WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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John Deere and the C5A

Last week Lockheed Martin announced it was modernizing the avionics on the C5A, the huge cargo plane.

It looks like this craft is following in the footsteps of the B-52 and may just fly for 100-years.

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I took our son James to my parents' farm in Luray, Va., for the first time. I carried him in the Baby Bjorn as I showed him the fields and the barn and we made our way down to the tractor shed.

I patted the John Deere and told him, "James, you'll drive this one day." The tractor - nearly 60 years old - is a 1951 John Deere B. It's a two-cylinder and when it is on a slow idle, you can measure the RPMs by counting the pops coming out of the exhaust.

There is a large drum on the side of the tractor that spins when the engine is in gear. When the tractor was first built, this drum was what was used to drive other pieces of equipment such as chopping silage or running the grinder for mixing feed.

But it's been decades since the tractor has been used for that kind of work. Those pieces of equipment have long rusted to pieces.

But the John Deere is far from obsolete. Dad outfitted it with a three-point hitch sometime in the late 1970s, so it could handle modern equipment. He found a clutch attachment for the power-take-off that made it safe to run larger farm implements, whose momentum could literally push the tractor across the field when you wanted to stop.

This tractor is no show piece. It is grease-stained and dented. But it still works and can pull just about anything you attach it to.

My point is that whether it is an old tractor or a 40-year-old cargo plane, there is value from being able to adapt and innovate. And someday, James will drive the same tractor that his great grandfather, grandfather and dad drove.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 22, 2008 at 9:55 AM

Reader Comments

Thu, Sep 25, 2008 M Amtower HIGHLAND MD

Nick - great piece. My question is, does either Lockheed or John Deere build 'em the way they used to????

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