Embarrassing First Ride on McCormick-Deering 10-20

Recalling adventure of first time driving the family McCormick-Deering 10-20.


| September 2013



McCormick-Deering-10-20-Black-And-White

McCormick Deering 10-20

Photo By Leonard Lee Rue III

Editor’s note: Leonard Rue’s rich and colorful memories of a boyhood spent on a small farm in northwest New Jersey in the 1930s will appear in coming issues of Farm Collector. In this installment, he recalls his first turn at the wheel of the family’s McCormick-Deering 10-20.  

We got our first tractor in 1938. It was a McCormick-Deering 10-20 made in 1928. The 10 in that equation stood for 10 hp in the pulling mode and the 20 stood for horsepower off the belt pulley. I didn’t know how they figured horsepower in those days and I still don’t today. I do know that old tractor could out-pull our three horses, which is why we bought it in the first place. My Chevy Suburban, sitting out in my driveway with its Vortec engine, is rated at 405 horsepower. Although I love that car, I know it couldn’t out-pull 405 horses. It probably couldn’t out-pull that old McCormick-Deering 10-20, either.

Whatever paint was left on that old tractor was gray on the main machine, while its wheels at one time, at some time, had been a bright red. I just don’t know when that might have been, but rust is almost red.

It stood sturdily astride four large iron wheels. The front wheels were 30 inches in diameter and 4 inches wide with a 1-inch ridge running around the center to keep the wheels from slipping while turning a corner, and it’s a good thing because it took 30 feet to make a circle as it was. The rear wheels were 42 inches in diameter and 12 inches wide. There were two rows of steel lugs that looked like big V’s with wings. The lugs were 4 inches wide and the points were 6 inches high. There were 16 lugs on the outside rim, then a 4-inch space and 16 lugs on the inside rim. The lugs were offset from each other so that one lug was always buried in the dirt at all times. That is, if the tractor was on dirt. On our farm, that wasn’t often.

Bone-jarring ride

Ours was a hilltop farm with lots of slate ridges and lots of loose slate slabs and just lots of pieces of slate. After all, we were only about 10 air miles from the Bangor, Pa., slate quarries. Those quarries were famous because they made the slate shingles that covered the roofs of every house in the area. When those tractor lugs dug into the dirt it gave a tremendous grip. When those tractor lugs hit a rock, a slab of slate or a slate ridge, you had to have a tremendous grip on the steering wheel just to keep from being jolted off. It wasn’t the tractor’s fault. It was just trying to do its job. As each lug hit the hard surface, it bounced the tractor up and down with a force that, if you didn’t clench your teeth, would have cracked them – and it often turned your liver upside down.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. at that time billed itself as the world’s largest store and, with its millions of catalog customers, it probably was. They sold good merchandise; you could count on it if you bought it at Sears and, if anything was ever wrong, they would replace it with no questions asked. Almost everything we had, used or wore came from Sears and most of what we use today still does.