Vintage garden tractors are his game and 'One-Wheel Bill' is his name.
One-Wheel Bill, aka Bill Huff of Sun City West, Ariz., is a retired Los Angeles city firefighter and now a collector of engine-in-wheel garden tractors and hand-powered garden equipment 'with at least one wheel.' This summer, he embarked on a cross-country shopping spree in a modest RV with a tag-a-long trailer, and he netted a heavy load.
'It was a fun trip,' he said during a brief stopover at Farm Collector offices in Topeka, Kan. (Bill's also a FC sales agent in the field). 'I've been planning this for two years.'
He says he started collecting Antique garden tractors and other garden equipment about three years ago. 'All the truck gardens had these garden plows: the strawberry and flower growers, and orchards too,' he says. 'Now that the price of big tractors is so far out of sight, the old garden tractors are really coming into being.'
In most cases, when they were first introduced, these machines individually replaced many hours of hand labor, and often one horse, he says, adding that beginning in the late 1940s, manufacturers began to make garden equipment more cheaply, so it didn't last as long. As a consequence, the older equipment, like Bill's, often has endured while the '50s-era models have not.
On the lookout for the earliest offerings of such brands as Unitractors, Suburbanites and Kinkades, Bill left home and hearth, and his wife, Lynda, on April 18, and headed west. First stop was the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America's Southwest Spring Show, held in conjunction with the 10th annual California Antique Farm Equipment Show on April 20 and 21 in Tulare.
It was a lucky pick; Bill met 87 other garden tractor owners and laid out his first funds - for a 1930s Kinkade.
Next, he headed east for a sentimental visit to the town where he grew up, Hobert, Okla., where coincidentally, the Great Plains Antique Tractor Club Show was under way April 26 and 27. In Hobert, Bill says, he also had his biggest surprise of the trip: he reconnected with three school chums and learned they all were into antique tractors and engines too.
Not able to linger, he motored on northeast to Jerseyville, Ill., for the Tri-County Antique Club's Spring Gas-Up and Swap Meet on May 4 and 5. Here, Bill turned up a hand-powered Planet Jr. planter and two hand-powered cultivators. Next on his itinerary was the Tractor and Engine Swap Meet May 10 and 11 at Adkinson, Ill., where he bought two small tractors to resell later.
Then it was on to the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Association's 19th annual Swap and Sell May 16 to 19 in Portland, Ind. Despite the rain and the mud, he sniffed out the top prize of the trip, the tractor he had searched three years to find. It is a well-kept 1941 Unitractor engine-in-wheel tractor and it completes Bill's collection of that brand. These machines debuted in 1939 and were manufactured by R.D. Eaglesfield in Indianapolis.