy
the harrow, price ?20; it’s in good condition, even if it is a
little rusty. A clean-up and a rub of paint and it would be in
working condition again,’ John added.

I agreed, and it was a deal.

‘Right,’ said John, turning to Pat.

‘It’s okay,’ Pat replied.

‘Well, then come down to the house for a drink.’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘I don’t drink.’ Looking at
my watch, I saw that it was just after two o’clock. ‘I
could do with a cup of tea. Is there a lady at the house?’

‘Yes,’ said Pat, ‘our mother, and she likes people
to call. We haven’t been here long, and aren’t very well
known. Tell you what-where did you park your car? Oh, I see
it,’ he said as he looked out to the road.

‘Right,’ said John. ‘I will have a look at the cows
and I will see you both at the house.’

Pat and I crossed the field to the road, got into the car and
set off for the house. Pat told he was a Church of Ireland.
‘You are possibly Catholic?’

‘Yes, I am,’ but I said it didn’t make any
difference. ‘Where I live, north of the Black water, I have
Church of Ireland people living at each side of me,’ I told
him.

‘Good!’ he said, as he directed me to the gateway and a
tree-lined avenue. We reached the house, a three story in the back,
two story in the front. We drove across a small lawn to get to the
kitchen at the back. My mind was not on the house so I will not go
into details about it. I pulled in beside another car, an old one,
and stopped my car.

‘I’ll be with you in a minute. I will go and tell Mother
to get some tea ready for you,’ Pat said, and disappeared into
the house. I got out of my car, to have a look at the
O’Reilly’s car. It was a Morris Twelve, could be as far
back as the Thirties, but it was in great condition.

John came along. ‘Well, what do you think?’ he said,
looking at the car. ‘Come on inside.’

In we went. A lady was getting the tea ready. I was introduced
to her. Pat had already told her what I had come for, and the deal
we had come to.

‘That was Dennis’, my husband,’ she said of the
tractor, ‘so I hope you will take care of it and keep it for
yourself.’ The lady was the mother of the two boys, and was
probably in her early fifties.

She went into one of the rooms, and came back with a photo of a
man dressed in uniform. ‘This is Dennis, he was in the U.K. 8th
Army in World War II. He came out alive but his chest was not good;
he had to spend some time in the hospital after coming home. He
bought the tractor in the U.K. and it was shipped to Cork and then
down here with the harrow and plough.’

‘Did he do much with it?’ I asked.

‘No,’ she said, ‘just brought it to the field and
left it there. His chest came at him again, and that was the end
for him.’

I said that was too bad, then asked if I could use the
phone.

‘Certainly,’ she said, ‘come into the hall.’
From there a door led to a room. ‘Do you have the number you
want?’ she inquired.

I said that I did and thanked her. I called the area manager of
the Co-op. It was Thursday; I asked him if I could possibly borrow
a lorry with a grab for the following Saturday, and told him where
I was calling from. I also asked him for the use of a driver, and
told him what I wanted the lorry for. He told me that it would be
fine, and that I could have the ‘Arctic’.

I returned to the kitchen, where I explained to the lads and to
their mother exactly what was happening. The lads told me that they
would have the whole lot in the yard early Saturday morning. I
thanked all of them and drove myself home.

Everything went according to plan. I got the whole outfit here
on Saturday morning. My family-wife, son, and daughter-all helped
with the cleaning up of the machinery and repainting of the lot.
I’ve done some work with it on and off since it came here. I
still have it all. Some repairs had to be made, but everything is
still working!

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