First Things


| July 2003



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Jason B. Harmon

Like the bones of ancient beasts, they lurk on farms and fields across America. There they sit, patiently waiting to be rediscovered, rescued from the ravages of rust and time and restored to their once pristine perfection. No, they aren't dinosaurs or other mysterious creatures sought by museums, but nearly forgotten tractors and farm implements.

Since I took the driver's seat here at Farm Collector, I've become obsessed with identifying those old-iron hulks as I drive through the countryside. In fact, I see them everywhere: radiators peeking through the briar patch, or forlornly parked under a headless windmill tower, even hidden in a grove of trees. With rotted rubber wheels, decayed by the sun and weather, or with iron lugs rusted red, the machines sit as if put out to pasture by farmers. Perhaps the equipment was no longer usable, or the farm folded like so many did in the 20th century.

That permanently parked old iron comes in all makes and models, from Farmall to Cockshutt, John Deere to Massey-Harris, but it's not always easy to tell what variety they are while whizzing down the highway at 60 miles an hour. Yet, that's just what makes it so much fun.

Call it tractor spotting: The art of determining the exact make and model of each machine as one flies down the road. Was that a John Deere D or an old McCormick-Deering on iron wheels? Or maybe the familiar form of a Ford 8N or a once-beloved Farmall Cub.

Some tractors are definitely easier to recognize than others, even for a novice like me. Even so, it's the mystery that makes me keep one eye on the road and one eye scanning pastures and hedgerows for lost iron.

To share that sense of excitement with our readers, we've crafted a fun feature that will appear in our August issue, which will test the skills of tractor spotters everywhere. We'll provide silhouettes of well-known tractors and let readers guess the make and model of each image. The answers will be published in the September issue. Until then, keep those eyes peeled for old iron lost among the tall grass and trees, and keep reading Farm Collector!