Story - Farmall Cub Story
By Michael Az
We were just about finished with lunch when the phone rang. I heard mom call out to dad that the call was for him. I heard him say, “Well, I have to bring in a load of corn to the mill tomorrow and I need a few pieces of water pipe anyway so I’ll see you then.” I could see that mom was kinda curious, “What was it that Bill wanted?” Bill owned the hardware store in town where we had done our business forever. Dad was already grabbing his cap and getting it adjusted, ready to head out the door and get back to raking the hay, “ He really didn’t say, just said he wanted me to stop in when I could. Lets go son, we’ve still got forty acres to rake!” Well, the son part was me, and I knew when dad said lets go I had about five seconds to finish my ham sandwich. Out the door we go with our jug of water and I could hear mom yell at dad, “Well, it had better not be another coon dog that Bill has just discovered is the best in the county and is going to give you a great deal. You just may end up sleeping with that dog in the barn if you get another!” Dad looked at me and winked. Mom was always yelling at one of us, never meaning what she said.
Next day was hot and muggy, like the day before and dad said the hay would probably never dry, it was so humid. We got the corn unloaded at the mill, and headed to Bills hardware store. Bills store was one of those places that I really loved to go. Main reason was, Bill had a Whizzer motorbike on display and “Wow”, I wanted that bike so bad I couldn’t stand it! It was a beautiful red with about a half gallon gas tank, lights, and all the bells and whistles. Seems like it was priced about $250. About half of what dad would pay for a good used tractor. I knew somehow I could never own it as I had just got a new bike from Sears and Roebuck. Bill also kept several small tractors and mowers for the large lawn enthusiast. Those riding mowers were so neat! Bills brother John saw us walk in and came over to help. Dad told him the kind of water pipe and fittings he needed and John took off to get them rounded up. Dad and I were looking at a Wheelhorse 7 1⁄2 hp lawn tractor when Bill came up from the basement. “Good to see you gentlemen today!” announced Bill. They started talking about what pocketknives they had recently traded and I saw my chance to go spend some time with the Whizzer. After a while I saw them heading to the back of the store and outside they went. Thought I had better tag along and see what was going on. There was Dad and Bill standing next to a beautiful little Cub Farmall tractor, the smallest farm tractor made. I heard Bill say, “Its a fifty model so its only five years old. Its in great shape, the fellow that owned it lived out of town and only used it to mow his big yard with. He moved into town and traded it for something smaller to fit his new yard.” For me to think we might actually own a wonderful little Cub like this one sent my expectations through the roof! I think I stopped breathing, waiting for dads response. “Bill, you know we can’t afford something like this!” Bill, of course being a good salesman replied “Think how much time you fellows spend mowing that big yard and around the ponds and barnyard with your push mowers. You work for General Motors eight hours a day and come home to a farm, think how valuable your time is! I know the boys are a big help, but this little tractor could do all your mowing in nothing flat and look at all the other things it could do for you with the big garden you always have.” Of course dad seems unimpressed. Finally dad said, “Its a beauty, I’ll give you that, but money is tight.” Well, I knew I would never be the same. Those expectations were shattered! All the way home all I could think about was that little Cub and how it fit me just perfect! I kept asking dad questions like, “How much horsepower has it got dad?” “Have we got room for it in the little barn?” “ Dad, you know how hard it is to start the old Case sometimes, I’ll bet that little Cub starts every time!”
