I collect John Deere tractors on a small scale and I also help some friends bale hay on interstate ditches east of town, using a 1935 “AR” on a John Deere 14T baler and a 1940 “B” on the mower and side delivery rake. Also, I love to participate in antique tractor pulls. Using a 1935 “B“ in the 2,700 and 3,500 pound classes, I’ve won many trophies.
After a tractor pull, when everything’s loaded, we usually sit around and chat about how we found some of our “prize” machines. One particular story I tell usually prompts laughs and non-believers.
This is my story…
I bought an old tractor from a co-worker in 1983. A few years later, another co-worker came up to me and asked, “Are you interested in another tractor?” What a silly question. She didn’t know too many details; it was green and yellow, she said, with a large wheel on the side that was used to start it. Her father purchased the tractor new and took good care of it. But he died and she was trying to clean the yard on the old homestead, since she planned to list the property for sale.
I wrote down the directions to the farmstead, promising to get there as soon as possible. On my way home from work that day, I encountered an old friend, Mort, who worked on the railroad. When I told Mort about my “treasure hunt,” he had a peculiar gleam in his eyes. He asked when I planned to make the trip and I said as soon as possible.
When I mentioned where the farm was, he blurted, “Do I have a deal for you. I saw an ad in the farm section of the paper about some pigs for sale just three miles from your ’treasure’.”
The catch: He would go look at the tractor with me and he would make a deal on a hog on the way back.
I like to be around Mort, a practical joker who is seldom dull. In other words, a real nut. So when he suggested that we make the drive that same afternoon, I agreed.
“I’ll drive this old beater,” he said. He meant his car, but his description was better. The rear doors were held shut with short leather straps. The fenders shook back and forth when it hit bumps. Wrecking yard autos looked better on the road.
“We’re going 40 miles in this thing?” I thought.
But it was a beautiful late afternoon and I was anxious to see the tractor.
The “beater” got us to the farmstead, where the tractor rested in all its rusted glory. The rear tires were flat. It had the ugliest loader I had ever seen. As we got closer, I identified it: a John Deere model “B” with a Farmhand loader—the kind that looks like a small railroad bridge coming down the road.
Mort laughed. “What are you going to do with that assortment of angle iron?” he asked.
“She didn’t tell me about the loader,” I answered. “All I’m interested in is the tractor.”
After a closer look, I really got interested. Weather-beaten as it was, it didn’t look bad. The gas tank shroud and the front grills were almost perfect. After reading the serial plate, I guessed it to be about a 1940 model.
I decided right then and there that if my co-worker didn’t want too much, I would buy it.
Mort, impatient, shook his head and looked at me. “If we’re all through looking at junk, I would like to visit the pig farmer. After all, it’s getting dark.”
Out of conversation, I asked Mort if the farmer did his own butchering or used the nearest slaughter house. Mort said he didn’t know and didn’t much care. All he was worried about was a place to keep the hog until he could find someone to butcher it.
I glared at him. “Do you mean to tell me we’re going to have a live pig in the car with us?”
Mort’s silly grin was the only “yes” I needed.
That was when I looked in the back seat and noticed for the first time that he had removed the bottom cushion. That crazy coot planned this all along. And he expected my help!
A camcorder would have been nice on this trip. Then again, I don’t need a video. I’ll never forget watching Mort and the farmer pushing the pig’s hind quarters and me pulling on its head, trying to get that stubborn critter into the back of the car.
The return trip was a 40-mile adventure. The pig seemed to be starved for attention, nibbling on Mort’s ear and occasionally grunting contentedly. I told Mort, “She likes you, bad breath and all.”
While passing through a small town, Mort noticed a Dairy Queen. “Let’s have a little treat,” he said.
When we returned to the car, our treats in hand, the pig smelled Mort’s large cone. That’s when the real entertainment began.
Other patrons in the parking lot looked at us and pointed at the car, as Mort and I were struggling with the pig over our cones. In the confusion, ice cream got all over the interior—and all over us.
It reminded me of an old Laurel and Hardy movie when they had a camel in the back of their model “T” touring car.
Looking for something to wipe off the ice cream, I found what looked like a rag on the car floor.
“That’s my granddaughter’s bonnet,” Mort said. “Give it to me! I’ve got an idea.”
Mort carefully put the bonnet on the pig’s head. “Any critter that affectionate needs a cap,” he said.
I thought I had seen it all. But we still had some driving to do.
Going down the highway, Mort was all over the road as the pig, its chin resting on his shoulder, licked Mort’s cheeks in pursuit of more ice cream. I was starting to get pains in my rib cage from laughing.
The flashing red lights that appeared behind us stopped me from laughing in a hurry. For certain, Mort’s mood also turned sour.
The patrolman could have walked off a movie set. He was a big guy, with dark sunglasses—even though it was almost dark outside. His strut was cocky as he approached our car, thumbs tucked neatly into his belt.
Mort turned to me and said “I think I recognize this guy.” As the patrolman asked for Mort’s driver’s license, he shined his flashlight into the vehicle to get a good look at us.
When the light hit the pig’s face, the patrolman’s glasses almost fell off his nose. The officer’s exposed eyes looked as big as silver dollars and his jaw fell open in disbelief.
“Is there a problem, Jim?” Mort blurted.
Suddenly, the patrolman grinned. Then he laughed hysterically.
Lucky for Mort, the patrolman recognized him; they lived in the same neighborhood. And as the pig licked Mort’s face, the patrolman learned why the car was weaving all over the road.
“Darn you Mort,” the officer said, “not only has your driving gotten worse, so has your taste in girlfriends.”
I don’t know how, but we finally made it back to town without an accident. Without a ticket, even. But with messy clothes and a peculiar odor that I didn’t even try explaining to my wife. Incidentally, I made my co-worker an offer for the “B” the next day. She said the loader came with it, without exception.
I soon was the proud (second) owner of a 1940 model “B” John Deere.
Once I got the tractor home, I merely had to clean the carb, add some gas and change oil. She fired right up, too. How many tractors can sit five or six years, which this one had, and not be stuck?
Whoever stored this tractor sure knew what he was doing.
Now, this is the same “B” which I use for mowing and raking when we bale hay.
But I’ll never use it to give a pig a ride.
Grand Forks, ND