The Great Tractor Thread (on topic)

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Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jul 28, 2012 - 12:46pm PT
tractors were a family business for us--oliver tractors, formerly hart-parr of charles city, iowa.

my great uncle george managed the factory there for a long time. when he retired, they gave him a plaque that said, "you made tractors, george, the best in the land", and they were right. john culbertson, one of his assistants, has published a couple books on the good old days there, when everybody seemed to be on the same side and pulled together. these people knew how to have fun and work at the same time, a long forgotten pairing in most of america. the downside was that, due to the engine foundry, the factory eventually became a superfund site.

uncle george
uncle george
Credit: Tony Bird

my dad got a job through his uncle and stayed until oliver got bought by white motor corporation and merged with minnie-mo, cockshutt and other inky-dinkies, all of which died their corporate deaths in the 1970s. there are basically three companies left in this field, john deere, ford, and caterpillar. if you think teddy roosevelt's trust busting and subsequent antitrust legislation means a damn thing in the united states of america, i hope they have a job for you in china.

you'll still see olivers once in awhile. i see them in the fields around oxnard, ancient, but still running like tops. the philosophy was that farmers don't like to buy cheap equipment, they want things that'll last. the first time i heard the term "planned obsolescence" was while visiting my dad at corporate headquarters in downtown chicago shortly after they were acquired by white.

dad was a lawyer for the company, but he was a ham actor at heart, and he once did a great job of playing drunk at a business meeting with uncle george, one of the anecdotes in the book, which became legendary. he also liked to address farmers with the opening line, "we stand behind all our products ... except the manure spreaders."

Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jul 28, 2012 - 12:52pm PT
One Saturday afternoon, before our monthly management club meeting at the armory, George had a pre-meeting cocktail party in his basement. His nephew, Bob Bird, from the Chicago office, was the evening's program speaker. When I arrived, the party was just getting underway, and I chatted with Bob. He was immaculately dressed, smiling, and in great shape for his presentation. But as the cocktail hour went on, Bob looked and acted as though he had spent too much time at the bar bending his elbow. By the time we left for dinner at the armory, Bob's tie was loose at the collar, his shirt was partially unbuttoned and hanging out at the belt. In fact, he looked a mess; his speech was slurred and his walk was unsteady.

George was beside himself, and for once, he didn't know what to do. At the head table at the armory, Bob was boisterous, dropped his silverware, and created quite a disturbance. All eyes in the room were on Bob, as he proceeded to make an absolute ass of himself. George was embarrassed beyond words and tugged at Bob's sleeve to calm him down. George leaned over and urged him to give up trying to make a speech. This riled Bob all the more and set him off on a loud tirade against George.

Those of us who were seated close to George were mortified, but there was nothing we could do about it. Anything George said was brushed off and to no avail. After dinner the president of the club warily approached the podium, opened the meeting, and quickly conducted the business. With a furtive glance at George, as if to ask, "Do I close the meeting now or introduce Bob?", the president realized it was up to him to decide. Without dwelling on Bob's impressive background and wanting to get this bad scene over as quickly as possible, he simply said, "It is my pleasure to introduce Bob Bird from our Chicago office," and quickly returned to his seat.

As the crowd of more than 200 men and women politely clapped, Bob lurched to his feet, knocked over his chair and kicked it out of the way. His hair was disheveled, his shirt was hanging out of his pants, and he was more out of than in his suitcoat. Everyone gasped, and you could hear some whisper, "He's drunk." One even murmured, "My God, he really is stoned!"

Bob fell twice as he ascended the stairs to the podium. On the podium, he tried to grab the microphone, but in his apparent tipsy condition it took him three attempts before he conquered it with both hands. He wiped his nose with a sweep of his coat sleeve, rolled his eyes, opened his mouth, and struggled to stay on his feet. The room was hushed, and everyone including George was appalled at what they were witnessing. Bob closed his mouth, opened it again, then shouted, "INTERCOURSE!" The men blinked, looked at each other, and thought in disbelief, "What did he say?" The women bowed their heads, closed their eyes, and tried to hide their embarrassment.

