I had a wealth of memories of the tractor…

All my life I heard, and often used myself, Thomas Wolfe’s famous phrase “you can’t go home again, you can’t recover the past”. I agree the saying may stand true for many things, but not my grandpa’s tractor.

1952 CA Allis Chalmers Tractor

Grandpa Anthony with 1952 Allis Chalmers CA

For fifty years all I had of grandpa’s tractor was an old black and white picture of him standing in front of his 1952 CA Allis Chalmers tractor. Of course I had a wealth of memories of the tractor from my childhood. As a six year old, nothing was more fun than spending my summer days riding between the seat and fender of the tractor as grandpa cultivated the fields of cotton. A tractor ride to the creek behind his house to fill two 55 gallon drums so we could water the cows and hogs capped off the days. At harvest time, grandpa would climb onto the tractor and I would dive into the trailer full of cotton to begin our two mile trip to the gin. I can still remember the warmth of the cotton as I peered over the edge of the trailer at the glow of the taillight with a mismatched casing (part orange and part black), mesmerized by the man and the machine.

My memories from those times were often the basis of the stories I shared with my son and grandson as we worked on numerous tractor restorations. In fact, both stored a picture of grandpa with his tractor in their cellphones. It always made me hopeful they would share their memories of my stories with future generations. Paired only with the knowledge that grandpa eventually sold the tractor to a man on a nearby farm, I never dreamed our paths would cross again.

Recovering the past

tractor in woods

Grandpa’s tractor found in woods

However, recovering the past became much more than just a memory or a dream in 2017 when my son happened across an old tractor about three miles from grandpa’s farm. Having been in the woods for years it was in pretty rough shape, but something about the tractor kept telling him he had seen it before somewhere. He knew it was a CA Allis Chalmers from the 50’s with a cultivator, but some unique features were what really caught his eye. He immediately pulled out his phone, pulled up the picture of his great grandpa’s tractor and began to put it all together. The stabilizer bar grandpa hammered into the cultivator, remnants of the steering wheel knob he had added, and the mismatched taillight. There it was, grandpa’s tractor he had heard me talk about for so many years.

In honor of my Grandpa

When we brought it home to the farm, the tractor was obviously not the beauty it once was as depicted in the picture or my memories. In honor of my grandpa and in hope future generations would come to know stories of years gone by, I set out to rebuild and restore the tractor that had brought me so much joy as a child. It would not be an easy restoration with a stuck engine, rotten tires, and rusted metal. It was a far cry from its glory days. Countless hours of work, numerous orders to and shipments from Steiner, much encouragement from family and friends and ten months later we gathered to hear the sound of grandpa’s tractor running once again. Now, when I hear someone say you can’t go home again, I always think of grandpa’s tractor….back home where it belongs.

restored Allis Chalmers

Grandpa’s tractor restored

 

Keith Wood – Centre, Alabama
Weiss Lake Antique Power Association, Inc.