Steven Dhein tracks down his family's Ford NAA Golden Jubilee tractor that was sold, along with their farm, in 1983.
In 1939, my grandmother, Doris Dhein, bought a Ford 9N for $525 ($8,800 today) F.O.B. Detroit. When we traded our 9N up for an NAA we got more for the trade-in than had been paid for it new.
I was 9 years old when Grandma bought our 1953 Golden Jubilee. For the next 30 years, that NAA did all the work it took to own and operate a 107-acre dairy farm with 28 milk cows and 20 young stock. One hundred of those acres were tillable and 7 acres were in pasture land, unheard of today. A spring-fed creek ran through the pasture land so the cattle always had fresh water to drink.
We used the NAA to do all the spring work: seeding oats and planting corn and cutting and raking hay. In the fall, we used the NAA for all the plowing, pairing it with a Dearborn 2-bottom, 14-inch 3-point mounted plow. I worked in a factory during the day but I spent many evenings on the NAA, plowing with the radio on. On cool fall nights I kept warm with a tractor-mounted canvas cab. The top and back of the cab were open but the heat from the Red Tiger engine that flowed from the side curtains of the cab into the driver’s area kept me warm.
It was my job to perform all routine maintenance, so I got to know the NAA quite well. The only major repairs I had to do were replace the rear axle and overhaul the engine (bore the cylinders and install new sleeves and over-size pistons). The NAA was part of my daily routine until 1983, when our farm was sold to a neighbor. The tractor was part of the sale, along with all the 3-point mounted Dearborn implements (2-bottom plow, 6-foot disc, cultivator, snow plow and sickle mower).
As time went on, my grandmother passed away, my dad retired and I got married and moved to a nearby community. Over the next 20 years, I kept close tabs on the farm and our NAA tractor, driving by four or five times a year. By 2004, the farmland had been divided between three owners. Our NAA tractor had been sold and the barn and outbuildings had been dismantled and sold for barn boards. The owner of the land where the barn had stood lived in my grandmother’s old farmhouse. He had saved a few small boards from the barn and gave me a 3-foot piece along with the name and contact information of the person who’d bought our old NAA. For the next four years I tried to contact that person but was unsuccessful. I more or less gave up.
In August 2008, I looked up the buyer in the local phone book. His address hadn’t changed in four years and it was only 6 miles from my home. As I entered his driveway, I noticed a large pole building on the property and wondered if our old NAA might be inside. At the front door, I introduced myself and inquired about the tractor.
The homeowner told me to meet him by the pole building’s overhead door. As the door slowly rose, I saw our old NAA and its hood ornament that read “1903-1953 Golden Jubilee Model.” As I looked the tractor over, I knew this was the NAA from Grandmother’s farm. I had installed an adjustable “joy rider” seat to make driving the tractor more comfortable. Also, I had welded a large bracket on the front part of the left rear fender to which I had installed a high volume AM tractor radio. The radio was gone, replaced by a large yellow “caution” light. As I slowly walked around, checking over the NAA, the owner and I talked about the tractor’s history. I had brought along a small photo album with pictures of my grandmother’s farm and our NAA after my dad repainted the tractor in 1981.
The new owner said he’d spent three years restoring the NAA. He’d replaced the front and rear wheels, as the originals were rusted beyond repair. He also worked on the clutch and brakes, and installed a new carburetor along with plugs, points, belts and hoses but the engine was untouched. A spin-on oil filter replaced the original cartridge-type filter and the 6-volt electrical system had been upgraded to 12 volts. The tractor was repainted and new front and rear tires were installed. Other minor repairs were made and all fluids and lubricants were replaced.
During our visit, I mentioned the 3-point rear-mounted implements we used with the NAA. The man showed me to his backyard, where an unbelievable site greeted me. Around the perimeter of a large fire pit, resting on cement patio blocks, were all the implements. They were arranged in a circle surrounded by benches for seating.
As we sat and talked some more, I learned the owner used the tractor and implements on an adjacent 5-acre hobby farm. He even has the tractor’s original owner’s manual. I read over all my old notes on oil changes and other routine maintenance.
Before I left for home, the owner and I set a date and time for me to return with a camera and take pictures of the NAA and implements. Wow: what a find! Our 1953 Golden Jubilee is now 61 years old and still going strong. I told the owner I have a two-car garage with one stall unused. If he ever decides to sell his NAA, an old family member would be back home again. FC
For more information:
- Steven Dhein, 49 West Main St., Apt. 106, Chilton, WI 53014-8900.
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