Farmall H Found 35 Years Later
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"That was my first job out of high school," he says.
But then 20 years went by while Jon started his own business and family, and he lost track of the tractor. Then, at about the same time in 1982, three things happened: he started collecting antique International Harvester tractors; his father died; and the IHC dealership where he had worked went out of business, and all the records were destroyed.
"By then, I was interested in that H again, but nobody had a clue what had happened to it," he says. "I looked for it off and on many, many times, but couldn't find it. For the next 10 years, I looked for it in earnest. Every time I spotted an H Farmall within a hundred miles of home, I took a second look, without any luck. I thought it was permanently gone."
In 1992, Jon attended the Iowa County Fair in Marengo with his son Jonathan, then 13 years old.
"We'd restored a Cub Cadet tractor together, and we entered that project for him," he says. "The last night of the fair, it started raining, so we took shelter in the 4-H building before we decided to head home. But my wife got to talking to one of her friends, so I was just killing time waiting for her. We were the last three people in the building at about 9 p.m., when I walked over to look at some photos of Farmalls pinned to a wall. They were the blue-ribbon photo entry of five tractors on a mounting about three feet square. Each was an old faded tractor sitting in weeds. I had to move a desk away so I could get closer to the wall to really look at the picture with my bifocals. The photos were rustic photos of some old area tractors taken for a project for the fair."
His eyes were passing over the photos, when suddenly, he caught sight of a lengthened throttle on a Farmall tractor. An H tractor.
"I saw that throttle sticking up, and in a second, I was back on that H," he says. "I saw the throttle, the tires, the seat, and I said, 'Son of a gun, that's dad's tractor!' I couldn't believe it. It was like finding an old friend that you hadn't seen for 35 years."
Jon learned the name of the young photographer, and when Jon found out his dad's old H belonged to the photographer's family, he asked if they were willing to sell the tractor. The photographer's father was gone for a while, but the mother said they never used the tractor anymore, so she figured they might sell it.
"When the husband came home Sunday night, I called him," Jon says. "I told him I knew it was a 1946 Farmall H, and that I would like to have it for my collection. But I didn't tell him how badly I wanted it, or why. He said he wanted $400 to $500 for it, and I said I'd give him $400, and we agreed on that price, and I said I'd be over to pick it up the next day."
The next day Jon went out to the farm, loaded the old H up, and the farmer said to make the check out to his wife. Then, from his truck, Jon retrieved the only remembrance he had kept of that tractor from 35 years earlier: the wooden block his father had made so young Jon could reach the clutch when he was 5 years old.