Rusty Iron celebrates 25 years

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Sam Moore and his wife, Nancy, pose for a picture in 2014 at the Farm and Dairy 100th Anniversary Open House.

It just occurred to me that this month marks the anniversary — the silver one at that — of the very first appearance of the Let’s Talk Rusty Iron column in Farm and Dairy — way back in May of 1992.

To commemorate the occasion, that first effort is duplicated below.

This column is a new venture for me. The Farm and Dairy has been looking for someone to write about old farm machinery and tractors and asked me to give it a try.

Tom Downing thoroughly covers the steam engine field, and Sunny Hull is chiming in with some good stuff on antique tractor pulling.

I’m not an expert on “Rusty Iron,” but I have accumulated some, and I’m interested in the history of the development and evolution of these machines.

The column, then, will be about the antique tractor and implement collecting hobby and farm equipment history, along with a little about the shows I attend.

Farm life

I grew up on a farm in South Beaver Township, in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, during the late ’30s, the ’40s, and the early ’50s.

As a kid, fascinated by machinery and tractors, I collected a thick scrapbook of tractor and machinery ads and sales literature. It’s a pity that scrapbook wasn’t saved.

My earliest memory of a tractor goes back to about 1936 or 1937.

My father, Sam Moore, and my uncle, Chuck Townsend, were partners in running a three hundred acre farm belonging to my grandfather, Sherman Moore.

For power, they had a team of horses, named Ted and Polly, and an old, gray, McCormick-Deering 10-20 tractor.

I remember riding on the platform, holding on to a fender for dear life, while the old 10-20 jounced and vibrated along on steel lug wheels.

About 1939 the 10-20 disappeared and a used, red, Farmall F-30 on rubber tires took its place.

I was crazy about this tractor and longed to drive it, but my legs were way too short to reach the clutch.

At first, we pulled the old two bottom McCormick-Deering plow we’d used with the 10-20, but later got a three bottom, John Deere, truss frame plow, with rubber tires.

The big Farmall and three bottom plow made quite a rig in our area since our neighbors all had smaller, one or two plow tractors, or none at all.

Can I drive?

In the spring of 1941, the horses were sold, and to replace them, a Ford-Ferguson tractor, two bottom plow, and two-row cultivator was purchased new.

At last, a tractor I was sure I could handle! Immediately, I started hounding Dad to teach me to drive and finally, he let me operate the little Ford.

I was about eight years old and was in heaven.

About three years later, the partners got another new Ford-Ferguson and sold the Farmall, so I never did get to drive it.

Right after this, the partnership was dissolved and the land and equipment divided. Dad ended up with the newer Ford, which we used until he gave up farming in 1953.

Dad moved to Salem, where he managed the Salona Supply Company for many years, and I didn’t have much to do with farming during a career with the Ohio Bell Telephone Company.

Old tractors

As I grew older, I developed a hankering to own an old tractor and, about five years ago, I got my first — a 1941 John Deere H.

I now have eleven two-cylinder John Deere tractors, ranging in age from 1938 to 1956, in all stages of restoration, or lack thereof.

I’ve also got a nice 1948 Case S tractor and a 1951 Oliver Cletrac crawler tractor that doesn’t run.

I have four or five John Deere drag plows, a 1948 John Deere 12A combine, that I hope to use this summer to cut wheat and a John Deere Number 5 tractor mower from the late ’40s that is used to cut weeds.

I’ve almost completed restoring a 1930 Case-Osborne horse drawn mower, and have an Emerson-Brantingham-Osborne mower from the 1920s, and an International Harvester Company-Osborne mower from the late teens, that I plan to restore.

A future column will explain why all three of these highly competitive companies built Osborne mowers.

Next time, I’ll talk less about me, and more about “Rusty Iron.”

Columnist

If anyone has read this far and has a comment, suggestion, or question, please write in care of the Farm and Dairy.

Farming practices and equipment, as well as Farm and Dairy, and me personally have come a long way since then, as has the old iron collecting hobby.

In those days, I would hardly consider paying more than $1,000 for an old tractor in decent condition; today it’s more like three to five thousand bucks for a more or less run of the mill model — and a few rare examples go into six figures.

As for Farm and Dairy, longtime publisher, Wayne Darling, who gave me the opportunity to try my hand at this writing gig, is gone, although his sons Scot and Tom are carrying on the family business in fine style.

One couldn’t ask for a better editor than Susan Crowell, who was there in 1992 and is still. Susan has always been kind, understanding, and very supportive of me, which I appreciate.

Everyone else that I’ve come into contact with at the paper has been helpful as well.

Certified antique

On a personal note, I’ve forgotten how many different antique and classic tractors, of many makes and models, I’ve owned during those years, but as I too have become a certified antique, I no longer own a single old tractor.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing the Rusty Iron column and have learned (and forgotten) a lot while meeting many, many great folks.

Thanks to you all who have read this stuff and given me positive (and negative) feedback, along with ideas for new subjects.

Here’s to 30th anniversaries!

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Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules.

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