I was thinking of how I got started in the Rusty Iron hobby. About a month after buying the tractor I went to another show. Now I was an antique tractor owner and part of the fraternity! I hung around the John Deere H's that were on display, talking tractors like a pro, even though I still didn't know much. I even joined the Two-Cylinder Club.
For a couple of years during the mid 1980s, my daily commute took me past an old red tractor, bearing a for sale sign. I recognized it as being a Farmall H. It had been painted, looked good, and I wanted it. The Farmall H had been my favorite tractor since childhood, but I couldn't imagine what I'd ever do with it on my quarter-acre town lot. So, I drove past that Farmall twice a day for a year or more, never even stopping to see what it cost, and eventually it disappeared.
Sometime during this same period, I visited the local fair for the first time in many years, and saw the old tractors, engines and machinery in operation and on display, but still never considered owning something like that myself.
In June, 1987, I attended a small local show honoring the 150th anniversary of Deere and Company, and it was a revelation. All those beautiful tractors on display, the excitement of the tractor pull, the big, steam-powered saw mill blade whining through logs, the little engines popping and snorting, and the guys in their John Deere caps standing around talking tractors, most of which I only half understood … it was great!
Soon I went to a larger show where I saw a John Deere styled AR for the first time. This tractor's sleek lines, and compact and powerful good looks, really caught my eye. I decided I had to have an AR, even though it might be a bit large for my quarter-acre spread.
In July, I saw an ad for a styled AR, so off I went to see it. Up close the AR looked mighty big, but there was also a John Deere H that looked pretty nice but wasn't running, as well as an LA. After some discussion, I decided one of them would be more appropriate to my situation than the AR. Even though both the H and LA are about the same size, I chose the H since it looks like its bigger brothers.
The seller promised to have the H running, so the next week I rented a U-Haul trailer and set out to bring home my prize. The tractor ran, although we had to pull it to get it started. I drove it around a little, and then on to the trailer where the seller showed me how to tie it down. That was a proud trip home; I felt as though everyone I passed was giving me and my new tractor a second look.
Once back in Salem, I decided to unload at a small plaza about a block from my house. The parking lot sloped slightly, and I figured if the H wouldn't start by hand I could coast it off the trailer, starting it in gear.
Of course, it wouldn't start. I had no idea of where to set the throttle and, by this time, I'd forgotten which way the choke was on or off. I spoke very sternly to my formerly prized possession, although it seemed to have hardly any effect.
Okay, time to coast start the thing! You all know what happened … the H ended up at the foot of the parking lot, still not running. I walked up to the house to cool off and to contemplate my options.
After an hour, I went back down to give it one last try before hanging a for sale sign on the beast. I set the choke at what I hoped was the correct position, spun the flywheel and … it started! I'll tell you, I was a happy man as I drove that John Deere up my street and into the driveway.
Unfortunately, I still had no idea why the engine started when it did and, since I couldn't leave it run forever, over the next few weeks I wore blisters on my hands cranking the thing. I finally got it all figured out, even to where the H would sometimes start with only one turn of the flywheel.
The author proudly pulling his John Deere H at a show in 1989.
Photo by Nancy Moore
It's hard to believe that was twenty-three years ago.
About a month after buying the tractor I went to another show. Now I was an antique tractor owner and part of the fraternity! I hung around the John Deere H's that were on display, talking tractors like a pro, even though I still didn't know much. I even joined the Two-Cylinder Club.