A couple days later dad and I were cleaning out stalls in the barn when we heard a truck pulling in our driveway. As it came around the corner of the barn we could see it was Bill in his one and a half ton International flatbed truck. There went my best friend Ben [the best looking beagle around] barking and running around Bills truck as he came to a stop. I ran out and yelled at Ben and kicked the ground in a half hearted attempt to show Ben how angry I was at him for barking at Bill. Had I known in a little less than a year, I would run over Ben and kill him with the Allis Chamblers CA, I would have been a little more considerate! Well, I sure was confused as to what was going on. I know dad didn’t want to buy the Cub, so what was it doing here? After Bill and dad exchanged greetings, dad ask Bill if he had sold the Cub and was delivering it? Bill said, “No, I wish that were the case, but to be honest with you we were mowing the grass at the store yesterday morning and it quit running! We have played around with it and can’t seem to get the problem figured out.” “I know your busy as a hive of bees but if you would let me unload it and leave it here, maybe you could take a look at it when you get a chance, your the best mechanic around you know!” I could tell that dad wasn’t too enthused about the prospect of something to work on. Finally Bill said, “Well, if you would look at it for me, I will throw in one of those new Remington Canoe pocket knifes you have been drooling over at the store, plus whatever you need to charge me.” Well, now it didn’t take dad too long to say O-K. They unloaded the little Cub and Bill told him what it was or wasn’t doing, and they walked down to the pond to chew a little tobacco and watch the channel cats come up to feed when dad threw some bread out to them.
Next day was Saturday and no school and no factory work! I rolled out of bed thinking how nice it would be to find time today to go fishing, but knowing the hay had to be brought in there wouldn’t be much chance of that. For those of you that have worked in hay, you know its hard work. There wasn’t any roadsiders then, so I would drive the old 1941 Dodge flatbed around the field while dad would pick up the bales and stack them on the truck. About this time I remembered yesterday and Bill dropping the Cub off! Mom almost had breakfast done when I got to the kitchen, but dad was nowhere to be seen. She almost threw the skillet full of sausage when I came in. I laughed, mom was always so spooky, she was scared of everything! She said dad went on to the barn to look over the little Cub cause we had a heavy dew and dad was going to wait a little while before going to the field. Out the door I ran with mom yelling, “Tell your dad breakfast is ready, and you stay away from that little runt of a tractor! I don’t want you even thinking about getting attached to that thing!” Then, almost to herself, I heard her say, “I smell a big rat here someplace.” Well, I didn’t get it, of course. She wasn’t talking about a real rat. When I cleared the front porch, I didn’t even touch the steps! I was nine years old and could run with the deer. I ran along the house, heading for the back corner, I was approaching about three Gs coming up to the end of the house and just as I reached the corner, I heard a familiar jingle? I knew that sound [ dog tags on a chain ] and by the time it registered, it was too late, I just had time to think, “Oh noooo” Around the corner I blasted, and so was dads big coon hound, Smokie, coming from the other direction. Only later I realized Smokie had heard the screen door shut behind me and with the air full of the sausage frying aroma, he was hoping mom had steped out on the porch to give him a treat and he was getting there before some other dog. When we hit, it was like running into a low brick wall. My knees burrowed into his rib cage and then I went end over end. I lay there for awhile and see a buzzard flying around amongst the stars. Wasn’t sure if either was real. Looked over at Smokie and he wasn’t moving. I wasn’t hurt, so I go over to the big dog and look him over. His eyes are very big and he isn’t breathing! I fell down to my knees telling him, “Breathe Smokie, you’ve got to breathe. If I’ve killed you, do you know what dad will do to me? If your dead, I’ll just run away.” As if on cue, he took a big breath and started breathing again. Tried getting him up and no luck. At that age, I was sure animals could understand me when I talked to them, so I told him. “Smokie, I’ve got to get dad for breakfast and I can’t leave you laying here so I’m going to put you under that bush by the house so the buzzards can’t see you. I grabbed his front paws and thank God it was downhill to the bush. I finally got him stuffed under there and went on to the barn.
