Red-Hot Action on the High Plains

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Some tractor collectors are specialists, coolly focused on a narrow segment of the hobby. Others like everything they see, no matter what model or manufacturer. Red Gaede was a blend of those two: He never saw a rare tractor he didn't like.

Tractors from the Gaede collection scattered across the country following an estate auction held in July in the eastern Colorado town of Limon. The parade of wannabe buyers arriving at the sale with empty trailers was as steady as the line of grain trucks at the co-op during harvest. Tractor pilgrims came too, happy just to see a collection like Red's.

'It's the chance of a lifetime to see this many rare tractors at one place,' Auctioneer Dennis Polk says. 'It's just unheard of.'

Gaede began collecting tractors just 15 years ago. When he started, his daughter, Beth Gaede, recalls, Red was interested in the tractors he'd used as a youth. 'At the beginning, it was all common tractors,' she says. 'But he was the kind of guy who had to be the best at the game, so before long he was into rare and unusual tractors, and high-crops. He loved his high-crops and his Lindemans.'

The lengthy sale bill listed several rare tractors. '1 of 27,' '1 of 6,' '1 of 2.' 'When I say 'sold',' Polk cajoled the crowd on auction day, 'where are you going to find another one?' Gaede always focused on the rare ones. 'If he thought a piece was undervalued, he would go for it,' Beth remembers. 'Sometimes, if it was a John Deere and he really wanted it, he would pay more for it. But he really wanted the unique pieces.'

Gaede treated his hobby like a business. 'He kept very detailed records on his collection, and he studied the manuals and books for hours,' Beth says. 'He networked with collectors all over the nation to learn more about (the hobby). He also viewed the collection as an investment.'

Although he had some 100 tractors parked along a fence at his farm, residents of nearby Limon (pop. 1,831) had little idea of the collection's significance, Gaede's other daughter, Deb Pieper, says. 'He wasn't one to brag about it,' she adds. 'He never talked about what he had.' Neither did he display tractors at shows or attend auctions.

'He was unique; as unique as his tractors,' Beth says. 'He wanted things fair. He'd tell you 'Black is black and white is white' ... If Red Gaede said he would do something, he did it. And he expected that of other people.'

A native of Muleshoe, Texas, Gaede followed his family to Colorado in the mid-1940s. For decades, he raised dryland wheat, millet and corn there. Last fall, at age 68 and in declining health, he planted wheat. In July, his son, Andy Gaede, and two daughters scrambled to ride herd over an auction and Gaede's final harvest. The air on sale day was thick with dust - and nostalgia.

'Collecting was Dad's passion,' Deb says. 'He had fun with it... He would just glow when he talked about it. He got so much satisfaction from it.'

'And as a collector,' Beth adds, 'he was just picking up steam. Somebody here told us Red Gaede cut one of the widest swaths in the tractor world.' FC

- This article first appeared in John Deere TRADITION.