October 27, 2023
The first tractor I ever owned came about through a convoluted transaction of money and hay, when I was only 15 years old.
There was a reclusive old man who lived in a decrepit mobile trailer just up the road from our home. He usually kept a cow or two on his acreage, and I had always seen a tiny old tractor sitting beside his home, rusting and collecting dust, whenever we passed by. Even though he lived less than 3 miles from us, I had never met nor talked to him, until he happened to show up at the local general store one day when I was there.
“You’re that Crownover boy,” he said.
A bit puzzled, because I didn’t recognize him, I cautiously answered that I was.
“Your daddy got any extra hay he could part with?”
“Sixty bales ought to do me, but I’ve only got an old tractor to trade for it.”
Even at the tender age of 15, my trading ears perked up, and I started quizzing the gentleman about the kind and condition of the tractor. I learned that it was a 1940-something Allis-Chalmers Model B. When asked if it was in running order, he replied, “It was running when I parked it a year or two ago.” He added that the tires were flat now, but that they had also held air when last parked.
That night I told my dad about the offer, but he didn’t seem too interested in the swap, so I asked him what price he was putting on the hay. He said, “Sixty cents per bale.”
When I asked him if he would sell it to me for 50 cents per bale, he replied, “I like to see you dickering, but no, it’s 60 cents firm.”
The art of the deal
The next day, on my bicycle, I rode up to the elderly man’s place and checked out the old tractor. It was a crank-type, so I quickly discerned that the engine was not frozen. I also borrowed the old man’s hand pump and inflated all four tires and could hear no hissing. Thinking that I possessed some mechanical skills, I offered the guy 50 bales of my newly purchased hay for his tractor, and much to my surprise, he accepted — if I agreed to deliver it.
Over the next day and a half, I borrowed my dad’s tractor and hay trailer to deliver and stack the hay in the old chap’s lean-to barn, pulled home my new purchase, and paid my dad $30 for the 50 bales of hay. I could tell that Dad was less than impressed with my tractor, but nonetheless, he helped me clean it up and change the oil, plugs and points. Eventually, we got it running — for a while.
Intermittently, the old machine ran about 10 hours over the next several months, until I sadly surrendered and parked it beside one of our barns, where it sat and resumed rusting and collecting dust. My dad held a farm auction a few years later, when I was off at college, and sold the Allis-Chalmers Model B … again, for $30.
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