Treasures Preserve Family Heritage

A 1919 Twin City tractor and 1928 Chevy truck are proud survivors for JD Schmidt.

| December 2017


JD at the wheel of his John Deere Model R, presiding as grand marshal over Wagon Mound’s 104th Bean Day Parade.

Photo by Leslie C. McManus

The area surrounding Wagon Mound, New Mexico, about 70 miles south of the Colorado line in northeastern New Mexico, gets less than 20 inches of rainfall a year. Today, no one would consider it farm country. But JD Schmidt recalls a time when a few stubborn, gritty men did.

“I was born in Newton, Kansas,” he says, “but years ago, my dad and my uncle were looking for a place to make a living. They went to the Texas panhandle for a little while, but when I was 3, in 1930, my folks came to Wagon Mound and I’ve been here ever since.”

Among his keepsakes are a 1919 Twin City 12-20 tractor and a 1928 Chevrolet truck that were important parts of his family’s farming operation in those years. And, until about 17 years ago, he still had the Holt combine his dad bought as a young man.

Now 89, JD has clear memories of growing up in rural New Mexico. Just 9 when his dad died, he was raised in part by his uncle, Simon Schmidt, the father of two sons. “Me and my brother and our cousins were raised like four brothers,” he says.

In the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, “people were literally starving out of this country,” JD says. But a decade later, some – Simon among them – persisted in trying to raise wheat near Wagon Mound. Perhaps motivated by the presence of a family-owned Holt combine, Simon did everything he could to eke out a crop.

“This country is not good farming country,” JD says. “The only farming done here now is where streams run out of the mountains and they grow hay.” Seventy-five years ago, Simon attempted to grow summer fallow wheat. “He’d try to use two years’ rain to grow one crop,” JD says. “He wouldn’t graze cattle on that wheat in the winter. His theory was to let the wheat grow as much as it would. If you didn’t and you had a dry winter, when the spring winds came, you’d have a dust storm on your hands. And once that started, you’ve got nothing.”