As an example, I am presently re-restoring my Best 60 (rated at 60 horsepower) tractor, shown in the photograph amid other projects in my yard. I rescued it some 40 years ago, apart and half buried in the Pacific Coast Range, having powered a saw mill after pulling boats out of the water and putting in its time in agriculture and forestry. When I got it unburied and moved to my yard (in itself an adventure, since it weighs over ten tons and needed to move out of the mountains and into my yard 100 miles away) I took it more apart, replaced a few broken pieces, got it running, painted it, and have been entertaining people with it ever since. But over the years it became tired, lost its compression, quit producing sparks in its plugs, and generally was feeling neglected.
I have now pretty much done the necessary mechanical work, re-assembled it, and will return it to aesthetic splendor.
This is a historical tractor. The C.L.Best Gas Traction Company (later to be named the C.L. Best Tractor Company) of San Leandro, California, was begun in 1910 and rapidly became the chief competitor to Benjamin Holt Company of Stockton California in the making of continuous-tread tractors. These were very popular in the logging and construction industries and in agricultural areas with soft or boggy ground, and were used as prime movers in World War I. In fact, I have a photograph of the building of the original Stanford stadium, showing a Best 60 pulling a Fresno scraper around the field-to-be.
Holt had begun a small plant in Peoria Illinois in 1910 under the name of Holt Caterpillar, and in 1925 the two companies merged, named the resulting company Caterpillar, and moved to Peoria. The Best 60 and its smaller brother, the Best 30, essentially became the Caterpillar 60 and the Caterpillar 30, and proved to be very successful.
Why am I spending my Labor Day working on this beautiful hulk? Because, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I love working with my hands. In deference to my former professor life, I am working on a book as to the centrality of hands in our evolution, and the benefits of using them even though these days, they seem to often be primarily used to push on computer keys and remote buttons. I have many friends, who although they may earn their keep with their minds, and have the wherewithal to do what the want in their “spare” time, are fanatically involved in hobbies requiring high levels of manual dexterity and skills appropriate to the classical meaning of labor (not including that involved in delivering babies). Most of us occasionally are called upon to explain why we do what we do in our free time. The book will be an attempt to do that, and perhaps encourage others to do a bit more of the same.