The Sound of the John Deere GP

Memories of a John Deere GP's two-cylinder engine stick with Missouri man

Duane seated on the AR

Duane, seated on the AR, shortly after Tom rebuilt the engine and put on temporary tires.

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The first tractor I can remember is a standard John Deere GP. I don't know the year of its manufacture. I was born in 1938, and I can remember it being on our farm in 1942. And I remember the sound, the distinctive sound of that two cylinder John Deere. 

Later, I remember my father moving the John Deere GP and the power fuel barrels. Power fuel was a grade of kerosene which was cheaper than gasoline. When the engine's proper operating temperature was reached, you switched from gasoline to power fuel. That was the reason for the shutters and dual fuel tanks on the older tractors. You always wanted to shut off the fuel and let the tractor run out of fuel before it quit running. If you didn't, you would have to drain the carburetor and get clean gas in it so it would start.

When my family moved to Johnstown, Mo., we had our first farm auction. That was the last I knew of the John Deere GP. We ran the general store in Johnstown, selling groceries, hardware and feed, and buying chicken and eggs. There were farmers nearby with a variety of tractors: Oliver, Ford, Ferguson, Farmall and of course, the familiar sounding John Deere. There is just something about that sound ...

Later we moved to Kansas City. Life in the big city was a learning experience. I worked in a grocery store on Saturdays to make some spending money. I bought school clothes at the Montgomery Wards near our home. There I saw a different kind of tractor: the Avery and Wards tractor. I even thought it would be fun to own one of the red tractors, but I was still loyal to the John Deere. There is just something about that sound ...

In 1954, we moved back to a farm in eastern Bates County, where I finally got my first tractor: A 1937 Farmall F-20. Man, that tractor was a big bruiser for a young teenager. But we didn't have a cultivator for the F-20, so we traded it in for a Deere, a flat back 1939 B with a cultivator (manual lift). The Deere's manual lift was spring loaded and both row worked in unison.

After I graduated from high school, I left the farm to work in Kansas City. In 1957, I purchased a 1951 8N Ford, planning to return to farming one day. I never made it, but I'm still hoping that some day I will be able to till the soil again.

In June 1958, I married my high school sweet heart, Joan, at about that time that my father sold the farm, stock and equipment. That was the end of my farming career. My wife and I moved to California for 10 years. When we returned to Missouri, my parents had bought a small acreage and were employed in town. My in-laws were still on the farm and with my family all in a rural setting, we were a little closer to the soil. But there was no John Deere green around. There is just something about that sound ...

In 1989, my daughter married a young man from southwestern Missouri. He had the love of the John Deere as I have always had. Tom spotted a derelict 1937 John Deere AR while working for the Jasper County Missouri Road District. I had never seen an AR before he brought this one home. It was in pretty bad shape: The tires were rotted off, one front rim was rusted through, the head was off and in bad shape. Tom put it back together and in good running order about a year before he was diagnosed with cancer in 1994. He didn't live to see it finished. Since his death in October 1994, we have had the tractor painted, purchased a re-manufactured radiator grille, and a new wico magneto. It is in good mechanical shape. There is just something about that sound...

 It was ready for show in October 1996 at the Maple Leaf Festival Parade in Carthage, Mo., Tom's home town. We've shown it in parades and tractor shows in west-central Missouri, and have received two first place, two second place, and third place trophies. It was the most popular antique tractor two years ago at my company's United Way fund raising kick-off.

Since the antique iron bug has bitten me, my wife and I have restored her father's 1948 Alllis Chalmers Model C. This tractor was purchased new by her father from Piatts Farm Equipment in Butler, Mo. This tractor cleaned up very well and is all original; it even has the original bench seat on it. The first parade it was in, it took first place in the antique tractor division. We have spent a lot of weekends hauling one or both of them to a show or parade somewhere. We took the Deere to Kansas City for the American Royal Parade in October 1999. We were part of the entry of the Two-Cylinder Club of Greater Kansas City. There were about 24 green tractors in the unit. Boy, what a sound; there is just something about that sound. FC 

For more information: Duane Craig, 1904 SW Gladstone Drive, Blue Springs, Mo., 64014; (816) 229-0469. email: duanecraig@juno.com.