Tractors still an attraction for him

July 30, 2012 

While walking the fairgrounds of the Mid-State Fair last week, I spotted a young boy about 5 years old. His father had placed him in the seat of a tractor on display. The child was elated.

I understood his elation. Tractors were such a big part of my life from my preteens to middle age.

In the San Joaquin Valley, my dad always had some kind of a small farm operation — grapes, poultry and dairy to name a few. There was always tractor work to do, and somehow much of it fell to me.

But no complaints here.

I got acquainted with John Deere, Ford, Case, Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline and others. In FFA, I was a member of the Tractor Team.

I’ve pulled plows to make furrows for irrigation. I’ve pulled a French plow that went in and around grape stumps to remove weeds. I’ve pulled a disc and springtooth. Somehow the loud noise of the tractor engine working hard was music to my ears, and the coat of dust I wore like a badge of honor.

I saw the little Ford tractor that the young man restored for the fair exhibit, which ended Sunday night. I was slightly envious of him. If I still lived on a farm, I’d probably be restoring some sort of vintage tractor instead of a 1946 Willys Jeep.

When I first moved to Atascadero in 1966, I bought three acres, which included the remnants of an original Colony orchard. There were pear and apple trees that needed tending, and I eventually became the proud owner of a 1939 Minneapolis-Moline.

It was one of the ugliest tractors I’ve ever seen, but so very reliable. It had no battery to wear down. I cranked it to start it. The only protection it got from the winter weather was a coffee can I placed over the exhaust stack.

When spring arrived, all I usually had to do was remove the tin can and put the choke on full for two cranks, and it fired up, purring like the proverbial kitten. A number of my friends borrowed the tractor from time to time.

When I eventually sold my place, I let the tractor go with the property. I was surprised how many people said they would have bought the ugly beast from me.

I still enjoy any kind of a tractor wherever I encounter one.

It was always a thrill to see the late Fritz Larson driving his 1945 WD45 Allis “Sweet Alice” Chalmers in the Colony Days parade, or the tiny Farmall Cub restored to perfection and driven by John Jamar.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or

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