Chapter 1967, Fourth Quarter
Sunday, January 8, 2017 9:15 AM
On the school front, it was an exciting quarter. My brother, John, broke his arm in gym class at school (he was in the seventh grade).
We had never had a broken arm in the family before, so that was quite interesting. Dad feigned sympathy, but I think he was more upset about losing a helping hand on the weekends and for evening chores. Plus, there was the matter of hospital bills and so forth.
This happened on a Friday afternoon. Mother came in to get him and take him to Highland District Hospital. However, the break was bad enough they had her take him on to Wilmington, where they spent the night, and the doctor set it on a Saturday morning.
It was a wet fall as I remember. Dad had a tough time getting the soybeans harvested. Mud, mud and more mud.
We let the corn stand. It is fairly safe to leave the corn alone for a few weeks – you can’t do that with soybeans, a sharp freeze and they will peel out on the ground. You’ve just lost your crop unless you have a vacuum cleaner with a very long cord. So, he kept slugging through the bean fields until he got them done.
For a combine, we had an old Allis Chalmers Model SP100. This looked much like the ubiquitous AC Model 60s which pulled behind a tractor. Except it was self-propelled and had an auger in the head instead of a canvas belt.
We had had it for a couple of years, and it was a pretty good machine. You couldn’t get parts for it (there were only 4,500 of them made between 1953 and 1957), so we made replacements for anything that broke.
This combine was only made for a few years when Allis Chalmers completely abandoned the design and went to the “Gleaner” series.
Christmas 1967 came, and it finally got cold, real cold. The ground froze, meaning we could get in the fields to pick corn. For corn picking, we had an Oliver 770 Diesel with a two-row mounted corn picker. The word “Diesel” is operative here. When it was cold and the Oliver would not start, we would pull it with a gas tractor that would start. For further enhancement of the starting process, we would take off the air cleaner, place a gasoline blow torch shooting flames across the opening of the air intake and let the engine suck in the flames as we pulled the whole thing around the barnyard. It must have been quite a scene.
Except, this Christmas, it was so cold, even this procedure would not start it.
Fast-forward 26 years and in January 1994, I move to Atlanta. I had a Mercedes 300SD. The “D” means “Diesel” again. I had stopped at a truck stop to fill up, about two hours north of Atlanta. I did not put conditioner in the fuel tank. It got cold – one of the coldest Januaries in Atlanta history. That car would not start for a week! Shades of the old Oliver 770.
What we did not know at the time (1967) was that diesel jells when it gets too cold. Any truck driver or any operator of diesel equipment can tell you this, but that tractor was the only diesel engine we owned. We lived in ignorance of the limitations of our equipment.
Finally, in early January, it warmed up enough to start the tractor, but not warm enough to thaw the ground. I think it took until February of 1968 to get the corn crop out that year.
Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.