Book excerpt: One Farm Kid’s Memory of his John Deere Model G
(Page 2 of 4)
The owner finally was satisfied with the effect his novel idea had on the crowd and climbed back on, timing his grasp of the seat rail with the tractor turn. Once on the seat, he pushed the clutch to stop its motion, unlocked the brake, and straightened the steering. Then he put it back into gear to let the tractor claw its way out of the fresh hole, and finally turned off the engine.
The crowd dissolved as quickly as it had appeared. He sat on his tractor, alone on a metal island and watched the sea of human curiosity wash back with the tide into the fair carnival. He seemed pleased as he got off and walked over to us. He obviously knew my dad because he called over using his name, “Hi, Howard.”
They talked but nothing more was said about his tractor although my father was grinning. Finally, bursting with impatience I blurted out, “How did you do that?”
He looked down at me through his thick glasses filmed with the dust churned up by the tractor tires. He just smiled and appeared to cast a wink of his eye towards my father before turning back to me saying, “Well, I just gave it a little thump with my knuckles and it did the rest. It’s all in the thumpin’.” And he snapped his wrist with the outstretched knuckles of his index and middle fingers into the air, imitating how he cast a magic spell over his John Deere. That seemed fair, but when I tried it on our G later at home nothing happened. All I had to show for it was a pair of bruised and skinned knuckles, and a tractor that didn’t move.
The G signaled a change in the history of our farm. By the late 1940s, my dad had bought it to replace the registered Belgian workhorses that had powered the farm. It got the brunt of our farm work – plowing, planting, disking and chopping; even silo filling. Its clutch was engaged by pushing forward a long steel lever topped with a gripping knob and located on the right side of the steering wheel rather than by a foot pedal found in later models. The shift lever for reverse and the four forward gears was positioned within an iron shell on the foot platform and was maneuvered around the five slots that resembled the teeth of a carved pumpkin. When the clutch lever was pushed forward, it set the tractor in the desired direction. The throttle was located just above the clutch and confusing the two could create an alarming and dangerous situation for the driver as it was known to jump from any sudden and unexpected acceleration.
The G powered the silage blower, which was belt-driven off the pulley located on the right side of the tractor frame, just ahead of the rear wheel. Silo filling would test its full power capacity. Wood blocks were placed in front of the rear wheels because the torque created by the belt pulling against the spinning blower paddles loaded with silage increased the effect of pulling the brake-locked tractor forward. It was a massive tug-of-war between two groaning, stationary machines with only the straining, spinning belt between them.