Monday, August 2, 2010

Are you Positive?

Whenever I see a picture of my old WD I have to chuckle as I remember my first experience replacing the battery.

About 30 years ago, I bought a nice-looking WD with a loader and a wide bucket because I needed something to clear out my driveway. It started easily, sounded good, and was reasonably priced. A couple years later, I was not upset with the prospect of having to replace the battery. I figured it was due.  Nevertheless, I disconnected it and tried to charge the dead battery over night to make sure I needed a new one.  After an over night charge, it was still dead.

First, I need to explain that I did not grow up servicing Allis-Chalmers tractors. My folks had Fords, and although I was familiar with driving AC tractors, I had never replaced a battery.

When I came back with the new battery, I discovered I did not know if the tractor had a negative or a positive ground. Since I had already removed the old battery the day before to charge it, I could not simply copy the old hook up. I only briefly tried to remember how the battery fit in when I heard Nancy calling me for dinner. I just left the battery by the tractor and went in to eat. While we ate, I had an idea. "I'll call my cousin Danny," I said. Nancy thought it was a good idea too.

Danny, a long-time Allis owner, was one of my many older cousins I looked up to as kind of a big brother. All my older male cousins were mechanically inclined. I was not.

Danny was a talented bricklayer who owned his own company. Although he didn't farm anymore, I knew he still had his WD 45 Allis-Chalmers, and I was sure he could tell me the battery hook-up off the top of his head.

I punch in his number and he answers. We exchange a few of the expected greetings before I spring the  question. "Is your Allis a positive or negative ground?'
I sense that the question hits him like a meteor out of the night sky. 
After a pause, he says hesitantly, "Positive, I think."
No one speaks for a long moment.
So I ask, "Are you sure?"
"No, wait. Maybe negative."
"Are you positive?" I ask.
"Negative," he says.
I pause to think about this. Then I ask, "Negative you're not sure it's positive or negative you're positive it's negative?
After another moment of silence, I hear a sound that I fondly recall from my childhood. Danny is starting to chuckle. In a moment we are both giggling like a couple of kids. I'm feeling especially happy because....well, you know how good you feel when you giggle with your older brother?
Holding back bursts of laughter, we exchange a few more absurd questions and answers regarding whether the WD has a negative or positive ground. We laugh at everything.
Finally he says, "I'll go look at the WD 45 and call you back.
A bit later he calls, and I install the battery without problem.
Danny "Red" Cervenka

I do not recall now if the ground on the WD is positive or negative, but that phone call will stick in my head forever.


  1. What a great story and what a wonderful memory of your cousin Danny. This just reaffirms for me the importance of extended family and remaining connected to them.

    As a side point of interest, check out my Minnesota Prairie Roots blog post today on an Allis-Chalmers auction in North Morristown. I didn't learn how to install a battery, but I sure saw a lot of Allis tractors and a lot of orange.

  2. Frank ShimaAugust 03, 2010

    Good story, Gordy. Funny and well told.