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Seven tractors to tell one Century Farm story

Farm’s history recounted through its machines

September 7, 2014
By LARRY KERSHNER - Farm News news editor ( , Farm News

LAURENS - Every party needs a symbol.

For the Thumma family's community celebration on Sunday, that symbol was seven tractors on display, representative of the tractors that powered farm life during the family's century-long ownership of the farm.

The Thumma farm, owned by siblings John Thumma, Sam Thumma and Mary Thumma Ketelsen, plus their mother, Lanore Thumma, was awarded a Century Farm designation during the Iowa State Fair.

Article Photos

GATHERED BY A line-up of representative tractors that have worked on the Thumma farm during the family’s 100-year ownership are, from left, Sam Thumma, John Thumma, Mary Thumma Ketelsen and their mother, Lanore Thumma. There were seven tractors on display Sunday as the Thummas held a heritage celebration with family, friends and neighbors.

Lanore Thumma's childhood farm, close by was also honored at the same. She's the sole owner of that land, which John Thumma farms for her.

John Thumma, a self-described old tractor geek, said it was his idea to display a model of the seven tractors, three he owned and four that were on loan.

Five were lined along the Thumma farm's driveway and two sat in a nearby shed, its owner waiting to see if threatening weather would keep the tractors indoors.

The Thummas were expecting 400 people to join their celebration of one family holding ownership of land for 100 continuous years.

The tractors included:

A). The first tractor to begin replacing Thumma horses was a New Hart Parr 15-30 Model A. It was on loan from Don "Rusty" Hoover, of Webb.

Thumma lore says the machine's two-cylinder engine with a cross-mounted configuration worked well for Harry and Sam Thumma.

"From pictures," John Thumma said, "we believe the first tractor to have been what is referred to a New Hart Parr.

"The tractor here is a very close relative being the next model that Hart Parr released."

B). The next tractor was a Hart Parr 18-36 Model I, also on loan from Hoover.

Thumma said because the first Hart Parr was a reliable machine, they traded it for another around 1929 or 1930. This was also about the time John's father, H. Russell Thumma, was born.

The 18-36, Thumma said, was a family work horse for 30 years.

C). In 1939, a second tractor, a 1939 John Deere B, was purchased to "take the burden of cultivating and hay mowing off the backs of horses," Thumma said.

He said that at the time, Deere was the only company still manufacturing two-cylinder engines on the cross-mount design that led to the purchase of the B. The family still owns the tractor since it was new.

D). With the decades piling onto the Hart Parr and parts getting harder to find, the Thummas traded it for a new John Deer A in 1950. It's always served on the Thumma farm, John said.

"It still does duty," Thumma said, "running a grain auger, a stand-by generator and raking straw at the annual Albert City Threshermens and Collectors Show.

E). A John Deere 3010, on loan from John Metcalf, of Dickens, was fifth in line representing the farm's next new purchase in the 1960s.

"The original 3010," Thumma said, "served the shortest period on the farm and was traded off in approximately five years."

F). Soon after John Thumma's birth, his father purchased a 1967 John Deere 3020 to serve as the farm's main power source.

Although it too was replaced in time, Thumma said, "it remains a vital working tool here to this day."

G). In 1974, the family added a round baler for haying. John Thumma said his father decided he needed a tractor with cab to protect him from allergies during haying.

That's when a 1975 Case 1070 rolled onto the farm. The model on display during Sunday's celebration was on loan from Richard Lund.

The original 1070, Thumma said, was a farm staple for 25 years when it was traded for another model Case.

As the family members, in pre-party mode, stabilized awning supports as wind gathered for a brewing storm, Lanore Thumma rested for a moment. She lives in Laurens, having moved off the farm a few years ago.

"This is an eventful day," she said. "It means a lot."

Anything and everything replayed her memories.

A short-handled shovel had a story behind it.

When she was a girl, she tried to bring the shovel into an oat bin.

"But the handle was too long," she said. "So I took a saw and cut it shorter."

It brought her some trouble. "It was a brand-new handle," she said.

She said she reared her children on this farm, seeing them through school and numerous 4-H projects.

The first Thummas bought the Swan Lake Township farm in 1912 and moved onto it in 1914.

Meanwhile, her family was farming not too far away. She and Russell knew each other through church life.

They married in December 1956; both were still attending Iowa State University.

She spoke about where her gardens were and canning more than 300 quarts of fruit and vegetables.

"You canned for your family," she said. "That's what you did."



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