The Sound of the John Deere GP

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


| July 2000



The restored Deere.

The restored Deere.

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.