Its all Trew

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The International 22-36 tractor

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My dad survived the Dust Bowl and Great Depression with three 22-36 International steel lug-wheeled tractors. His first innovative step after those challenging times was taken when Montgomery Ward & Co. catalogs began offering conversion kits for changing the lug-wheels to rubber tires with a knobby tread.

We ordered kits, which included rims, tires and inner tubes, plus a spark plug air compressor to air up the tires. We jacked and blocked up the tractors, removed the wheels, carried them to a Perryton blacksmith who cut off the lug-rims and welded on the new tire rims. Back home, we mounted the new tires and inner tubes, replaced the tractor wheels, removed a spark plug and installed the new air compressor. Then we started the tractor motors and inflated the new tires to the proper pressure.

The front tractor tires used regular truck tires. The rear tires were somewhat rounded like aircraft tires of today but contained many extended projections for traction. The new tires worked well except for tire slippage when doing a hard pull.

That winter, we removed the rear wheels again, laid them on the ground and filled the open spoke areas with concrete, adding some much-needed weight. It helped, but as plow sizes grew, even more weight was needed, so next, we mixed salt water in barrels and pumped that inside the rear-wheel inner tubes; more than two 55-gallon barrels of fluid were needed in each tire. The added salt kept the water from freezing in winter.

Later, we replaced the salt water with a chloride solution, which was just as effective but cheaper and didn't rust the tractor rims as much as the salt water did. We used these 'improvements' until tires with ribbed treads were invented.

Fieldwork on those old Internationals left us hot and thirsty, and challenged us to keep cool drinking water handy. As a consequence, drinking water containers were continually evolving on the farm.

At first, we used canvas bags hooked onto our tractors, but evaporation cost us precious water and hastened the collection of dust on the bags, leaving them a mass of mud in short order. Next, we tried 1-gallon glass water jugs, wrapped up in a certain way to prevent breakage and to help keep the water cool.

The glass jugs sometimes were acquired simply by buying cider, vinegar or syrup at the grocery store, but Mother usually obtained ours from the Perryton Coca Cola Bottling Co., where Coke mix was shipped out in gal-Ion jugs.

She'd wash the jugs and wrap them in gunnysacks, sewing the edges with a needle and twine. Then, she'd insert a piece of twine or wire through a cork stopper and tie it to the glass finger hole, thereby preventing loss of the stopper. And finally, she'd insert a small rope through the finger hole, to tie the jug to the tractor, thereby preventing the jug from falling off the moving machine.

No one stopped his tractor to get a drink of water; it just wasn't the manly thing to do. If you wanted a drink, you grabbed the rope ring, inserted your finger through the hole, removed the stop per, flipped the jug over your forearm and sipped away. I took great pride in learning this delicate maneuver because it was a true John Wayne'thing.'

Delbert 'Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil's Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164; e-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net