This story is more a memorial to a person, than it is a tractor story. A tractor is involved, though.
I am a life member of the Commemerative Air Force, the WWII airplane guys. Back in 1992, a friend of mine bought an old Case tractor, sight unseen, from some guy in Oklahoma. We needed a tug to haul a DC-3 (R4D) around the ramp, and so David tried to fill the need.
David was like that. Top notch aircraft mechanic. Bouncy and happy always. Generous to everyone. Shrewd business man. Very devout in his faith. A genius for finding parts for just about anything old. He was modest and had a ton of great stories. In short, David was a meteor, a brilliant person who only comes through your life once.
David died before the tractor was delivered. Massive heart attack. When it was finally delivered, it was a disappointment. A 1945 Case VAIW-3 with a locked up motor that was cracked down one side. The whole tractor was covered in 6-million coats of paint. The tires were shot. It had been dragged from a muddy field, where it obviously been sitting for years. Being a very good businessman, David would have had a conniption. He would have gotten most of his money back, and then he would have rebuilt the tractor.
The poor thing sat on the ramp outside the hangar for months. Finally, one of the other mechanics hauled it to a spare-parts hangar. 'Get that damn thing off my ramp!' It sat in the shed for many more months. They finally got around to cleaning out that parts hangar, and were about to haul it off for scrap.
My wife, bless her, let me donate 200 in exchange for the tractor. It was my first tractor. I got lucky. It's a complete tractor. The gears in the transmission look pristine. The bull gears and pinions look pristine, too. A couple new bearings and the steering tightened right up. I bought a smoker VAC engine for it. A couple years ago, I hauled it to Colorado.
Due to one thing or another, it still has not run, but I don't mind. One of these years, it will run. Either way, I always think of David when I think of that tractor. The day it runs, I'll hoist a brew to his memory. Perhaps, it would be more fitting to share a Case with some friends. Why not? David bought a Case for his friends--a VAIW. :-) In fact, the airplane with which David was most associated was a B-25 named 'Big Ole Brew an' Little Ole You. ' (Truth) He knew how to live.
Its been 10 years, but I still miss him.
Dan Kelley, CO, entered 2002-04-20
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