Dad was draining the gas tank on the little Cub and looking into the contents of the five gallon bucket. “Hi dad, whatcha doing to the tractor?” “Well, I have discovered diesel or kerosene in the fuel tank, and that must be the problem. Bill may be the best baritone singer at church and throw the meanest horseshoes in town, but never let him get close to a tractor!” Dad was laughing. He sent me out to the bulk tank to get some fuel for the Cub. Dad flushed out the fuel line and carburetor, looked at the points and pulled the spark plugs. About that time I remembered breakfast! How did I forget! Too much excitement this morning I guess. I told dad to please hurry cause mom would skin me alive if we didn’t get there soon. Out the barn we go and head to the kitchen. We were almost there and I remembered Smokey. I took a quick look and he was still laying right where I put him. I guess he heard us coming and raised his head to look in our direction. As we got closer he was looking right at me and all of a sudden he jumped up and ran into the woods as fast as he could. Dad stopped and stared at the dog and said, “I’ve had dogs all my life, but I will never understand that one!” We finished breakfast and went back to the barn. The plugs were wet and oily and they got a good cleaning. Dad put a little gas in each cylinder and cranked the motor some. Of course I was asking him every step of the way why he was doing all these things. A good thing fathers love their little boys or they would go crazy trying to answer all the questions. The plugs went back in and dad told me to get up in the seat and get ready to hit the starter. He didn’t want to leave me without something to do. Finally, finally, finally he told me to go ahead and see if she would run. I pulled out the starter rod and she fired up! Missing a little bit and quite a bit of black smoke, but she was running. Dad showed me the shift pattern and told me to back it out so the smoke could clear out of the barn. I drove it around the barnyard and I had fallen in love. It was so much easier to steer than the big Case or the Allis Chalmers. I could stay right here in the seat of this little tractor forever. Ben, my beagle, was running around and checking it over. After awhile dad came out and watched for a little while. He came over and said looked like it was running good and I should pull it back into the barn and then we had better go get some hay in. Well, it took some convincing, but I finally talked dad into letting me drive it and follow him in the Dodge out to the hay field.
Driving the old Dodge flatbed had always been fun. Dad would set the dash throttle just a little above idle and turn me loose in low gear. I wasn’t big enough to touch the gas petal yet. Sure wished we had a small trailer so I could be driving the Cub. We finally got finished bringing in the hay and got it all in the loft. I think back now how hot it must have been up in the loft, but I guess when you’re young, you just ignore it. After dinner, dad called Bill and told him the Cub was fixed and he could come and get it. And don’t forget that Remington knife! After he finished talking to Bill, mom wanted to know when he was coming to get it, “Cause you boys are going to church with me tomorrow, and that’s all there is to it.” Sometimes mothers can really be a drag. Dad told her that Bill was going to Columbus for a trade show and wouldn’t be back for several days and he would be happy if we would keep the Cub till he got back, and be sure to use it to do some mowing because he wanted to be sure everything was ok before he sold it. Music to my ears!!!! I knew that when they saw how much work it could do, they would have to buy it. Remember children have no concept of money. Mom wasn’t at all happy. “You know, I thought I smelled a rat this morning, and now I’m sure of it!” What are you talking about?” Dad had a kind of strange look in his eyes. “Bill wants to leave that tractor here so you guys will get to liking it and he will make another sale!” Then I did something I can’t believe I did. I interrupted my mother! “But mom, I hate that little tractor!” I got a look that told me I had better stay out of this, and that’s just what I did. Mom wasn’t angry, just one of those times she was pretending to be angry, and dad told her how silly she was being. It was just that money was tight and she ran the finances for the farm. So for the next several days I got to mow the grass every day. I could mow it all in a couple hours. I’m sure I mowed some of it three times a day! I could see dad was getting pretty fond of it himself but he wouldn’t say anything. I think I used all of dads Turtle wax on it, remember the stuff you had to work so hard to get off?
The week went too fast and I knew Bill would be by any day now to get my little Cub. We had gone to the county fair that week and back then, it was all about farm life. Mom was really happy because she had won two blue ribbons for her creations. She had been working for months on a Lone Star quilt. It took first place. She and the neighbor lady, Ann, had been battling it out for years with the grape jelly and mom had beat her out again. Lucky for me, she was in a great mood!
