Back in the 90s – When a City Boy Moved to the Country

Not so very long after we bought our place here in Bertram, I went up to a local used tractor dealer and made a deal for a Poppin Johnny Tractor. It was well past being worn out, but I more wanted something to play around with and work on occasionally. It was a John Deere “G”. I had grown up around one like it and loved the sound of it starting up and then listening to its unique sound of that 2 cylinder engine.

The fellow I bought it from had done a good job of giving it a new paint job but his characterization of it being completely restored was a big stretch. Rather than haul it home, a mile or so down the road, I had one of the boys drop me off and I drove it off the lot.

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When I turned off the main highway, I pulled back on the hand clutch, to ease across the railroad tracks. After clearing the tracks I pushed the clutch lever forward and heard a loud pop. There was no driving it on home. I called for someone to bring my pickup and a chain so we could tow it back to the tractor place.

Upon arriving back there, I told the fellow what had happened. The first words out of his mouth was “you have to understand that these older tractors can’t be jerked around…………”

I explained exactly what had happened, trying to contain this Lewis temper. I actually think what riled me up the most was his comment that went something like “you city people come out here and want to become farmers………..”

After a little back and forth he agreed to look into it and make the needed repairs. He was ready to do anything to get me out the door and to quit telling him about my long history of operating and owning tractors of every type imaginable.

A few days later he called and said the tractor was ready to be picked up. I went by and got it that afternoon. I had bought it with a 6’ shredder behind it. I rolled up and went down behind the house and stopped, kicked the PTO in gear and on about the second round I heard the same pop as before.

There was an old fellow here in town, Mr. Huggins, that was suppose to be the best around on fixing older tractors. I called him and he came out and pulled it apart. It didn’t take him long to see what the problem was. There were some cast iron pieces where the adjusting fingers attacked (I’m stopping right here because one of 2 things is fixin to happen- either this will start sounding like a repair manual or someone that knows about JD Tractors will figure out I’m way in over my head even trying to explain it)

Anyway rather than replacing the broken pieces he had welded them back. I’m not even sure he used the welding rods for cast iron, but looking at the gobbed up mess, he hadn’t been to school on cast iron welding.

Mr. Huggins ordered the new replacement parts and fixed it right. Never had any more clutch problems. But that tractor didn’t stay around all that long anyhow. Something just wasn’t all that much fun circling that 100 acres in a hot or cold seat that was a way too dusty all the time. Maybe the tractor seller was right about city people coming out to Bertram and wanting to become farmers. I just hadn’t thought about it like that.

Soon thereafter I called up my old friend, Jerry Rutledge at Lanford Tractor Company over in Austin and bought a new shiny red Massey Ferguson with all kinds of implements. It had a cab and air conditioner and a good stereo system. It not only had a shredder, it was a 15’ bat wing shredder. I could really get some mowing done. Now I knew I was a city boy farmer.

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I would come in after being in Austin all day trying to compete in the construction business and then climb on that red tractor, with lights shining out in every direction. I had bought enough tilling, soil busting and planting equipment and could work all I wanted to. Some nights I’d be out there until 11:00 or 12:00.

I got plenty of comments from some of the town folks. They couldn’t figure out what all was going on. I experimented with various clovers and grasses, more to make it pretty around the place than productive.

In the 90s The Maverick’s, Allison Krause and Aaron Neville had very popular CD’s out. I listened to those three albums continually until it would have driving a normal person crazy, I think. I turned it up loud and circled the place. I never tired of that activity.

I didn’t have a fuel tank setup here at home. I’d usually have a fuel truck stop by and service it on his rounds. Occasionally I’d need fuel but it wasn’t convenient to send a truck out, so I would drive up to the pumps at Swift Mart, which is now Travel Mart here in town. An old gal from around here told my brother she couldn’t understand what I was thinking, paying road use tax on farm equipment. Just another example of a city boy out here trying to be a farmer, I’m sure is what was said. But to be truthful, the little bit of extra tax cost a lot less than sending a fuel truck out here.

Then there was a day when I was plowing or doing something down in the front, next to the highway, and got it stuck. I was the only one around so I walked to the house and got a motor grader that would pull it out of the bog.

When you’ve grown up in Smithwick under the tutelage of Cecil Lewis, you learn to be resourceful.

I back up toward the tractor, with a few long sections of chain and hooked the two machines together. Then went to the farm tractor and engaged all four tires to get them spinning in the very lowest gear. I ran over and climbed up on the motor grader and slowly eased forward until the farm tractor was freed. Than I ran back and hopped up on the tractor to put it in neutral and set the brake.

The whole while there was a feller that had pulled up and parked to observe what was taking place. I didn’t know him but had seen him around town. A few days later I ran into him at Swift Mart, that being the main gathering place. He said “I was watching you down there with your tractor stuck the other day and I’ve been farming my whole life I ain’t never seen nobody do what you did”. I said “whatever it takes to make it work”.

He said something like “I think I would have waited until I had someone to help me”.

I said “You know that’s probably the difference in me and you. Besides it wouldn’t have hurt you to have gotten your ass out of that pickup and offered some help, would it”?

You know I never did get to know that fellow. I haven’t seen him around in years. I guess he may have passed on or moved on.

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