John Deere Tractors Abound in Minnesota

Collector has a long line of John Deere tractors

| September/October 1984

Have you ever visited a farm where the predominant colors are green and yellow?

Have you ever met a guy whose tractors outnumber the number of years he’s lived?

Well, I’d like to introduce Jim Birk from Hutchinson, Minn. What can put an ear-to-ear smile on his face? You guessed it: a John Deere tractor. Does he have a favorite? He can’t decide between an “A” and a “D.”

At age 21, he already owns 24 John Deeres. Adding a Waterloo Boy is his immediate goal. Someday owning a complete type-set collection (having two identical tractors, one on rubber, one on steel) is his long-term goal.

Intrigued at a young age

Planting the seed of Jim’s love of JDs was his father, Eugene. One day on the way home from town, 8-year-old Jim spotted a neighbor boy riding a mini-bike. Naturally, Jim begged for one. Because Eugene hated cycles and loved tractors, he rather hurriedly spent $100 for Jim’s first tractor, a 1937 model “B” JD on factory rubber. For days, Jim proudly drove it up and down the road ditches. Then he spent $10 of his own hard-earned money for paint and painted it himself. Needless to say, the seed had sprouted and would grow rapidly.

After Jim had three tractors, Dad said, “No more!” Combined with his, they had no more shed space. Luckily, Grandma came to the rescue. She inspired a new 36-by-72-foot Lester shed that today is filled with sparkling JDs.

Money well spent

When Jim was 11, his family began bringing him and his tractors to the Scott-Carver Steam & Gas Engine Festival in Jordan, Minn. He’s never missed a year since, sometimes exhibiting as many as eight tractors. In the daily parade, he gets kidded by parade announcer Ken Scott about his “long green line.”

Playing favorites, Jim has brought his favorite “D” JD to the Scott-Carver Festival for the last seven years. When he was about 9, he was at an auction with his dad; there he spotted that “D.” As the bidding progressed, he kept tugging at his dad’s sleeve, urging him to buy it. Finally, the tears rolled down Jim’s cheeks. Eugene bid $340, the final bid!

Another time his dad paid $125 for a 1934 model “A” on steel and kept saying, “You know, that’s way too much money for that tractor.” That $125 came back to Jim when he won first place with that “A” at the Minnesota State Plowing Contest in September 1982, and placed seventh in nationals, which qualified him to go to the world plowing contest. (He didn’t go because it was being held in York, Pa., a bit far from Hutchinson, Minn.)

Bought unseen

The lengths to which Jim will go to bring home a JD “D” are illustrated in the story he tells of buying a 1939 “D” over the phone:

“I bought it over the phone because the man told me it had excellent sheet metal. He said the grill and motor were perfect. So one winter day, I went up to Fargo, only to find it frozen in a lake. It was over the front wheels in ice. The man had a 4440 JD with a loader. It took hours to chop the ‘D’ out of the ice. After we finally made the hole big enough to get a chain around the one axle, we lifted up on one corner at a time; the front wheels of that 4440 actually squatted down.