The Amazing Model “R”
~ and the day we managed to stall it ~

by Steve Berry

Throughout my entire life I have had access to, but never lived completely, on a farm.At first it was a farm that belonged to my uncle,Wilson Berry. After he sold out, in the spring of my sixth year, I started going to a farm owned by some distant cousins on my mother’s side of the family, and I’ve spent every available moment there since.Taber Hill Farm has become so much a part of my life that anyone who knows me knows exactly what I mean when I use the phrase,“the farm.”When I first started going to the farm, it was powered by Allis-Chalmers tractors; but, in 1966, the first of several John Deeres came to the farm. It was a brand-new 2510 Diesel, and we thought it was really something — until we got a 3020 Diesel. From there, the power level of both the main and chore tractors has kept going up. In the late seventies,we got a 2440 to replace the 2510, and a 2840 for a larger “second horse” to the 4230 that was the big unit at that time.The 2440 and the 2840 are still soldiering on, and the 2840 has always been a strong tractor. Sometime in the eighties,we acquired an old “R” Diesel from a man about ten miles from the farm to use as some extra power.

This “R” had nothing special about it, and I do not know the serial number; although, if memory serves, it was a 1951. Someone had tried to put power steering on it, but we found that it steered easier when the unit was unhooked. I loved running this tractor with its hood that seemed to stretch out so far, and its tremendous lugging ability. Lots of times we did the same jobs with it that we did with the 2840. Three of these jobs that I remember well were pulling a 13-foot JD disk harrow, spreading manure, and grinding feed. It would perform these jobs just as well as the 2840.Also of interest were the comments we received from people who stopped in and saw it.Very often they would tell us,“I saw one of these running once, but I never got to drive one. Always wanted to, though.”Another comment would be,“Wow… You have an “R”! I got to run one many years ago.”

I know how they felt, because I always had a blast running the “R”. I remember once spreading manure when the weather had been rainy for a week or so, which is a common occurrence in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. I was in a field that has about 1-1/2 to 2-feet of soil above a shale layer.The load was quite heavy, and the “R”was really working to keep moving. I could look down and see the shale beneath the rear tires, and watch the mud flowing back into the tracks as we passed! I kept thinking that, if we stopped, I was going to have a heck of a time walking out of the field to the house to get help; but, although black smoke was belching out of the exhaust, it never did come to a stop! I always wondered if the 2840, torque horse that it was (and still is),would have been able to do that!

Once, when I was disking, I ran into a mud hole that the “R” itself had no trouble getting through, but when the disk hit the hole it sank almost out of sight! That made the old “R” grunt, but it kept going; and I learned to pay a little more attention to the ground as the tractor went over it!

The fellow we had bought the tractor from had told the guys on the farm that we could never stall it, and for the most part that was very true. But one day when we were grinding feed, someone (not me) got the idea to try to stall the old “R”, so we kept feeding corn into the grinder mixer until we popped the overflow door out of the top of the tank.The “R” just kept putting happily along. So, on the next load, the heaviest guy there (me) was stationed atop the pop-off door and the scenario was repeated.When everyone was about out of steam, the “R” began to blow black smoke and labor quite hard, so they continued to load up the grinder until the tractor finally did stall. But, it had taken one fat fellow sitting on the lid and pulling himself down as hard as possible, along with two determined shovelers working themselves almost out of energy, to do it! It’s a wonder that we didn’t break something in the grinder or the tractor’s PTO, but I guess we had luck on our side.

Afterward,we called the gentleman the tractor had been bought from and told him we had stalled it. His comment was,“You did like heck!” So we told him how we did it, and his response was,“Well, you’d never stall it on it’s own, I guarantee that!”And he was right.