The Third Annual Tired Iron Tour

October 16, 2011

Last year’s tour was a bit too eventful, with two tractors of four requiring repairs after the run up Foley Mountain. This year Peter Myers scheduled the event a couple of weeks earlier to avoid the blizzard conditions of the drive last year, as well. But the plan was to cross at Narrows Lock and make a run down the north shore to Rideau Ferry, with the return trip along the Old Kingston Road. That’s a long way on an antique tractor.

All week through the wretched weather I’d rehearsed my excuses. Saturday I gave the Massey Harris a chance to vote on our participation in this year’s run. It sputtered so badly I barely made it home from Forfar. A call to Peter to cancel just resulted in a house call to the ailing Massey. Once the newly-cleaned carburetor had a final adjustment it worked fine, so the trip was a go.

At 10:00 Sunday morning we started off. It was a pretty nice day by the standards of these things. The gusts of wind only buffeted the tractor a little; most times I had no trouble at all keeping it on the road. Doing anything else while driving the beast was quite another matter, though. It took me almost the length of the Big Rideau to tighten the velcro straps on the sleeves of my coat: only one hand was available at a time, and I didn’t dare risk losing a glove. Fortunately my coat’s hood was easy to put up and secure with one hand.

Burt Mattice joined us along the route with a different ride: a mid-40’s Cockshutt 30 with a high-low range adaptor he installed himself. While no show model like the McCormick W30 he left at home, the Cockshutt ran reliably throughout the day. Over the winter Burt did locate a new exhaust manifold to replace the one which the W30 grenaded on Foley Mountain last year, but he wisely chose to bring the newer machine on this trip.

The shortcut from the Stanleyville road to the Rideau Ferry Road is a picturesque bit of Canadian Shield with occasional gentrified settlements, all in all a beautiful drive on a bright fall afternoon. I could tell the scenery was nice when the convoy slowed down frequently to enjoy the view. Peter has developed a tendency to race his John Deere A from one sheltered patch to another on cold, windy days, so the journey had moved along quite quickly this morning.

My Massey seems to have reconciled itself to higher engine revolutions, running well past the throttle gate in order to keep up with the tractors with larger back wheels, but I refused to run at full emergency power for fear of a repeat of last year’s debacle with a broken rotor and ignition points welded together.

Keeping the chain snug during the long tow home behind Peter’s “A” had worn half the life off the Massey’s pristine brake pads.

I noticed a lot of nut trees growing along the fence of Murphy’s Point Provincial Park. Some looked like black walnuts, others like the strain of butternuts which grow in my woodlot. Black walnuts don’t usually grow in the thin soil of the Canadian Shield. Perhaps they are two different strains of butternut. In any case things were going by too steadily for more than a quick look, and after a single attempt to take photos I gave up and concentrated upon keeping warm.

As we backed into parking spaces at the lunch stop I noticed Chris Myers cranking hard on his John Deere B’s steering wheel to get it to turn. Maybe that’s the purpose of the Tired Iron Tour: to give these old gems enough exercise that they don’t seize up from disuse.

The dining room at the Rideau Ferry Inn boasts a large box stove which was extremely welcome to this tractor driver. The food was good.

Water surrounds the Rideau Ferry Inn, with the Upper Rideau on one side and the Lower Rideau on the other, divided by the iconic bridge which gives the community its name.
The whitecaps out there made boating an uninviting prospect today. All in all I felt better off to be driving an antique tractor to God knows where down a back road, rather than bouncing around on Big Rideau swells in a craft of similar vintage and reliability, trying to get back to Merrickville for winter storage.

Thoughts of getting stranded in a windy bay while the light fades don’t have the same appeal now that they had thirty years ago. If the tractor quits I can get off and catch a ride home, or even walk. I won’t likely freeze or drown.

But the freshly-tuned Massey worked like a trooper all day, and it coasted into its spot in my backyard at about 2:30. An uneventful trip! Trouble with such a debacle for a columnist is that it doesn’t provide any narrative fodder for readers.

Oh well. Peter’s now talking about a run to Perth Road Village next year. I hope they’ve fixed the Hutchings Road by then.

For more action, check:

Below please note the only usable photo from the trip.   I missed some fine scenery.  The tractor requires a surprising amount of driving;  the camera is too complex to operate without two hands and some attention.  Sorry about that.


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