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'39 Styled A, Starting first time in 12 years or so

8860 Views 21 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  R.J.

With Derick working his new old A over, it got me to thinking about how long Uncle Woody sat out back under a tarp. Uncle Woody was an uncle of one very good friend of mine. Uncle Woody bought this styled A new from the dealer in '41 or so. Mostly it sat but he plowed his 2 acre garden plot and occasionally plowed others gardens and sometimes helped work a brothers farm with it.

Along with it came a front mount cut off saw, and a set of two bottom JD plows. The tractor was delivered with spades but they were carted off to the junk yard by a local drunk one day while Uncle Woody was at work. These are the original rubbers he put on back in the '40's. He told me he was quite angry with the fellow, but there was nothing to be done, because the booze the fellow bought was already consumed, so that was that.

Uncle Woody was pretty far up into his 80's when I got the call from my buddy that they wanted me to have this old boy. Seems that Uncle Woody had been having these blackout spells and would sometimes wake up laying in the yard or the garden and didn't really share that information with anyone, until one day he was plowing his garden and woke up as the plows hung into the asphalt of the street in front of his house and he had been almost thrown off. He'd plowed out the end of his garden, across the yard at an angle, past his house and was heading across the street when he came to.

It was truly a sad day for him to have to admit that if he kept the old 'A' around he would most certainly hurt himself or worse hurt someone else as he couldn't possibly walk past it too often without climbing on to putt around the neighborhood. We spent what seemed like hours going over every detail from the magneto to the radiator to the carb and even tire pressures. He kept oil soaked rags wrapped around the splined rear axles to keep them from rusting. He'd custom bent a little shield to shed rain water from the magneto and showed me how he had wrapped it delicately with the same wire for decades.

He instructed me carefully on how to drain the cooling system, the square headed plug being worn nearly round from being in and out so many times. He let me know he had no need for anti-freeze because he wouldn't use it in the winter time anyway. He had no shed and so this old tractor had sat outside since 1941 or so, sometimes under a tarp and sometimes under tin. He then told me the trick to keeping the tires from dry rot was to back up onto three sacks of lime, one for the tricycle front and one for each of the back tires. The current years lime bags were sitting there on oil soaked 2 x 12's and the 'A' sitting proudly on top right where he'd parked it so many times before and now for the last time.

He apologized several times for the numerous coats of brushed on household exterior paint he'd applied heavily over the many years, one time being even being red. Looking closely, there is still spots where the red sticks out under some heavy coats of brushed on enamal where the latest two or three shades of green have been chipped off. I remember watching his work worn hands slide over the hood, over the flywheel and over numerous parts as if to be giving a trusted old friend his final pat on the back and thanking him for a life well spent.

I listened as closely as possible to every detail of starting and I was literally amazed at the ease Uncle Woody had with spinning the flywheel. Open petcocks, and squirt in a little gas with the oil can that had done that duty for more than 50 years. Now in his day, Uncle Woody was a strapping farm hand but now time and age had him worn down a bit, but his grip was strong as mine. He didn't force the flywheel, grunt or strain...gently rolled it to the top and gave it a nudge and first rotation the left cylinder belched a bit of fire then the right, and he was a running. Slight grin on his face, he gently closed the petcock on this side and slowly made his way to the other side and closed that one also.

Looking intently into my eyes, he asked if it was allright for him to run it up on the trailer for me....So he ran it up the ramps with the ease and finesse you would expect from a team that had worked together for many years. We bound him down and that was the last time Uncle Woody ever drove the 'A' or for that matter ever heard it run. I remember the first night we had a freeze warning that fall. The phone rang, I answered and guess who...Uncle Woody wanting to make sure I didn't forget to drain the cooling system. After a pretty good conversation, he thanked me for taking such good care of his first and only tractor and said goodnight.

Later that fall, my buddy called and asked if he could bring his uncle out sometime because he just wanted to check on the tractor and I of course, said anytime. Uncle Woody had my buddy make it clear that I didn't have to be home, he just wanted to see it one more time. Leroy told me the FIRST thing he did was check the drain plug !!!! I still have the oil soaked rags and the little tin shield and the same wire holding it to the magneto....and the many fond memories of a fine, hard working and honest man.

So see Derick, all the memories you brought back by picking up that 'new' old A you got there for the girls. Anyway it got me thinking it has been at least 12 years since I fired it up so that's exactly what I set out to do.

As I uncovered it I was beginning to feel guilty at neglecting Uncle Woody for so long....surely if he'd of known how badly I was going to treat his namesake by neglect, he'd have never let his pride and joy go to me....

I used the oil can to squirt in a few drops of gas in each of the cylinders and gently rolled the flywheel just like I was instructed years ago...A gentle tug and the gas in the left cylinder exploded and blew a gush of warmth over my thigh. I knew right then, in a couple hours the old boy would be a running !!! See, I was so expecting it to be stuck I didn't even bother to put any gas in the tank, I really just wanted see if it would turn over. With a sense of urgency I removed the sediment bowl and fuel line, cleaned all the residual gunk and put in two gallons of fresh gas.

Somehow as I putt around on Uncle Woody's old 'A' I am torn with contemplating the destiny of this old I get it in the shed and do a top notch full blown rebuild or should I take care of the minor mechanical issues and show him in all his glory as a working mans tractor in memory of the man who worked him ???

Hope you enjoyed the story, I left out a lot, but what the heck, I'm sure you are all tired of the ramblings....
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I enjoyed reading it again, and also realized how much I miss many of members who have left this earth or left ATF. I believe today is Betty P's 90th birthday. Ironic, coincidence, or meant to happen?
Great story. I miss Betty and the rest of the folks that posted on this as well.
I hope Uncle Woody's tractor is still putting presently, as well.
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