Long ago, I saw an old rust-covered tractor for sale beside the road and immediately stopped.
Upon closer scrutiny, the derelict turned out to be a 1939 John Deere Model B, serial number 79014, equipped with steel rear wheels and rubber-tired fronts that still held a little air. The fenders, rare in this area, were in fair shape and the hood, although rusty, was straight and hadn’t been butchered around the muffler opening. The lower one-third of the grille halves were rusted out, but the WICO Model C magneto was there, and all the other bits and pieces seemed to be intact. The hand-start engine was loose and turned over easily. It was love at first sight, at least on my part, and I called the number listed on the sign.
The owner and I quickly agreed on a price (actually, he quoted a price and I agreed), and I was the proud owner of the forlorn little B. All I now had to do was get a non-running tractor with steel lug wheels onto my trailer for the ride home. At the time, I was a novice when it came to loading machinery and, while I had a trailer, I had no winch or come-along of any kind.
The B had a front hitch and one of my two running tractors, a 1948 John Deere BN, had a similar hitch, so I decided to make a short push bar to go between the two and then push the old B backward up the ramps and onto the trailer. It sounded simple enough (and I guess it was simple, as in simple-minded).
So one Saturday morning, I recruited the help of my friend Willy, loaded the BN and the push bar, and set out to retrieve my treasure. I parked the trailer beside the B and we connected the two tractors nose-to-nose with the 6-foot bar. Willy mounted the B and I manned the BN and, as the loading operation commenced, things seemed to be proceeding nicely.
I easily pulled the B into a position behind the trailer where it was roughly lined up with the ramps, although Willy was having trouble steering, since the tires were nearly flat and the steering gear badly needed lubrication. It was when I began to push the old tractor backward that the fun began.
The push bar didn’t work nearly as well as I’d expected, since it was virtually impossible to keep it straight. Willy was having a terrible time steering, but we finally got the rear wheels lined up and just at the bottom of the ramps. As soon as the lugs hit the ramps, the B came to a firm stop. Either the push bar would buckle or the BN would spin its wheels on the loose gravel, while the B refused to move. I then had a brilliant idea! I'd just take the BN around front and pull the B onto the trailer.
It quickly became apparent that the pickup truck was in the way and, since it never occurred to me to jack-knife the truck in relation to the trailer, we unhitched it. With jack stands under the rear of the trailer, and the jack under the tongue at the front, I reasoned that the trailer wouldn’t go anywhere and I could get a straight pull.
We started off bravely enough but, as the B started up the ramps, the trailer moved ahead off the jack stands and the weight of the tractor caused the trailer tongue to rise majestically into the air. Willy quickly abandoned the B and I sat there in disbelief, until the sheer idiocy of the whole thing struck us and we cracked up.
We hurriedly got the B off the ramps and the trailer back on the ground, meanwhile hoping no one had seen the fiasco. After borrowing a hand-lever-operated come-along from a friend back in town, we re-hitched the trailer, rigged up the hand operated cable winch, and began to work the hand lever.
It was heavy going; as each rear wheel lug hit the wooden ramps, it required all our muscle on the little hand winch to pull the weight of the tractor up and over the lug. We finally got the thing loaded and headed for home.
Willy and I swore each other to secrecy, but it’s too good a story not to tell. Besides, as someone once said: “Having good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from having bad judgment.”