Cockshutt Tractors Key to Woman’s Heart

A passion for restoring Cockshutt tractors sets Molly Bradley apart

| December 2010

When Molly Bradley was 6 months old, she began attending tractor shows with her grandmother, Kay Norheim, and Merle Nordeen. To young Molly, Merle became “Merz,” and together they attended six tractor shows a year until his death in 2009 – so it’s no surprise that the 19-year-old’s favorite hobby is old iron. Cockshutt tractors, in particular. 

In fact, to show the world her love of Cockshutt tractors, Molly had her high school graduation pictures taken with her 1952 Cockshutt 20. “The photographer was confused as to why I was taking my pictures with my tractor,” she says. “For senior pictures we were told to put what you liked most in the picture with you. Some people put in basketballs, footballs or musical instruments. I put in the Cockshutt 20.

“When I was 3 years old,” Molly recalls, “Merz taught me to steer his Cockshutt 20 and Cockshutt Golden Arrow and ride with him during parades. It was fun for me then and it still is now, so I’m really excited for tractor shows when that time of year comes around.”

Cockshutt all the way

Merle used a Cockshutt 30 on his farm, but after he sold the tractor, he must have regretted it – because six years later, when he spotted a Cockshutt at a threshing show, he decided he wanted to start collecting. Soon after, he heard of a pair of Cockshutt 20 tractors for sale at an auction and bought both of them. “That was the start of his Cockshutt fever,” Molly says. “Once you have one, you need more.”

Eventually his collection included 14 Cockshutt tractors: two Model 20’s, five Model 30’s, a Golden Arrow, three Model 40’s, a Golden Eagle and a 50. Other Cockshutt machinery in his collection included a Cockshutt 422 combine, a mower, cultivator and plow.

As Molly grew older and Merle saw her interest in tractors grow, he decided to teach her the mechanics of working on a tractor. But it was a complicated process. As a result of a 1984 stroke (well before Molly’s birth), he’d lost feeling in his right side and his speech was affected. “He could still say a few words,” Molly says, “but it was mostly just tractors, Cockshutt, and the city he was from. He couldn’t speak in sentences any longer.” If Molly was to learn how to work on tractors, she and Merle had to find a way to communicate. They did so in a unique way: through charades.

Charles Bertsch
2/12/2013 6:36:16 PM

Nice to see young people getting into collecting. I was hooked at 9 years old and started displaying my engines every year since 1985