Collecting the ’55s
By MICHELE LINCK
ORANGE CITY – When choosing tractors, Ron Brink, 71, and Bev Brink, 69, pick only the old red ones – 1955 Farmall tractors.
“They have to be ’55s,” Ron Brink said. In fact, they own four ’55s and need just two more models to complete that year’s collection – a McCormick Farmall LoBoy and LoBoy Cub.
“Fifty-five was the first year Farmall named its tractor models with numbers – 100s, 200s, 300s,” he said.
But, these days, Brink said he spends more time, and many more miles, riding his tractor than he does searching for the two missing models.
This past summer he and Bev “tractored” 842 miles altogether. They drove their personal record, 1,272 miles, in 2011.
Bev Brink said she rides shotgun on a second seat that Ron installed next to the driver’s seat on their biggest tractor, the Farmall 300.
He drives and she takes pictures, hundreds of which they call up on the home computer. The highly organized files identify the day, year and location the ride took place.
While capturing the scenery, she shoots road signs in to identify which route that particular ride
The Brinks said they drove each of the 1,000-plus miles with people in their tractor group , which has no name, collects no dues and won’t call itself a club.
Yet, Ron Brink said, they have become friends with many of the “109 in our loosely-formed group,” whether they drive Farmalls or John Deeres or some other brand of tractor.
“We have a kitty, but we don’t have dues,” he said.
Of course, they all continue to rib each other about their brand choice.
Like faster-moving vehicles, tractors break down on occasion.
“It’s inevitable,” Brink said. He said the tractor ride sponsored by Spencer-based KCID radio has an implement truck following the tractors.
“They either fix them or tow them,” he said.
Tractor ride regulars take turns planning the route for each outing. Until this year, each trip was short enough to be done in a day, he said. “We usually do at least two, two-day trips each year. Several years they took two, three-day trips.”
The routes thread through the countryside, using low-traffic county roads and country back roads.
When their numbers are large – 240 tractors, for instance – they dispatch themselves in groups of 50 or less, which allows faster traffic to get around the tractors safely.
While it’s not a club, some men in the group have become involved in charitable events, Brink said. Sometimes they involve tractors, sometimes not.
This includes the Orange City area food pantry, the Bibles for Missions’ second-hand store, and The Bridge, a residence that help women – some with children – get education, better healthcare and back onto their feet after suffering sort of trauma, and/or homelessness.
On Oct. 25, about 14 of the tractor enthusiasts gathered to drive their tractors to Prairie Ridge Care Center, a nursing home, and the nearby Landsmeer Ridge Retirement Community, in Orange City. Then they drove across town to the Pioneer Memorial Home, also a retirement home.
The group received a couple of thank you notes, but Brink said he especially enjoyed seeing how the tractors brought back a lot of memories for the people in all three places.
Brink said he grew up on three different farms in Sioux County, and graduated from MOC-Floyd Valley High School in Orange City.
He went on to earn his living, first as a mechanic and then as a parts man for an International Harvester dealer.
Later he became a cabinet maker, a business he built and has passed onto his son.
Ron then became a temporary minister for three different congregations, all in Iowa. He retired from that vocation a few years ago.
“I live an interesting life,” he said.
For the past seven years, Brink has organized the early-model tractors that are driven in Orange City’s annual Tulip Festival Parades.
“It used to be a few guys who brought their tractors to the (Orange City Historical) Museum,” he said. “Then it became a trade show. We had our own identity.”
2014’s Tulip Festival drew 80 antique tractors, a record number, nearly all of them from Sioux County, with a few from as far away as Early and Sioux Falls.
“We started out with four or five,” he said. “We try to strictly make it an antique tractor show. And we’ll continue to call it that.
“It seems more and more people show their tractors during Tulip Festival and more ride in the parade, too.”
It helps that he has more than 100 tractor owners on his e-mail list.
“They represent 300 or 400 tractors,” he said. “Some people have more. A guy down the street from me has seven.
“I’ve got four and a pile of stuff,” which includes parts for a 43A John Deere, and a ’41A “war tractor – old, rusty, yellow.”
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