homepage logo


By Staff | Jan 28, 2010

My wife and I recently attended an evening meeting of a two-cylinder club. This was quite exciting for us as it’s as close as we’ll ever get to going “night clubbing.”

For the uninformed, a two-cylinder club is not some sort of a double-barreled cudgel; it’s an association of people who are antique tractor aficionados. Specifically, they are Johnny Popper junkies, aka, green-and-yellow gear heads.

Having grown up driving John Deere As and Bs, I can totally empathize with these folks. I am among those who feel that the sound of a Johnny Popper is as soothing as a mother’s heartbeat.

A meeting of a two-cylinder club is one of the few places where a heated argument might break out over the virtues of a pony motor versus an electric starter. It’s the rare gathering where the words “My favorite tractor is an M Farmall” would probably lead to bloodshed.

A guy named Bob Tabbert asked me to speak at the meeting of his two-cylinder club. I could tell instantly that he was a machine head, mainly due to the fact that “Tabbert” is suspiciously similar to the word “tappet.”

Several dozen souls attended the meeting of the Siouxland Two-Cylinder Club. As one might imagine, there were a lot of plaid shirts and seed corn caps in the room. A number of ladies were also in attendance, which was a good thing. We all know what a rowdy crowd those antique tractor buffs can be.

It was gratifying to see that there were also some young families at the meeting. We need young people to move the shift lever of enthusiasm and engage the clutch of dedication in order to keep our traditions plowing ahead. Without the sparkplug of youth, our past would soon be as dead as a water-logged magneto.

When our boys were small we exposed them to old-time tractors on a regular basis by taking them to such things as Old Timer’s Days and the threshing jamboree at Prairie Village. Both boys were highly impressed by these prehistoric contraptions, but the biggest impact was on our eldest son, Paul.

In fact, the first time we returned home from a field trip at Prairie Village, Paul proceeded to construct a fully functional miniature steam engine. Sort of. From a certain point of view. Let’s just say that the fulfillment of his dreams was stymied by the limitations of Lego technology.

Speaking of technology, when I was growing up on those old tractors, I was painfully aware of how far behind the times we were. After all, the Space Age was well under way yet there I was, stuck on a machine that was deemed “modern” at the dawn of World War II.

It was like using a hand-cranked, punch-key cash register in this age of computerized laser bar code scanners.

When I was young I heard rumors of this thing called a “tractor cab,” but had never seen one in person. Supposedly, cabs kept the operator out of the dust and the rain and mitigated the effects of cold and heat. My deep-seated fear of being spattered by the shrieking seagulls that wheeled overhead would have been eliminated by one of those mystical cabs.

I was excited as a tomcat at a mouse convention when Dad purchased a John Deere 60. The 60 had live power. And live hydraulics and power steering. Such marvels!

I would have never believed how far tractor technology would advance during my lifetime. Who could have imagined tractors equipped with GPS and auto-steer, along with cabs that swaddle the operator in a cocoon of luxury, give him a bath, a shave and a haircut, and trims his ear hair?

Tractors can now be connected to the Internet, allowing their operators to remain in constant contact with the world. He or she can update their Facebook page – “Joe is chiseling the north 40 and is about to make a turn on the far headland;” – or Twitter, or shop for new shoes, or watch old “Green Acres” reruns.

Like most young people, I couldn’t wait to leave behind the stodgy old stuff of my youth. Like many aging Baby Boomers, I have come to regret my rush to toss out those things. What we once scorned as “junky old junk” is now lauded as “classic” and “the sort of thing Warren Buffet would invest in.”

And had we hung onto those old tractors, I might have been motivated to join a particular type of classic tractor club. The kind of organization where the words “He’s only hitting on two cylinders” would actually be a compliment.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page