Our 1954 Ford 600 tractor at the build site for our cabin. Photo by Fala Burnette
My first memory of an older tractor was the discolored, rusty Ford that continued to serve its purpose on my Grandmother's farm. It was by no means the piece of fine restoration you'd see parked in a line at the local tractor club show. This tractor wasn't pretty on the outside, but the true beauty of it was shown through its continual hard work in keeping the garden tilled and firewood hauled from the back woods. In later years, it became replaced by a brand new tractor, but continued to give rides around the farm to all the grandchildren.
To read the stories of those who have restored antique tractors sometimes deeply touches the heart. A once parked, rusted form has new life breathed into it in memory of someone who has passed away. Sometimes, they're even given a new coat of paint that pays tribute to our military, or shows support for cancer awareness. These tractors then remain a part of the continued story of an individual or family, by representing what is important to them. However, as I've mentioned, the beauty of a tractor doesn't have to lie in show quality. Like that rusted Ford I knew as a kid, sometimes the real value comes in their continued use and practicality.
Take time to reflect on someone you may know that has a tractor dating from the 1960s and back. Can you name someone who has one, and if so, what do they use it for? Parades and shows actually serve as valuable tools in educating younger generations (and exchanging information with other antique tractor enthusiasts to share tips and talk shop). For those who still have their tractors working hard, think about the jobs they do and the purpose they serve around the farm.
On a personal level, our family has become deeply attached to a 1954 Ford 600 that we bought after we were married. We invested money left over from selling my truck, and my husband then started helping Mr. Scott Railey build up the floor of his corn crib in the homesteader's handshake that was a fair trade of work for the rest. Scott had restored this tractor himself, and used it to spread fertilizer and plant seed for his wildlife plot. The old Ford, fondly named "Moose" by previous owners (which we kept, and still call it) was brought home to continue working hard.
It was then that our tractor earned the right to be "priceless" by becoming such an invaluable part of our homestead. Its very first job was to haul logs to the sawmill to cut wall boards for the growing corn crib of Mr. Railey. In time, we began building a cabin ourselves with rough cut lumber. We used that tractor to haul every single log to the mill, and the respective boards back to the build site. Over the years, we have used it to plow and till our garden as well. If that wasn't enough to call the tractor priceless, we lost our cabin in early 2018 to an accidental house fire. Ready to get back to work, Moose began yet again dragging logs to the site for an actual log cabin to be built, and was used to maneuver the logs into place before being rolled up.
This 64 year old tractor has been used for farming from the very start, and serves its purpose mainly for logging today. To label it "practical" would be an understatement almost for me, because it has been one of the most important additions to our home. For so many people like us, these antique tractors tell a story of farming and family back to their first days.
In a time where television ads for the newest tractor are common, never overlook the capability of older tractors when considering a future purchase. By checking in your local sale papers, or having a look at internet classifieds, you may be able to find an individual looking to part with their antique. Don't be afraid of a tractor that needs some work, as there are many different stores online that you can order replacement parts from and have shipped to your door. Maybe you will become inspired to set aside time here and there to restore one that has been in your family. Either way, I hope you will consider making new memories with an old tractor.
Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They are currently building their own log cabin and milling their own lumber, along with raising heirloom crops in the Spring and tanning furs during the Winter. Read all of Fala's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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