One Step at a Time

Walk-behind implements have special appeal for Indiana collector

| March 2006

There are as many reasons for collecting agricultural artifacts as there are people who collect them. Arguably, most collectors accumulate things that they had some personal, often fondly remembered, experiences with, or that remind them of the lighter times of their youth. However, Herb Kroger, an eclectic collector from Deputy, Ind., also finds certain items appeal because he was physically unable to use them.

"The walking cultivators and implements were always interesting to me," Herb explains with a twinkle in his eye. "My legs were never strong enough (for me) to use any of them, so naturally they were attractive." At a young age, Herb was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a neurological condition that takes on many forms. One of its noteworthy characteristics is a gradual weakening of muscles, which in Herb's case centered in his legs. Today, Herb's legs often require a great deal of concentration and effort to move, and though he hasn't let the condition hold him back, he has had to adapt.

"I've lost some mobility and a lot of leg strength over the years," Herb explains, pointing out hand levers he installed on some of his tractors so that he can use his arms to control the clutches. "I like to modify and fabricate things anyway, so it (the MS) hasn't really been that bad." Herb is also quick to point out he's never limited his collection to walking tools. "I collect anything that is interesting." Today, Herb's interested in tractors, machinery, hand tools, literature, packaging and just about anything that has to do with the International Harvester Co. "There isn't much he won't drag home," says Herb's wife, Carla, with a laugh. "He has a few buildings in town that are completely full too."

A retired farmer, IH parts man and salesman, tractor repair shop owner and construction company equipment dispatcher, Herb's work experiences have been varied. Now retired, he devotes a good deal of his strength to his collections each day. "Some days I wonder how I will ever get to all of the projects I have in mind," Herb says, sitting on a stool behind a counter in his workshop that looks remarkably like the parts counter in an old IH dealership. "One thing is for sure though: I have to take it one day at a time."

Tools to walk behind

Although walk-behind implements don't necessarily anchor Herb's collections, they are among some of his most prized possessions. "I am partial to Planet Jr. garden machines," Herb explains while leafing through one of his mint condition Planet Jr. catalogs. "It is nice to find the paper that goes with the product." Herb has a broad collection of Planet Jr. items, including a U.S. Ski Team Flexible Flier Sled, several original condition Model 300 seeders and a near-mint condition Model 300 wooden shipping box. "The planter, box and catalog make a nice display," he adds.

Herb has other Planet Jr. garden planters, including an interesting model that uses a green glass Ball jar as a seed hopper. This model is known as the Jiffy Seeder, and the planting components can be removed to convert it into a cultivator called the Jiffy Hoe. Herb's Jiffy Seeder is complete and in original condition with an intact glass jar that can still be easily removed. With just a very little tweaking, the garden tool would be ready to go back to work, but in Herb's hands it likely never will.