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My First Tractor

All the money made from working during my 13th and 14th summers went to buy a tractor - my first. This was earned by hot hours of tractor mowing, yard work and some hay bale wrestling for others. I went to two farm auctions and bid on Farmalls and a Ford at the end of the second summer. At these sales I stayed next to a farmer I had worked for to ensure the auctioneers took me seriously. I came to know my heart better by the pounding it did as I put in my highest possible bids at the auctions. It was definitely scary-thrilling to wager two summer salaries in one whack. I did not get any of the auction tractors, but heard of a better deal after the second one. A friend of a friend found a Massey Harris 44-6 at Lonedell, Missouri. I made an offer to the dealer who had it (the entire salary sum saved) and got it bought and delivered quickly. 

Talk about walking tall! For ye not acquainted with the breed, a 44-6 was a fair sized tractor with a six-cylinder Continental Red Seal engine. It was bigger than the Farmall H, AC WC and lightweight Ford 8Ns that I had been working with. My Massey was about as big as a Farmall M - in my young mind a real man's tractor. The only reason that I was able to afford it was that it lacked hydraulic power and did not lend itself as well to adding same. (I later came to be a mini-expert on all the available ways to add hydraulics to such tractors, but none of them proved satisfactory.) Somehow I scraped up enough money to buy an old disk later and talked a neighbor who had just bought a Ford 8N with a mounted plow into letting me use his old rope trip plow. Presto-Testo - I had a way to start working ground. 

The 44-6 proved a gentle giant, but the lack of hydraulics did a lot to build up my arms when my dad bought a sickle bar mower for me to use in mowing our farm pasture. It also limited my snow clearing capability to that afforded by pulling some kind of wooden triangle or other such contraption. This was not much of a threat to heavy, wet Missouri snow. Before our farm road was paved, I used the 44-6 to pull an old horse drawn road grader with big hand wheels above it (cranked forever to position the blade) to grade the crown down to level. To swell my head a bit more, the neighbor that I borrowed the plow from also came to fetch me a few times to pull a really heavy wagon load from another farm up his steep gravel drive. His 8N tractor would just sit and spin on the steep graveled hill that was his farm entrance and not budge the load. My Massey would spin just a bit over the rocks, but would pull a good load right on up the hill from a stop. 

For a pre-driving age guy, I was enjoying working with a big machine. Of course, this was despite the fact that the 8N could mow circles around me in a field of heavy hay due to its hydraulic lift - especially if there were gophers or trees in the field. 

Your first tractor is like your first girl in that you tend to remember her well years later. The days I spent with the Massey left the rolling fields looking trim and ship shape and me with a sense of accomplishment. I still feel lucky to have been outdoors farming in such beautiful country with such a fine machine of my own choosing.

 

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