An Old Iron Legacy of Plowing

Inheritance put retiree back on a tractor, plowing with vintage equipment.

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courtesy by Dwight Anderson
Farmers sometimes allow plow enthusiasts to hold plow days at their land. The fields get plowed, and the enthusiasts get a chance to really work their equipment.

The last thing Dwight Anderson expected to be doing in retirement was plowing with a tractor. However, when he inherited his father’s 1946 Farmall H in 1981, one thing led to another. Today, Dwight (who lives in Omaha) has gathered up nine antique tractors and six plows and he’s not finished yet: He’s keeping an eye out for at least one more plow.

He joined the Elkhorn Valley Antique Power Association (EVAPA), which put him in contact with other local tractor collectors. A friend from that club contacted him about his father’s International Harvester Co. #8 Little Genius 2-bottom, 14-inch plow. “He was trying to clean up his parents’ acreage and told me to come and get it,” Dwight recalls. “He wanted $25 for it.”

When Dwight arrived, his friend had also turned up a 3-bottom Little Genius that he wanted him to take. “I wasn’t really interested in the second plow, but the price was right, and I was happy to help him out,” Dwight says. “On my way home I stopped for gas. At the station, a couple guys stopped to check out what was loaded on my trailer.”

The men made an offer for the 3-bottom plow, but Dwight had already made up his mind to keep it. “That experience got me started collecting plows,” he says. “I still have both of those plows.”

Pairing plows with tractors

As Dwight added tractors to his collection, he made an effort to find a plow suitable for each one. His current collection includes: a 1946 Farmall and Little Genius 2-bottom, 14-inch plow; a 1954 Farmall SMTA with a 3-bottom, 14-inch IHC No. 60 plow; a 1953 Farmall Super H and two 1939 F-20’s with two Little Genius 2-bottom, 14-inch plows that fit these tractors; a 1935 John Deere A with a 2-bottom, 14-inch John Deere #52 plow; a 1951 John Deere B with a John Deere #44 2-bottom, 14-inch plow; and a 1978 Cub Cadet with a 10-inch Brinly plow (1×10).

Dwight bought his second IHC Little Genius plow from a farmer near Lindsey, Nebraska. “It came with two new OEM plowshares as a bonus,” he says. The seller recalled using it with a Farmall Super H and plowing about 10 acres per day to work 200 acres overall.

The 1935 John Deere A belonged to Dwight’s uncle, who purchased it at a farm sale near Odebolt, Iowa. “I purchased this tractor after my uncle passed away,” Dwight says. “He hadn’t used it for at least 40 years. Once I got it running, I took it to the show at Albert City, Iowa. I let his son (my cousin) know I would have it at the show. He told me he would like to start the tractor one more time with the flywheel.”

At the show, Dwight’s cousin started the tractor and both men took turns plowing with it. “It was a great feeling, watching my cousin plow with his dad’s tractor after all the years the tractor sat idle,” Dwight says. “I love the sound of the A when it’s plowing.”

Dwight doesn’t actively seek tractors to add to his collection. However, he has a hard time passing up those that have a sentimental connection to what he already owns. “About five years ago, I purchased a 1977 IHC 986 that my dad once owned,” Anderson says. “I’d like to find a plow for that tractor now.”

Plowing “is like therapy for me”

As a kid, Dwight never used a plow, so he’s relied on other EVAPA club member to help learn how to set plows and use them effectively. A well-adjusted plow will have lighter draft, wear less on plow parts and make the tractor easier to operate. While weather conditions can affect plowing results, too, poor adjustment is typically the source of badly plowed soil.

“On our farm at Boone, Iowa, we do minimum tillage, so I mainly plow at organized plow days in Nebraska or Iowa,” Dwight says. “EVAPA has hosted several plowing events. It’s like therapy for me, and it seems my tractor always runs well after being used on a plow day. We don’t work this old iron the way we should.”

Some tractor shows today limit the amount of plowing collectors can do. With modern farmers moving away from plowing more and more, there are fewer locations where collectors like Dwight can use their vintage plows.

The Albert City Threshermen & Collectors Show is one of Dwight’s favorite places to put his implements to work. There, he also takes time to observe other enthusiasts as they plow. “I love the sound of the tractor and plow,” he says. “It’s enjoyable to see them in action.”

Events bring the past to life

Several years ago, Dwight organized a plow day south of Gretna, Nebraska, to help a farmer there work four large fields. “On a beautiful day, 14 of us plowed as much as we could,” he says. “But we didn’t quite finish all the fields. One of our club members, Jim Ryan, had wrestled a Minneapolis-Moline Wheatland-style tractor all day with a 3-bottom plow. The tractor didn’t have power steering and he was physically shot. But all of us appreciated having plenty of ground to plow.”

After each plowing session, Dwight applies axle grease or plowshare paint to his moldboards, something he remembers watching his father do. “No matter what the weather forecast was, my dad always applied axle grease to his moldboards at the end of the day,” Dwight says. “I still think about my dad each time I apply grease to my scoured moldboards.”

With each passing year, Dwight and those who enjoy plowing with tractors have a tougher time finding farmers who gained plowing experience by working on their own farms. “Before Steve Lincoln passed away, he organized some huge plow days for our club,” Dwight says. “He always expected those who showed up for the event to work hard and get the job done. Typically, the farmer who owned the land filled our gas tanks for the day. The rest of our reward was simply the fun we had doing it.”

Dave had 25 or 30 antique plows he worked with and his enthusiasm for organizing plowing events sparked excitement for everyone else who took part. Some of the events spanned two days.

“My best Black Friday ever”

When Dwight says he enjoys plowing, it’s no offhand comment. One of his favorite plowing stories took place on Black Friday.

“After I purchased my John Deere #44 plow, I needed a good plowshare,” he says. “That Black Friday, when the rest of my family went shopping, I drove to a local scrap dealer and started going through a pile of well-used plowshares.” He had to sort through the entire pile to find the new John Deere plowshare that was laying at the bottom.

“It was my best Black Friday ever,” he says.

Dwight has no big plans to expand his collection. But he doesn’t plan to give any of it up anytime soon, either. “I would like to have a Farmall Super 8,” he says. “If I could find one in decent condition, I would consider adding it to my collection. I’m careful about acquiring too many tractors. It takes time to maintain them and I don’t have the resources to hire help.

“I’ve slowed down on tractor-related activities in recent years,” he admits. “But I plan to keep doing what I can. Sentimental connections are a big part of it. Like the rest of our club members, I’d love to see young people get involved in this, taking an interest in this antique equipment and learning how to use it.” FC

For more information: Dwight Anderson, ddanderson73@yahoo.com.


Loretta Sorensen is a lifelong resident of southeast South Dakota. She and her husband farm with Belgian draft horses and collect vintage farm equipment. Email her at sorensenlms@gmail.com.

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