One morning I got up a little early, and when I got downstairs, I could hear mom and dad talking from out on the back porch. They liked to have their coffee out there when the weather permitted. It was the only time of the day they had alone. May God forgive me but I’m gonna admit this. I eavesdropped! I could hear dad saying that he had been thinking about buying something much more suited to do all the mowing we have. Mom confirmed we didn’t seem to have a lot of time with all the additional chores summer seemed to bring in. That’s how moms are, they soften up with a little time! She also announced if we didn’t get it some way or the other, they would have to let me go live with Bill, or whoever bought it. Dad said he could cut out enough black Angus cows and some hogs and come up with most of the money. I was ecstatic! I knew now that I had my first tractor. While we had breakfast, I sure had a hard time hiding my excitement. Finally they told me the news, and then I didn’t have to try and contain it any longer. Mom had a curve ball she had been saving though. She reminded me how many D’s were on my report card the last year and made me promise to do better the next year. I think it was the next day we went to Bills store and dad worked out the deal. He even got Bill to throw in some implements he had. Bill even threw in the Remington knife. Many times I wondered if Bill accidentally put that diesel in the gas tank, or did he do it on purpose? Surely not! So there you have it, that’s how I got my Cub tractor.
The years went by and that little Cub was a part of my life, just about everyday I would use it for something. Hauling firewood, gravel, vegetables, pushing snow from everybody’s driveway. If I wanted to go way down the creek fishing, I would take it. As we lived on a gravel road, sometimes I would just go for a Sunday drive and check out the neighboring farms and of course Ben was always with me. And then, almost suddenly, something started to change. I was paying less and less attention to the little Cub, and fishing, and hunting, and the dogs. They just didn’t seem exciting any more. I discovered girls! What was going on here? I never paid any attention to them before. They didn’t know how to make a slingshot, or hunt and fish, and they all seemed so silly. But I couldn’t stay away from them and tried to show off when I was around them. Then I got interested in cars, Marlin Brando, James Dean and rock and roll! My world was sure confusing anymore. It had been so simple. Then I got a letter from Uncle Sam. Seems he had a war going on some place and needed my assistance. So I left everything I knew and headed for a strange world. Things would never be the same again. I learned what it was like to lose friends that I had grown up with. My childhood was long gone. When I got home, I was a man and had to do manly things like having a family. As you all know, nothing stays the same. Small farmers couldn’t make a living anymore and most of them worked in town. The fields I used to plow, disc, and cultivate are no longer there. The streams and woods where I used to spend so much time are all posted now with “No Trespassing signs”. There are big fine homes everywhere that Ben and I used to tromp around, chasing rabbits and pheasants. It is very fulfilling to earn a degree and apply it to create something that didn’t exist before and make life better. But I can’t help but feel sorry for my grandchildren that know so much about a computer, but know nothing about climbing a hickory tree and finding a bird nest. Or spend endless hours with a Gameboy, and have never stripped all their clothes off and jumped in the creek [that had a big snapper turtle living there] with their dog. Yes, times change, but dad and mom still live on the farm, thank God! My little Cub is still there and so is the Allis Chalmers, the old Case is gone, but I never liked it anyway. Dad still uses the Cub to haul stuff around and clear snow. It is still his favorite tractor, even though he bought a new John Deere diesel mower. He has always said, when hes done with it, it will come to me. When I go back to visit, I make sure its running good, I replaced the clutch and that is the worst thing that’s happened to it. Dad can’t see well enough to work on it anymore. Only now, I understand I never filled my fathers shoes. And I don’t even feel too bad about it cause not many men could have. I did buy my own Cub and have been working on it for a couple years now doing a complete restoration when I can find the time to work on it. Restoring this Cub has truly been an enjoyment, and brought back the memories I have told.