A Vintage Tractor Ride in the Valley

First-ever vintage tractor Ride in the Valley gives new Idaho club a boost.

| September 2006

Tractor rides have fast become a popular activity for vintage iron enthusiasts coast to coast. Whether it's a cross-state ride with hundreds of entrants, a one-day club outing or an event designed as a local charity fundraiser, the concept has won quick approval as a good way to have fun with antique tractors. Here, one Idaho enthusiast shares his experience.

Members of the Panhandle Antique Tractor and Engine Club in north Idaho held their first-ever "Ride in the Valley" on April 23. After nearly a month of daily spring rains, the clouds cleared and sunlight spread across the region as club members drove some 25 vintage farm tractors down rural roads in Bonner County.

Bonner County reaches across the entire width of Idaho's panhandle between the neighboring states of Montana and Washington. Today, forest-land, small farms with hayfields and pastures for horses and cattle, and numerous home sites dot the valley floor.

The area's geological landscape was formed during the ice age some 12,000 years ago, when giant floodwaters spilled out of mountain gorges to the east. The result is a bowl-shaped valley approximately 10 miles wide and 15 miles long.

Selle Valley, located just north of county seat Sandpoint, Idaho (population 6,000), is named for a pioneer settler. The valley is bordered by two towering, tree-covered mountain ranges with peaks extending as high as 7,000 feet. To the west are the Selkirk Mountains, home to a wide array of wildlife, including grizzly bears and one of the few remaining herds of woodland caribou in the continental U.S. The Cabinet Mountains surround the valley to the north and east. The dominant feature on the southern exposure is Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced Ponderay), Idaho's largest lake. At 1,200 feet deep, it is also one of the deepest lakes in the nation.

Accompanied by about 40 members and friends, some riding on hay wagons and others following the convoy in cars and trucks, the tractor drivers proudly paraded through Selle Valley. Lee Burnett, club president, drove a Farmall Model H he restored. He got the tractor from his father, who retired from farming at age 85. His father told him he could have the Farmall if he would rebuild it. An experienced restorer, Lee took him up on the offer. Driving the restored family tractor was like icing on the cake for Lee, who says the ride is sure to become an annual event. "Because our first ride was a great success," he says, "we'll probably have another one next year."