Between the Bookends

Wrap Up Some Old Iron Treats this Holiday Season

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'Tis (almost) the season to be jolly. Whether you're looking to expand your library, or considering gift ideas for the vintage iron enthusiast on your list, check out these options:

A stocking stuffer it's not: Weighing in somewhere over 6 pounds, Farmall: Eight Decades of Innovation by Randy Leffingwell would pull the mantle right off the wall. But if you're looking to settle in for a long winter's night with a beautifully photographed, carefully researched tractor book, this one should be at the top of your list.

The story of "the big red tractor" began well before the color red became linked to the Farmall name. Leffingwell starts his tale with the 1902 McCormick-Deering merger and is off and running through years of an uneasy marriage of two organizations, technological advances and early marketing wizardry. Indeed, the influence of internal sales and marketing forces on Farmall's fortunes will likely surprise you.

Historical context is nicely woven into the tale (Did you know the U.S. Department of Agriculture was created by Abraham Lincoln?), and Leffingwell does a superb job of lending meaning to facts and figures by providing contemporary equivalents.

From the days when Farmall went head to head with Henry Ford, to the era when it was swallowed by a competitor, to 2004, when Case New Holland agricultural operations reintroduced the Farmall name, Leffingwell weaves a complex story of agricultural manufacturing in a golden age. A solid addition to your library.

Farmall: Eight Decades of Innovation, by Randy Leffingwell, published by MBI; ISBN 978-0-7603-2136-2; hard cover, 352 pages with black-and-white and color photographs. $50. Available through Farm Collector Books, see pages 48-49 for ordering information.

Thinking about restoring a tractor, but have no experience in that area? Forget those scientific-sounding manuals … turn to Roger Welsch, who might just as well be the guy next door. In his latest release, From Tinkering to Torquing: A Beginner's Guide to Tractors and Tools, Welsch demonstrates he is more than just another pretty face in the vintage iron community. Perhaps best known for his humorous takes on the antique iron hobby, Welsch lays out the nuts and bolts of tractor restoration in this new release with a humility rarely seen in "how to" manuals.

As Dave Mowitz, editor at Successful Farming magazine notes in his foreword to Welsch's book, "almost anyone with the knowledge can give clear verbal directions on how, for example, to adjust a carburetor. But will the directions from an expert be clear enough for the beginner to understand? And interesting enough to listen to?"

Welsch scores on both points. On starting a tractor with a compression relief valve, for instance: "Every time I start Linda's John Deere B with the compression relief valves open, raw gas is blown up my sleeve. If you can tell an Allis-Chalmers WC man by the way he holds a book he is reading off to his left, you can spot a John Deere B man because his left arm or leg always reeks of gasoline. Who thought this system up, anyway?"

Frustrated by a project? Let Welsch remind you of why you're a rusty iron fan: for the fun of it.

From Tinkering to Torquing: A Beginner's Guide to Tractors and Tools, by Roger Welsch, published by MBI; ISBN 978-0-7603-2082-2; hard cover, 224 pages. $21.95. Available through Farm Collector Books, see pages 48-49 for ordering information.

In the depths of winter, a good video is as close as you're likely to get to a tractor show. A pair produced by Iron Classics will transport you in a heartbeat to two American classics: The Midwest Old Threshers Reunion at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and the Rough and Tumble Engineers Reunion at Kinzers, Pa.

The Mt. Pleasant video concentrates heavily on the tractor parade (which also includes classic automobiles), with brief detours to the MOTR railroad, horse parade and tractor pull. The Rough and Tumble counterpart is more diverse, with in-depth coverage of Waterloo Boy, Cockshutt and Silver King tractors, as well as a threshing demonstration, incredible scale models of vintage farm equipment, the Shay railroad, antique fire engines and an onsite stationary steam exhibit.

Both shows are giants in the world of antique farm equipment, and you'd need a 10-video set to capture the essence of either. Iron Classics has done a super job of skimming the surface.

America's Tractor Show Classics: Midwest Threshers 50th Reunion at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, produced by Iron Classics™; America's Tractor Show Classics: 55th Annual Reunion, Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association, Kinzers, Pa., produced by Iron Classics™; available on VHS video and DVD; to order, call toll free (888) 560-9980 or shop online at www.IronClassics.com