A Little Boy, Great Grandpa’s Tractor, and an Unforgettable Christmas Present

Miles Stanley saved up to restore his great grandpa's tractor. But there was something missing.

Miles Stanley pictured with the recently found, inoperable tractor before restoration. *
Miles Stanley pictured with the recently found, inoperable tractor before restoration.*

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia is a family farm that artist Norman Rockwell would have been happy to illustrate.

It’s a place where brilliant blue skies, rich black soil, and John Deere green splash color on an authentically all-American canvas.

For nine-year-old Miles Stanley, this is home.

An Unusual Discovery

“Miles has had a love for John Deere since he was a tiny tot. In fact, he just had to have every toy tractor and motorized toy Gator out there,” said Heather Stanley, Miles’ mother. “When he was smaller, he’d take his little sister and her dolls on rides. Nowadays, though, he’s too big for anything that doesn’t run on diesel.”

But like many other boys, he’s just the right size to help his dad, Rick, with chores. After all, the family has 35 beef cows that need plenty of food and constant care.

“This past summer, Miles was out with Rick helping bale hay when he spotted something in the brush,” Heather said. “He ran over and saw a 1948 John Deere Model M Tractor in the weeds. It turned out to be his great grandpa’s tractor.

Nine-year-old Miles shows off his newly-restored 1948 John Deere Model M Tractor, which was once owned by his great grandfather.

“He was so excited and asked his dad if he could fix it up. Who could say no to that?”

A Boy’s Dream

The Model M’s old bones were creaky but solid. The fenders had seen better days. The engine wouldn’t turn over.

At first glance, some folks would have called the scrapyard.

Not Miles.

“My dad said the tractor had been there for 15 years. It was really rusty, but I was hoping we could get my great-grandpa’s tractor running again.”

Now, if you have restored a tractor – or heard the tales of those who have – you know it can be a time-consuming and expensive task.

“Miles wanted to buy some replacement parts for the tractor, so he helped build fences, feed and water the cows, stack firewood and other chores,” Heather said. “He even made boxes for grandma Goldie’s hand-painted ornaments that she sold during the Christmas season.”

Miles shows off the new seat for his Model M sent to him as a gift from John Deere employees at Harvester Works in East Moline, Il.

He earned enough money to buy a new battery, wiring, a settlement bowl, fuel lines, filters, and paint. He and his dad spent hours together cleaning, sanding, and painting. Together, they gave new life to a machine built shortly after World War II.

But something critical was missing.

“What Could It Hurt?”

After a few months, the Model M looked like, well, a model. The green and yellow paint gleamed. The metal was straight. The engine purred like the day it rolled off the assembly line.

But it wasn’t drivable because something critical was missing.

“The only thing we needed was a seat, so we started looking and pricing. Christmas was approaching, and Miles wrote out his list for Santa,” said Heather. “At the top of his list was, you guessed it, a seat for great grandpa’s tractor.”

A co-worker suggested Heather contact John Deere.

I was on Facebook one day and thought, ‘what could it hurt?’ So, I went to the John Deere page and wrote a long post telling the company about how much Miles loves Deere and how he’s worked so hard to fix up the tractor. I got a response the very same day. They wanted the serial number and wanted to help. My first response was 'how cool is this?'”

—Heather Stanley

Helping a Dream Come True

The John Deere social media team noticed the Facebook post and forwarded it to a contact at John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois.

The original engine on the Model M needed a great deal of refurbishing.

“My colleague sent me a note because she thought I may be able to identify the tractor model. She knew that I enjoy vintage tractors and have a couple of my own,” said Matt Badding, Production System Step Marketing manager, Harvesting. “We wanted to help Miles complete his project. So, we located a seat, had employees sign a card, and sent the package to West Virginia.”

The box arrived at the Stanley home about three weeks before Christmas. Heather wrapped it and put it underneath the tree on Christmas Eve.

The next morning, Miles tore open the outer layer of paper and saw the John Deere logo. “I was so excited when I opened it,” he said. “I was jumping up and down. And I read all of the notes from John Deere, too.”

The seat fits perfectly, almost as if it was custom-created for him.

“Now that his tractor is fully restored, Miles says he’s even willing to let his dad use it to cut, rake, and run the fields,” Heather said. “He’s so happy and we thank John Deere for making his dream come true.”

As for Miles? He can’t wait for spring to arrive.

“Dad might drive it in a parade,” he said. “It’ll be awesome.”

* Children should never be allowed to ride on or operate equipment.

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A Little Boy, Great Grandpa’s Tractor, and an Unforgettable Christmas Present

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