An Old Friend Returns:


| March 2001



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1938 D John Deere

My family lived on a small dairy farm in western Washington in the early 40's. The first tractor I was associated with as a kid was an English Fordson - about a 1935 model. During this time, tractors were almost impossible to buy, so we were quite proud of the Fordson. It wasn't wonderful, but served quite well, as our requirements were rather basic. When we were able to put up hay, plow and disk and cut firewood, we were pretty self-sufficient.

During this time, a family friend had a 'stump ranch' about 15 miles away and sometimes I would stay with them for a few days and help. A stump ranch was land that logging companies sold off after they'd taken out the lumber. The land was sold cheaply and farmers would receive a tax break to farm it. Fanners would usually have to be satisfied with taking out the smaller, second-growth stumps to begin with and farm around the large, old first-growth stumps, until they could afford to hire a bulldozer to clear them out.

My friend, Pat, had a Fordson from about 1925 and, one day, when cleaning up stumps that had been blasted and dozed, he drove the Fordson off in a stump hole, hooked onto a root and started up out of the hole. Well, the tractor was in a pretty good twist ,as a rear wheel was in the hole and one front wheel was out (maybe a reader or two has cleared a western Washington stump ranch), so it gave out a terrible squall, but Pat drove on out of the hole and shut the tractor down. There weren't any leaks, and the engine was running OK when shut down. After looking at the tractor a while, Pat decided to take off the side plate where a foot rest was. As I had small hands and was eager, I reached down into the bottom of the transmission and came out with part of a handful of ball bearings and pieces of ball bearings. That pretty well ended our land clearing.

The next time I stayed with them, Pat had a 1927 John Deere D. This was a big tractor with a crank handle in the steering wheel, which I really thought was something. As the land clearing was still going on, Pat had a dozer in clearing more stumps. They had a pretty good fire going and the dozer was pushing more stuff in the fire, and pushing the fire into a tighter and higher pile ,when the operator stalled the dozer with the blade in the fire. This was a hand crank model and the crank was between the blade and the radiator, which was now in the fire. Things did not look good for the dozer. The only thing that could help was the John Deere, which wasn't started. Pat started it without difficulty and pulled the dozer out of the fire, hardly scorching the paint. I now had a real high opinion of a John Deere D.

In 1951, Dad had a sale and moved to central Missouri where his brother had a large farm. My uncle had two John Deere tractors, a D and a G, and a Minneapolis Moline. After having cranked the Fordson, I thought the flywheel start of the John Deere was a real step up. I spent about 18 months around that farm and really liked to operate the D, but after leaving the farm, I didn't really have anything to do with tractors for almost 30 years. I did stop at tractor shows once in a while and always looked at the John Deeres. I always thought that, if I could have an antique tractor, I would want it to be a John Deere D.

In August of 1998, my wife gave me a subscription to Farm Collector, In the October issue was an ad for a 1938 John Deere D. After much discussion, I called the listed number and spoke to Ray Dugan of Leonardville, Kan. He described the tractor and then sent pictures. After looking at the pictures and discussing the issue much more with my wife, I sent a check in December and said we would be after the tractor in the spring. We had to wait on better weather to make the long trip from my home near Little Rock, Ark., to Leonardville.