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Submitted Article
Persistence Pays Off
by Sam Grice

About a year ago I was driving down Hwy 36 south of Houston and I saw an old John Deere H sitting in a field with the planters and cultivators still on it. It appeared that it hadn't run in some time, but I stopped and went to the farm house and asked if the tractor was for sale. The lady of the house who answered the door offered no answer, but said that she would talk to her husband and have him call me. I figured he was away at the time. Well I heard from him the next day, and he proceeded to tell me that the tractor is a collectors item, in great demand, and that he wanted $2500 for it.

He also had several other poppers sitting around and a couple of Farmalls. There was a 70, a 420, a 430, a super C and a J D picker that appeared to be in pretty good shape. Like most farms there was all sort of equipment laying around. But the price he was asking for the little H was just out of sight, and I was not interested at that price. He was a little snippy with me, and seemed like he wanted to talk down to me a little. Well I saw the tractor a couple of other times during the year and it was always sitting in the same place. The tires were up, and he had put a tarp over the magneto.

The day before Christmas in 1999 I decided that since I was going past the farm again that if the tractor was still sitting there that I would stop and check on it again. It was and when I knocked on the door the farmer answered the door himself. He was a real nice guy in person, and I made no mention of our previous conversations and he didn't remember me.

We exchanged small talk for about half an hour, talked about the drought and poor crop conditions, and how much money everybody had lost this year. He told me that he is in poor health, and he appeared that way. I was sympathetic and listened to his story. He told all about his illness and how he had been through all kinds of treatment and that he didn't know how it was going to turn out. I tried to be upbeat about it but understanding.

Finally we got around to the reason for my stopping. I mentioned rather off handed that I had seen the old tractor out there and wondered if he had any further use for it. He said that he didn't and probably should get rid of it. I tried not to show too much excitement at his remark and instead changed the subject to an orange tree standing by the back corner of the house and loaded with oranges. We walked over and pulled off a few and I ate one at his invitation. It truly was delicious, and I said so. He offered to get a bag and pick some for me to take home. I accepted his offer but only let him put about half a dozen in the bag. I told him that my wife loves oranges and would be grateful for the kindness. Finally I said that I had better get going.

He asked if I grew up around here and I honestly said that I hadn't but that my wife had and in fact has lots of relatives living around Rosenberg. He asked the family name and when I told him he knew some of her relatives. That kinda softened up the mood and we were suddenly like long lost friends. He invited me inside out of the cold damp air for a cup of coffee. I met his wife, and she didn't remember me. He immediately named a few of my wife's relatives that they know and she brightened up. We visited for another half hour and by now it was well past dark. I again said that I had better get going, that the visit had been nice, and that I wish I had known them long ago.

As I was leaving he mentioned again that he should get rid of that old tractor and if I knew anybody that might want it he'd probably sell. With that I asked if he had any idea of the worth of the tractor. He said that he had heard that it had collector value, but he wasn't sure. He figured that it would probably take some work to get it going again, that it had been a couple of years since it had been started. Considering that, he would take around $500.00 for it including the planters and cultivators. I said that I'd like to have the tractor, but of course its too old to use on the farm, that I already have modern tractors and all the modern equipment takes lots of power to pull. The little H would be just a toy to have around.

He said that if I really wanted the tractor he would take $350.00 from me, but no one else. I almost wet my pants I was so excited. I didn't want to take advantage of the guy because he really is a nice fellow. I said that I would take the tractor if he would take $425.00 for it. He looked at me like he thought I was totally crazy, and maybe I was, but then and there I bought the tractor and plows. He agreed to let it sit where it was until after Christmas when I would move it.

It took me about an hour to clean the points and settlement bulb and plugs. I checked the oil and it was full and clean. The battery was gone as was the generator. The gas tank had about half a tank of gas in it, but I drained it into a bucket and purred it on some weeds nearby. It smelled pretty rancid. I pulled the carburetor off and took it with me and once home I tore it down and cleaned it up real good and made sure all the ports were open. It was now about the middle of January 2000 and I jumped it off my pick up truck and after a shot of WD40 in the intake, it started up and ran perfectly.

The old man never came out of the house as I drove the tractor past the barn and then out to the road and away. I'm sure he had sentimental memories about the little H. I drove it about ten miles to my place with my wife following in the truck with the flashers on. It only goes about six mph and it took a while. But we made it fine. Once back at my place I made a place for it in the garage. Each day I would start it up and just listen to it run for a while. It sure sounds good. Finally I got around to taking it apart. I pulled the hood and grilles off along with the steering wheel and shaft. I changed all the water hoses and fan belt. I tore the starter down and put in new brushes an lubricated it. I washed it with a pressure washer and scraped off lots of caked on grease. I spent a long time sanding off surface rust and spraying on rust killer. The hood had a couple of small holes rusted in it, and a small dent. I fixed those and with everything as clean as I could get, I set out to prime and paint the tractor. It took all day and I missed a couple of spots that had to be touched up later.

It really looks good. I found a leak around the shaft seal on the cam shaft at the belt pulley. I have to pull that apart and replace the seal. I got all the equipment off it and sold that to someone really looking for it. Its in good shape and I'm sure could be used if you wanted to. I painted the wheels and axis JD yellow, and got new decals for the hood. I found a new after marked steering wheel and a gas cap to replace the rear one that was missing. I had to get a new muffler for it but that wasn't expensive. I got a new battery and battery cables and hooked that up. looks great! I bought a new one wire alternator for it with internal regulator. I know its not stock, but it works great and the twelve volt system cranks it right up. The governor works fine and the thing will idle right down to where you think its going to die for sure, then it will fire again and keep running. I still have to bolt the hood and grill back on it. I am wiring it now for lights.

The brakes are pretty sorry on it so I guess I will have to tear into that sometime. But the tractor turned out to be a real find. The engine is fine and has good oil pressure. The clutch is in great shape as is the transmission. I tightened up the steering head and got all the slack out of it. It steers like new. It is a single front tire model, and I am told that makes it a little rare. I really don't care since I don't intend to get rid of it. I will use it for parades and tractor gatherings and such, but mostly just to ride around on the farm. There is no sound like a popper. I guess this story really shows to tell that persistence pays off and that it pays to sell yourself first. There's lots of tractors sitting around waiting for someone to rescue them. Start by being nice to the owner, and you'll get a lot further. Farmers may seem to some folks to be a little uninformed, but I can tell you that its a mistake to judge a book by the cover. Folks didn't start getting smart just last week, and that includes farmers.

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