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By Staff | Aug 29, 2014

It’s always interesting to watch an antique tractor ride – not only for the tractors, but for the stories and memories they evoke.

And if you’re lucky enough to watch an antique tractor ride with someone who farmed with those tractors, the event seems to come to life.

Our local FFA chapter sponsors a ride every year around the shores of West Lake Okoboji.

It gives a glimpse of the “other side” to people who may have never known how it feels to climb onto a tractor and start it up, or smell the dirt those tractors wake up each spring.

We watched the event this year with my father-in-law, who farmed with some of those older tractors.

The tractors were as different as those who used them. As they went by, he watched in silent remembrance, and other times, he would share a story.

As one tractor went by he said, “My back hurts just watching that guy ride on that seat.”

When he saw a Case-O-Matic in the line-up, and said he remembered calling that tractor a “Jerk-O-Matic,” since he thought it was hard to put into gear smoothly and gently.

A tractor with an umbrella went by and he remembered a family friend who had upgraded to getting an umbrella on his tractor. It was a big deal back in the day.

“He said he had to put his over coat on because he got cold,” he remembered with a quiet laugh, as he took it all in.

My husband and his father tried to remember when and how the Massey-Harris and Ferguson companies came together as they watched those tractors rumble past.

We tried to discern what kind of tractor went past us once, since there was far more rust on the entire unit than there was paint.

Finally, as the driver went past, we saw a hint of the word “Oliver” on the back of his tractor seat.

Other tractors were shined up with chrome, straight pipes and American flags, and otherwise had their Sunday clothes on, and they ran right alongside those whose tractors wore their work clothes for the day.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey participated and drove such a tractor in this year’s ride. It was cool to see.

I was also struck by the fact that, as we sat and watched those tractors drive by, those driving them were usually the first to wave. But then, that’s the friendly way farmers are.

There were so many things to take in – the people driving the tractors and taking us all down memory lane.

Well, some were taken down memory lane, and some young farmers were proud to drive something their grandfather once used, and others watched and imagined how their grandfather may have used a tractor like that.

There was the sound of the tractors. Some were real putt-putts and others were smooth as butter.

It’s always an exciting time as the ride begins, and the tractors all start up. It’s a sense of pride that I can’t explain, but it’s there, and its’ very real.

There are the families of the ride – farmers of every age, wanna-be farmers, women, and young children who were there grooming their love of the feel and the sound of an old tractor.

For young children it’s great fun; for their families, it’s the future of their farms.

When the ride was over, I was asking my husband’s aunt if she had seen that old, rusty Oliver. She laughed and said it reminded her of a Cherokee County man who drove an old tractor like that in regional rides.

She told me he put a sign on the tractor that read,

“She may not be pretty, but she puts out.”

You gotta love farmers and their sense of humor … and the desire of a father and son to share the experience of a simple tractor ride together.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net and at www.karenschwaller.com.

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