Homemade tractor, nicknamed “Katydid,” restored after 40 years in the scrap pile.
The restored Katydid is not exactly the same tractor that my dad, Francis Whitesell, built, but it’s close. Toward the end I enlisted my brother Jerry to help wire the ignition and alternator, and we fired her up and backed her out of the shop. Dad drove her for the first time 67 years ago, and 50 years ago he drove her for the last time.
Restoration of the homemade tractor has been a fun challenge. I don’t have the best tools but I certainly have a lot more to work with than Dad did, not to mention that he came up with the idea from scratch.
My mother, Maxine, took this photo in 1955 or ’56. From left to right: My grandpa Morton on the Avery (Wards Twin-Row), Nell hitched to the wagonload of seed with me at the reins, along with my cousin Glenda and Grandma, as well as my dog, Tippy. Jerry was on the Allis-Chalmers, Dad on the Katydid and Jim on the planter. Jim’s job, besides filling the seed boxes, was to put the planter in and out of the ground, as well as jump off at the end and grab the marker to make sure it changed sides each time. Jerry and Grandpa worked the ground and Grandma and I dumped soybeans in a tub, then sprinkled water and inoculator on them and stirred until they looked somewhat black. This was one of the few photos of the Katydid at work and served as a resource in restoration.
Not a promising start: The Katydid lay in a scrap pile for 40 years before I rescued her — and then sat for another 10 years before I began restoration. This photo was taken Nov. 2, 2009, just before the tractor went into the shop.