"My First Tractor"

My name is Chris Vangel. I live in Granite City, IL.  I am also a member of the Benevolet and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge #1063.  I have been a full time auto mechanic for ten years now (I just turned the ripe old age of 30 on Sept 4th).

The in-laws inherited a five tract of land which was a collection of all kinds of vehicles.  Tossed in the mix were a few old tractors which I tried to help raise from the dead.  We were successful for the most part, not trying to restore them, just to get them running.  This is what got me interested in Old Iron.  These machines whose power systems were so simple by todays' standards, but still did the job in a grand fashion.  I decided I might like to have one at home to play with, but home was two and a half hours away and these machines were needed where they were.

I brought up my membership in the Elks earlier, here's why.  As I sat at the bar on Super Bowl Sunday, I overheard two of my Elk brothers talking tractor.  It seems there was an abandoned tractor with brushhog on one guys' company property.  The second member stated that he wanted the mower for his little Ford.  They came to the conclusion that Mr. Brushhog would get the mower, but that the tractor was destined for the scrapyard!  Well, at hearing this I had to go into action.  I spoke up saying that if the tractor was going to the scrapper, I would like to have it.  The guys said sure! Haul it out and it's yours.

The agreement was the easy part.  We knew nothing of make, model, or size.  Mr. Brushhog and myself drove up to the place with truck and a good sized trailer.  As we came over the hill leading to the tractors resting place, we knew instantly the tractor wasn't coming home.  It had four flat tires and was easily twelve to eighteen inches wider than the trailer.  We would settle for the brushhog on this trip, using a backhoe to set it on the trailer.  It too was too wide for the trailer, but we made it work.  I showed up four days later with a bigger truck and much larger trailer.  We had a heck of a time, but we got the tractor on the trailer with the help of a much larger backhoe.  I was determined not to come home empty handed a second time.  Once on level ground the trailers tires stopped dragging on the trailer flooring and we only managed to burn up one out of four wheel bearings.

It seems the tractor grew on the way home. The old girl looking larger and more undesirable in the city.  So much, so that I left trailer and all parked at my lodge, I work nights and had to get to work.  I didn't think my neighbors would appreciate having the trailer and tractor in the street for three days.  When I did bring the tractor home and untrailer it, I thought it wasn't going to fit in the garage.  Taking off both of the stacks solved that problem, but my one car garage is still pretty full!

To finish the story for now, the tractor turns out to be a 1956 J.I.Case, Model #401, Diesel engine, and has a row crop front end.  I was surprised to see that it has power steering, a feature I hadn't seen on tractors before.  And when I say tractors, I refer to the same type as mine, you sit on top, you eat bugs, dirt, exhaust, and anything else that can fly in your face.  The new ones with cabs, air conditioning, stereo, and who knows what else just aren't the same to me.  The Case is now spread all over the garage and its' sheetmetal has filled my workshop in the basement of the house.  I don't get to work on it as much as I'd like, but it's there waiting patiently for me when time does allow.  One last thought, My wife hates it when I refer to the Case as my FIRST tractor, if I get my way, there will be more!

Chris Vangel
Granite City, IL

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