Old Iron Opens the Door to New Friends

People are at the heart of the old iron hobby, as Josephine Roberts explains.

| December 2016

This hobby of “old iron” (a phrase I’ve stolen from your good selves, I don’t mind admitting) has led me down some interesting paths over the years. A hobby is about so much more than just having a personal interest in something. A hobby becomes the foundation on which we build our friendships and our social life, the importance of which can’t really be underestimated.

It was all because of tractors that I first received an email from Dennis and Debbie Hitchcock. The fact that they lived in the Catskill Mountains in the U.S. caught my eye first. It sounded like a wild sort of place, like my sort of place. Dennis, a tractor enthusiast and semi-retired carpenter, had an impressive range of American tractors: a 1952 Farmall Super M, a 1950 John Deere MT, a 1944 Allis-Chalmers C and a 1964 International Cub Cadet 100 garden tractor.

He’d also just found an old wrecked Ferguson – a 1951 TO-20 – and was about to do it up. Since this was a British machine, he was keen to tell someone British about it. And I was interested to hear about one of our own tractors so far from home. Another noteworthy fact was that this tractor had been in a hurricane and flood, and was in a very sorry state. Dennis had found the Ferguson by chance. A friend asked him if he still liked old tractors, because he had an old wreck of a Fergie sitting around.

Antique tractor pitched by torrent

The tractor had been badly damaged during Hurricane Irene in 2011, when 22 inches of rain fell in a 12-hour period, causing catastrophic flooding.

The Ferguson was located in the worst-hit village in the Catskills. Not only was it immersed in 10 feet of water, it was also damaged by the sheer force of the torrent, as the floodwater had rolled it over several times. Almost every bridge in that area of the Catskills was taken out, many homes were destroyed and several lives were lost.

The owner’s home floated away downstream and was totally destroyed, along with some 40 other homes in the area. The level of devastation was horrifying, and of course the damage to one little old tractor was very insignificant, considering what the region and its inhabitants had been through. So the little old Fergie was understandably low on the owner’s list of priorities. It had quite simply been forgotten, left where the flood had seen fit to deposit it, and hadn’t been looked at since.