Realized Dream of Working on Old Tractors, Farm Equipment and Cars

A reader shares the story of his interest in old tractors and farm equipment, and anything old, including an Allis Chalmers B.

| November/December 2015

  • A 1947 John Deere model B tractor still in use today.
    Photo by Dennis Merlau

I was born and raised in Barry County, Michigan. My family had a small hobby farm of about 6 acres. We were a simple working-class family living in a rural setting, the same as a lot of folks back then.

Where and how we lived impacted and molded the way I grew up. Since our neighbors were mostly retired farmers, my brother and I spent a lot of time under the tutelage of older people who had many years of wisdom and experience behind them, and who were willing to share what they knew if we would just sit and listen, or work around them as they did their chores – which I did quite often.

I’ve always had an interest in and an eye for farm machinery of just about any type, especially if it was old. This interest has always remained with me, and an interest in all things mechanical grew as well. My parents were always behind me, and they encouraged me to follow my interests, even if it meant them losing an old chicken coop or part of the basement so I could have a shop area.

As I got older, my interests advanced to different areas. I had a good collection of old horse-drawn things as a teenager, including an elaborate and rare cutter I bought from an old farmer in the area, a working sleigh for use with logs or hay or anything you would use a wagon for in the summer months, and a two-row and one-row riding cultivator.

Then, at age 12, came the opportunity to buy a 1938 Allis Chalmers B tractor from a neighbor – I actually traded a garden tiller for it. The tractor didn’t run, but I had visions that it would. About that same time, I also bought my first truck – a 1949 three-quarter-ton Chevy. It was 21 years old, and had been forgotten back in the woods. With help from my dad, we hauled it home, and after some work, I had it running. I used the truck for many years, and then handed it down to my youngest son, who still has it. On a similar note, I’m still using the old 1947 John Deere B that belonged to my parents when I was just a boy.

During my growing-up years, I always wanted to work on equipment, machinery, engines, anything mechanical. My father took his vehicles to a local dealership for service work, and I always got under the car with the mechanic and asked questions. Although I’m sure it drove the mechanics crazy, they were kind and entertained my interest.

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