Monday, March 8, 2010

Grandpa's Tractor

Sara's Grandpa lent us his old J.I. Case 430 LCK for the winter for snow removal and other jobs that we could find for it around the farm. It's not perty, it smokes and sputters and it leaks every fluid except gasoline and green stuff, but it sure is handy. We've been using it to clear the driveway of snow, level the sand in the indoor arena, and scrape the drylot of frozen horse poo.

The day we went to pick it up was an interesting day. First, it wouldn't start. It had been sitting since last April and the gas was old and all varnished up in the carb. We ran the battery dead trying to start it, so we tried to pull start it by pulling it behind the big tractor. After a few tries it spittered and sputtered to life. Everything seemed to be just fine until I went to drive it up on the trailer and the right brake locked tight and wouldn't release. So we pulled it backward with the big tractor and the wheel freed up. Seemed ok until I hit the brake and the same wheel locked up again. We got the wrenches out and removed the pivot pin from the right drum brake housing. This allowed for the wheel to turn, but completely disabled the brake on that side. And brakes are a good thing to have.

We got it loaded and home without further incident. I used it a few times to drag the chisel-plowed field behind our place so I could spread manure. Then one morning I went out to start it and it wanted nothing of it. Seemed that all the bouncing around from the trip here and the rough field work loosened up the sediment in the gas tank, which found it's way into the fuel filter and plugged it tight. So, I drained out four gallons of dirty old gas, replaced the fuel lines and the filter and it was good to go. That was until the float in the carb stuck open, flooding the engine. So off to the store for a carb kit. Took off the carb, cleaned and reassembled that, and it was good to go. Again. Which was good, because our first major snowstorm of the year was just around the corner.

Boy, it snowed. We got about 16" of heavy snow and sideways winds. Thigh-deep drifts. I had no fear, Grampa's tractor was here. It started right up, eager to push the blowing whitestuff into a big pile. I let it warm up while I sipped coffee and watched the snow whip past the open garage door. I snugged my hat down on my head, climbed on the 430, and headed out to move snow around.

And got stuck at the bottom of the driveway.

It did a fine job moving a big load of snow down the hill to the road. I turned the tractor around and pushed that big pile of snow into the ditch on the other side and got stuck. That's when I found out that a two wheel drive tractor with bald tires and no snow chains is about as useful as wet toilet paper. I tried rocking it back and forth in hopes that it would get enough momentum to climb back onto the road. No luck. Here's where the significance of losing the right brake comes in. A tractor has two brake pedals to control each back tire. Almost always you press both pedals to stop the tractor's forward motion. But those brake pedals can also be used to help the tractor gain traction. The rear differential of a tractor delivers power to the tire that has the least resistance; ie: the one that is spinning. Spinning tires don't get you moving forward. They just spin. By pushing on the brake of the wheel that's spinning, you cause resistance on that side which in turn delivers the power to the other wheel. Hopefully. And when you have a working brake pedal to push, it usually works like a charm.

But, I didn't have that option. Pushing the brake pedal did nothing because, as mentioned above, we disabled that brake. So there I sat. Back tires just off the edge of the pavement, front of the tractor sticking out on the road just waiting to stop traffic. So what does one do in a sticky situation like this? Call your friendly neighborhood farmer, that's what. Preferably the guy with the bigger, unstuck, tire chain adorned tractor. So I humbly called Donald, the older fella that we bought our land from. He was almost too eager to offer to come over and help. I assume he needed a good laugh.

Hearing the hum of that engine over the sound of the tire chains coming down the road was a relief. Even if I was a bit embarrassed. He pulled up grinning ear to ear on his showroom quality 1970 International Harvester 544 Utility . "Thought you were stuck", he shouted. I suppose the sight of the old Case sitting a mere 6" off the roadway didn't seem to fit the definition of stuck, but stuck I was. I just shrugged. He looked again, saw the bald tires with no chains, grinned a little more and said, "Ahhhh..."

His tractor pulled the old Case out of the ditch and up the driveway without the slightest hint of laboring the engine. I was able to motor on my own as soon as he pulled me out, but he felt it was necessary to pull me all the way up the driveway to a resting place directly in front of the open garage door. It was a humbling experience. I hopped off the old Case to disconnect the tow chain, and Donald shouted "Ya need chains. I'll clean out your driveway for ya."

He spent the next two hours moving snow for me. I suppose he felt he had to pay for his entertainment. You see, tractor owners are very loyal to their brand. Any opportunity to help a fella out of a tight spot who happens to have a different brand is an opportunity to puff up one's chest. It's called Brand Ego.

The following weekend I got chains and haven't been stuck since.

This last weekend I backed it out of the garage and heard that telltale squeaky-grindy noise that is sure to be a wheel bearing going to hell. Off to the shop we went, and that's where it is until the parts come in. Luckily, it's an easy fix. At this rate, Grampa's gonna get a nicer tractor back than what left his place.


FlyinSoLow said...

Haha, I can soooo relate to this post. My father? He is a ford/new holland guy. His tractor is a newer I'm not sur what(I call it a 'back yard tractor') it has 4 wheel drive and suits his needs for plowing and hauling crap around... but its not a farm tractor by any means, I doubt it would plow well.

My future brother in law? International all the way. Don't get me wrong, he would take a Deere any day though too!
He has an old Farmall Super C and even on the edge of death there isn't much he doesn't do on it, or try to do. He does more hobby farming and it works well for him and even though its a little thing that constantly needs work it never left him sitting *knock on wood*.

Its quite histerical going to the Farm Show and listening to the men (and sometimes women), old and young, fight over which brand is the best... of course it's usually whatever your parent loves, you love!

Jeffro said...

My dad was a Case man. We had a 1967 930 Comfort King with a locally made cab (Ansel, originally made in Liberal, KS). I grew up in that thing.

finski said...

Hubby has a 1952 Ford 8N side distributor. Yep, folks can be real particular.

Cedar View Paint Horses said...

Jeffro, did that have the Case-o-matic?

The Wife said...

What a great post. Love that old tractor. We use our neighbor's tractors.

CTG Ponies said...

Gonna be a "new" old tractor pretty soon. Sure you want to give it back after all the repairs?