While reactions swirled around the audience, Bob turned his back on everyone and disappeared behind the podium curtain. We all sat there stunned and looked at George to see what he was going to do. He just sat there as if someone had shot him. But momentarily Bob emerged from behind the curtain, and the audience had reason to gasp again in disbelief. It was a miraculous transformation. Bob was smiling; his hair was neatly combed; his shirt was buttoned and properly tucked in, and his tie no longer loosened. To my astonishment, he was as immaculately groomed and dressed as when I greeted him a few hours earlier. What's more, he was steady on his feet. He stepped confidently to the microphone, deftly positioned it, and in a clear, crisp voice and with a broad smile said, "Things aren't always what they seem." George looked as if he were a balloon that had just been popped with a pin. He, along with everyone else, had been taken in bigtime with Bob's carefully contrived charade.

The theme of Bob's speech was about relationships--social and business intercourse--rather than sexual intercourse. He talked about the art of communicating with each other and how important it is to convey correctly the meaning that is intended. He made the point that when he shouted "intercourse" we assumed he meant sexual intercourse, which wasn't the case at all since the word intercourse has many meanings depending on the full context in which it is used.

It was a superb speech. It was provocative--one that was long remembered and talked about for many years. When Bob concluded his speech, he was given a standing ovation, and the club president adjourned the meeting on a happy note. George hastily called a post-meeting party in his basement, and for the rest of the evening he was subdued and not his old self. But he did manage to tell Bob, "You sure fooled me. It was a hell of an act, but God dammit, don't ever do that to me again!"

from The Tractor Builders by john d. culbertson

dad, properly groomed
dad, properly groomed
Credit: Tony Bird

Credit: Tony Bird

i drove one of these during a summer job with the company in the 1960s. learned to plow--fun!

but dingus, really, on topic?
Gary

climber
"My god - it's full of stars!"
Jul 28, 2012 - 01:15pm PT
Old saying is true, you really can't ever go home again...it's all gone...the people, the places, all the unique things.

Yep. We had one of those bridges, too. Built in 1890 it crossed Bluegrass Creek on Heckel Road. The bridge is gone, as well as most of the cool places it led to, replaced by I-164.

Me and the dogs had a lot of fun on Bluegrass Creek, BITD.

One old guy on our school bus route didn't believe in tractors. Mid-'60s and he still had a pair of massive draft horses. He did farm a small parcel, but it was really quite a sight.

I was visiting back home in the '80s around the time of the farm crisis and farm-Aid and all that. I asked my Dad about all that, thinking he'd be sympathetic to the farmers, seeing how "farm hand" was listed as occupation on his army records.

Wrong! He thought it was all their fault, buying those fancy tractors with air-conditioning and tape players!

Tony, I've seen an Oliver before. Nice story.
Jody

climber
Jul 28, 2012 - 02:22pm PT
Dingus, I drove one of these for two years when I got out of high school. Plowing at 20 mph was fun, unless the AC broke and you were enclosed in a sauna when it was 110 outside! :)

Jody

climber
Jul 28, 2012 - 02:23pm PT
Here's an old tractor near my house.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2012 - 03:05pm PT
No the secret heart is still there. The Romans said the same thing. It all comes and goes all the time. I've been back to my secret places, revisited my old haunts, some of them persist, the places of magic and power. You just have to have the time and patience to suss them out. Tractor pace, as it were.

