Melvin and Annette Warren, Weldon, Iowa, have more in common than a last name and an interest in quarter horses. For several years, they were a husband-and-wife truck-driving team, and during cross-country trips, they looked for antique tractors, another common interest.
Melvin has been an over-the-road trucker for 28 years, and Annette took up the profession 20 years ago when she married Melvin. Annette now trucks only occasionally, because she is devoting more time to the family cow-calf operation.
Both Melvin and Annette grew up on farms, and they started their tractor collection soon after they married.
"When cast iron got high-priced in the late seventies, my dad hated to see tractors like that get junked," Melvin said. "There was a salvage yard just up the road from us, and he bought a (John Deere) B from them. I helped him restore that, and it snowballed from there."
Now, Melvin and Annette own 100 two-cylinder tractors, although not all have been restored. Annette keeps a computerized list of their tractors, where and when they were obtained, and their serial numbers. Eventually, she would like to use the serial numbers to learn where each tractor was produced and where it was shipped when it left the factory.
Trucking has given the couple an opportunity to ask if there are any old tractors just sitting around that can be purchased and added to their collection.
The Warrens located their most fantastic find while driving through Nebraska in the mid-1980s. They stopped at a John Deere dealership in Bartley in search of parts for an old tractor. The parts man mentioned that a man named Lloyd, whom Melvin had met a year earlier, owned an unused 1954 John Deere 60 two-cylinder tractor.
The Warrens went to see Lloyd, and asked to see the tractor. "He said, 'I don't show it to too many people,'" Melvin recalled. But Lloyd liked the Martins, showed them the tractor and told them its story.
Lloyd had purchased the 1954 tractor brand new in 1957 after it sat on the dealer's lot for quite some time. It had come to the dealership with a wide front end, but the dealer had changed it to a narrow front.
Lloyd drove his trade-in to the dealership, and planned to drive his new tractor home. But the batteries in the JD 60 wouldn't take a charge, and the dealer refused to provide the two new batteries needed.
Lloyd borrowed two batteries from the service station across the street, drove the tractor the five or six miles to his farm, and parked it in the shed. Blaming John Deere instead of the dealer for his problem, he returned the batteries to the service station the next morning and vowed the tractor would sit in the shed until Deere bought him new batteries.
The tractor remained parked for three decades.
"It was incredible that somebody had kept it in that kind of condition all those years," Melvin said. "When most farmers buy a tractor, they have to use it."
By the time the Warrens located the tractor, a tree had grown up so close to the front of the storage shed that the door could only be cracked open. When the couple peered inside, they saw the tractor with the wheels still in transport position.
Melvin told Lloyd that if the tractor was ever for sale, he would like a chance to buy it. At that time, Lloyd wasn't ready to sell. Although Melvin never mentioned buying the tractor from Lloyd again, he stopped at the farm occasionally. When the roof on the shed housing the tractor deteriorated, Melvin brought out a sheet of plastic and asked Lloyd to cover the tractor. Lloyd put the plastic over his woodpile instead.
In 1985, Lloyd called the Warrens and said he had decided to sell the tractor. Although a buyer from Washington had made an offer, Lloyd gave the Warrens the first opportunity to buy it.
They soon agreed on the sale price, and Lloyd told them to pay when they picked up the tractor.
Unfortunately, in December 1985, the Warrens were involved in an automobile accident. Almost two years passed before they were able to get the tractor. During that time, Lloyd told them not to worry about paying for the tractor until they were ready to take it home.
Finally, in September 1987, the Warrens arrived at Lloyd's to liberate the John Deere 60. They spent five hours cutting down trees and moving trucks, railroad ties and scrap iron to clear a path to the shed.
"It was like it was in the middle of a junkyard," Melvin said.
Using an old truck, a log chain and a come-along, they pulled the tractor from the shed, then used a John Deere B to pull the tractor down the path. The rescue operation took an entire day.
The tractor needed air only in the front tires; it had plenty in the rear tires. It still had green paint on the exhaust system, stickers on the tires, and a tag on the carburetor stating that it had been shipped containing regular water.
Once the Warrens reached home, they washed and waxed the tractor, but that was all. It has a few marks caused by weathering after the shed roof deteriorated, but otherwise is in excellent condition.
"We've never tried starting it," Melvin said. "We don't plan to. We've got plenty of other tractors to listen to run. This is the only two-cylinder John Deere in the world in new condition. It's in shipping condition, the way it rolled off the assembly line."
After Lloyd died, Melvin attended his estate sale and bought the JD 44A and the JD 51A that Lloyd had also owned and used. The 44A is a little faded, but in original condition.
"We've run it, and it runs like a new tractor," Melvin said.
But the JD 60 still has the most unusual story. And unless there's another new tractor hidden in a shed somewhere, Melvin said, "at this point, it is the only new two-cylinder tractor in existence." FC
For more information: Melvin and Annette Warren, RR 2, Box 29, Weldon, IA 50264-9S15.
Dianne Beetler is a lifelong rural resident who enjoys writing about people with unusual collections.