Not My Father’s Tractor-Or Was It?

Henry Ford’s Tractors

Some still do the work of 27 horses while most have long since ceased to work at all.

Some still show the gleaming red and grey  paint job which was unique to the brand while many have long since rusted away in abandoned fields and barnyards.

Trees grow through their oxidized frames and decayed rubber tires as nature, slowly but surely takes back the landscape.

These were the machines that replaced horses on the farm and, before rural electric service became a reality, even powered milking machines with a vacuum pump connection extending along the transmission.

By 1945 tractors made by several manufacturers; Ford, John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Case, et.al., had surpassed horses as the main power train on America’s farms.

They pulled a two-bottom plow, and all the implements needed for a young veteran returning home to 40 acres and a herd of milking cows.

A new Ford tractor cost around $600 when they were built but if you have one today that still runs, with hood and tires intact, it can be worth up to $4000.

Parts are still available usually at a junk yard where for a few dollars you can rummage through the field of worn out machines searching for the one that matches yours, hoping the part you need is still there-and still works.

The one we owned was purchased through a grant from the State Vocational  Rehabilitation Program for my dad while he recovered from the effects of polio and was used to raise pickles on an acre of land my grandparents owned.

It also made extra money for us by plowing neighborhood gardens in town.

It was my first car at age 12.

I along with one or two other idiots would race around town sometimes actually doing what Dad wanted me to do but mostly just screwing around.

One day while a buddy, Larry was plowing and I riding the fender, the plow found the one boulder in Mr. Anderson’s potato patch. The tractor stopped dead while I continued to move forward at about 6 mph, bouncing off the front tire.

That old Ford could do wheelies.

Another time, years later with the same two idiots, we were hauling firewood on the farm when Dennis threw a piece of wood which ricocheted off the rear tire and hit me in the back of the head.

He claimed, after several minutes of hysterical laughing, that it was an accident.

Seems that head injuries were a familiar thread through my life.

You really do see stars.

My first business was to use a newer (1948) Ford 8-N with a front end loader with which I skidded logs off a ski hill being built in Waushara County.

Today, it’s known as Nordic Mountain-1100 feet high with runs for skiing, snow-boarding or tubing, a full service chalet and cross country trails.

The trick was to drive straight up the steep grade to the logs already cut, jam on one brake to spin the tractor around, facing downhill while shutting off the engine to keep it from sliding back down (brakes wouldn’t hold). Then I would quickly hook the logs and skid them down to a level field for cutting to length and loading.

We still have one, an 9-N which was built in the early ’40s. It’s condition is  closer to the rusted out models than new but still serviceable when we can get it started.

The starter linkage is broken but if you short across the solenoid with a screwdriver (being careful not to touch the metal) it will arc, spark, turn over and finally start running.

We use it to snake through the cut-over wood lot to bring out firewood; oak, cherry and walnut, hauling it to the pile near the farm house for splitting and stacking.

With chains on the tires we can use it all winter long unless the snow gets too deep or the temperature gets below zero.

Below zero it doesn’t start at all, but then again, neither do I.

 

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