DMT

ps I think that was a Farmall my pop restored. Looks a LOT like the one jstan posted, duddint?
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Jul 28, 2012 - 08:56pm PT
Pa spreading sh#t with our Farmall.
Pa Spreading sh#t about 1971? Farmall tractor. Don't know the model.
Pa Spreading sh#t about 1971? Farmall tractor. Don't know the model.
Credit: tradmanclimbs
Me working firewood about 78? with the Ford 800 or 850?
Ford 800 or 850?
Ford 800 or 850?
Credit: tradmanclimbs
That's our sugar shack by the horse
Ford 800 or 850 about 1977/78?
Ford 800 or 850 about 1977/78?
Credit: tradmanclimbs
Our neighbor George walker with his Farmall H 1965
Farmall H 1965ish
Farmall H 1965ish
Credit: tradmanclimbs
some of our critters, about 1968
Credit: tradmanclimbs
GhoulweJ

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
Jul 28, 2012 - 09:57pm PT
I make a living supplying parts for all these tractor... Those old ones and the new ones.
Nice to see these machines getting some attention.
The Ford N series changed the fabric of this nation.
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Jul 28, 2012 - 10:08pm PT
Can you tell what model my Ford was? Obviously it had a fancy new seat on it but it was pretty old 35 years ago.
GhoulweJ

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
Jul 28, 2012 - 10:20pm PT
Looks like a 601 Workmaster
If U get me the serial number (By the starter), I can tell you all about it.
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Jul 29, 2012 - 12:32am PT
Cool stories everyone. I'm loving this quirky thread.

I recently had a pile of B&w old family photos dumped on me. My okie relatives from Kansas were all farmers. Included in the pile was the original patents with photos for some farming equipment they invented. I'll scan and post later. Pretty cool stuff.

Here's a little tractor story. Excerpt from a (true) story I wrote about growing up next to our neighbor "Cowboy Dave" as a kid:


The Old Backhoe.

The old backhoe sat quietly (or not so quietly) rusting in Cowboy Dave's horse pasture. It was one of those small- types and had been yellow at one point, but most of the paint had worn away. Once a year, Dave would attempt (not always with success) to fire up the old girl so he could drag around an antiquated disc-plow-thing to stave off the fire marshals. The broken down rusting heap was often left sitting close to our fence line for years, much to the irritation of my parents who found the backhoe to be an eyesore- especially when you added in its companions...the dead pincusioned speedboat ( also deposited in the middle of the pasture) with it's neighboring piles of hoarded old barbed wire.

Getting the backhoe running was always a lengthy ordeal. Cowboy Dave was no mechanic, and would be standing in the field all day, sweating through his cowboy uniform. There was much fussing with tools and grease, and bailing wire- lots of bailing wire. Using a toxic concoction of carb fluid and gasoline, and god knows what else, the engine would eventually fire. The entire canyon was painfully aware when the backhoe came back to life. It was always the same unbelievably loud BAM echoing through the hills followed by uneven rumbling and an ENORMOUS black column of smoke rising through the air. I always found it remarkable that such a small vehicle could create so much noise and pollution. In peak operating condition, the backhoe would break down 2 or 3 times a day, and the whole process would repeat itself...








TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Jul 29, 2012 - 12:47am PT
"we stand behind all our products ... except the manure spreaders."

My best friend in my freshman year of college was a farm kid from Iowa who like many worked in the winter in a small town shop that made farm implements.

Don't remember the brand name any more, but he worked for an outfit that made a side unloading manure spreader.

Their slogan was of course,

We stand behind our product!
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Jul 29, 2012 - 06:30am PT
Don't have that tractor anymore. Both parent's gone many years ago...
steveA

Trad climber
bedford,massachusetts
Jul 29, 2012 - 08:56am PT
My Ford 8N tractor was responsible for the house I'm sitting, ( with a little effort on my part).
I started logging a 60 acre timber track, on the side of a small mountain in N.H., in 1970, right out of Vietnam.
I can't tell you how many times I almost tipped that rig over while pulling a big log,( for Eastern standards).
That little tractor could pull an oak log
measuring 18-24 inches in diameter X 30ft. long, out of the woods, as long as you weren't going uphill.
The clutch plate was smooth steel, and real slippery when wet. When pulling a real big log, I had to be real careful to keep my foot on the clutch, while steering with the brakes, since the front end was off the ground at times.
You had to react REAL fast, if you hung up, since the front end goes up and over damn fast because of those big wheels churning. Almost as nerve racking as a long A4 pitch.
I'm very fond of that 8N, which took much abuse, from me. I made all the beams for my timber frame house in the woods with a Jonsered chain saw. Since the 4 sides of the log were removed, and discarded, the resulting beam, was in some cases, half the weight, of the original log.
Nevertheless; I have one beam, in Oak, measuring 12X14 by 24 ft. long. I weighed it, before putting it up. after drying it for 20 years, under cover, ( I'm not lying). It tipped out at 2400 pounds!
I'm diverging off the subject, but that little 8N, can pull like hell, and I'm still logging occasionally with it.




Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jul 29, 2012 - 09:26am PT
okay, i'll bring this thread back on topic.

i took the tour of the desert queen ranch last year. the guide was a ranger who had grown up on a ranch in colorado--i forget his name, but he was the ideal guide, offering insights into the resourcefulness of the keys family that only someone who had lived that life could know about.

bill keys basically inherited hidden valley from an outlaw, the kindlier of the mchaney brothers, who wound up spending his old age there--unlike his brother, who landed in the pen. keys took care of the fellow during his last days--you can see the outline of the shack on the backside of indian wave boulder.

keys's strategy for making a living on desert queen was many-faceted--mining, ranching, hunting and foraging, farming (some of his fruit trees still survive), and tourist cabins. the only gold he missed was the rock climbing. the ranch site, back in the wonderland and only accessible with a tour appointment, remains close to the way the family left it, just a bit worse for weathering. there is a large area which can best be described as a well-organized open-air parts warehouse--everything you need to get a tractor running.

our guide pointed out a giant diamond reo truck, 1930s vintage, which he said keys picked up for free out in the desert after it was abandoned stuck by the county highway department. it looked like it hadn't run in decades, but he said he was surprised a few years ago to find it parked about 200 yards from where he had seen it the week before. he learned that willis keys, just for the fun of it, had shown up with a few quarts of oil and a can of gas, picked some spark plugs out of the parts collection and got it going--something to do on a sunday afternoon.

take that tour if you're a josh regular--well worth a half day off from climbing. and willis's book, growing up on the desert queen ranch, available at the visitor's center, offers a lot more of the colorful history.

Credit: Tony Bird

cowboys! off topic?

self-starters
self-starters
Credit: Tony Bird
pud

climber
Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
Jul 29, 2012 - 09:28am PT
Credit: pud
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 29, 2012 - 09:50am PT
Did you know tractors shrink with age?

THEY DO!

Consider the photo above of the dad and his kids on that little tractor.

To those kids? They think its as mighty as that 8-wheeled drive monster Jody used to drive. Its not 'a tractor,' no, its 'THE Tractor.' They will remember it all their lives, that tractor, like I and a lot of you remember our own tractor mythology and legend. As they mature?

The tractor will actually grow in size (in their minds), particularly if they move away or are somehow separated from their tractor.

But then, if they are lucky (like I was) they might get to visit their old home and go visit the tractor of their youth.

And they'll be shocked at the changes... not to their old home, yard, woods, town, bridges, strip malls and whatever. Oh all that's shocking enough, it deserves its own thread.

No they'll be shocked at how much that tractor has actually shrunken with age - like a wizened old man. They'll walk up to it in wonder, clearly remembering the days when that tractor TOWERED over them and climbing the wheel (they now look down upon ) was a BIG DEAL.

DMT
berghold

Trad climber
Calistoga
Jul 29, 2012 - 10:32am PT
Couldn't resist. Found on a country lane in Alsace, France 2011.  I kn...
Couldn't resist. Found on a country lane in Alsace, France 2011. I know. . . A Bulldozer is not a tractor !
Credit: berghold
whitey1

climber
california
Jul 29, 2012 - 11:48am PT
Credit: whitey1
International Farm-All nick named Mr. Thirsty
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jul 29, 2012 - 12:57pm PT
You just have to have the time and patience to suss them out.

or scuba gear.

many of the magic places of my childhood are now buried under jillions of acre-feet of reservoir.


god knows how many old farmalls and fords are rusting away down there.
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