My wife's grandfather bought a new John Deere A tractor in 1951. We still have that tractor and it runs well. I've always loved those old "two-lungers." In fact, I 'cut my teeth' on my grandfather's 1939 John Deere B mowing pastures with a sickle mower.
My son and his family recently attended a parade as part of steam engine days in Mabel, Minn. "A straight hour of old tractors going by! Papa would have loved it! I took some pictures just to make him jealous," he wrote in an email. He's right. I would have enjoyed the parade of old tractors.
The fact that it lasted a whole hour suggests that interest in restoring and watching antique tractors has not waned. Actually, the opposite is true.
Norm Barker, a retired Le Mars, Iowa, farmer has an even better story. He recently told me about the auction of more than 100 restored John Deere tractors in August that brought buyers from all across the country and even Canada. 'Cars and trucks with trailers were lined up a mile in each direction from the farmstead – on both sides of the gravel road," said Barker. "I saw license plates from all over the Midwest, as far away as Indiana."
The family of the late David Hawkins held the auction of his collection, which he started in the 1970s. Hawkins, who had a passion for collecting antique tractors and farm implements passed away in 2011 at age 73. He began his collection decades ago with his father's 1929 Model D John Deere. That one wasn't sold at the auction.
More than a thousand folks strolled up and down rows of green and yellow tractors, field equipment, riding lawn mowers and bikes. The "youngest" tractor in the collection was a 1970 model. Highest price paid was $20,000 for a 1958 John Deere 730 diesel.
For years the Hawkins family held an open house around the July 4th weekend to allow the public the opportunity to view the collection.
No doubt , this last "open house"was hard on David's wife Judy and the rest of the family . But more than likely David would be happy to know the 'ageless iron' was going to farmers and collectors to complete their collections.
I guess I'll hang on to my wife's grandfather's 1951 A. Maybe my grandsons will learn to drive it someday. Who knows, maybe they will want to tear it down and restore it to like-new condition? Right now, it's pretty much in its "working clothes."