Farming on 2 Cylinders


| January 2004



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Donny with his restored 1937 Model G in 1972

Donny Welch is the fourth generation to live and work on his family's Bunker Hill, Ill., farm. He's also a master tractor mechanic with a long career at the local John Deere dealership. As a young man, Donny worked at his uncle Alexander's John Deere dealership where he gained a deep appreciation for all things green.

'At the dealership, I started as a truck driver and equipment set-up man,' Donny says. 'Eventually, I filled an opening in the shop. Of course I still helped Dad with the farming, too.'

Having survived 41 years of tractor repair experience - and several dealership changes - Donny retired from the implement business as head mechanic in autumn 2001. With the added free time, Donny devotes more energy to maintaining the many two-cylinder workhorses he's collected - and still uses.

'There are many more projects here than I can ever get to,' Donny frankly admits.

Reflecting on his long career, Donny recalls with clarity many of the machines he worked on and their owners. He can recount what went wrong with each piece of equipment and how he fixed it. With an easy, reassuring style, Donny can explain which tractor models were particularly good and which were lemons. After so many years behind the wrench, he intuitively knows the particular strengths of specific tractor models, and which frustrate even the most patient farmer - or repairman. 'Don't think for a minute that every thing John Deere made was gold,' Donny says with a knowing smile. Even though some less-than-exceptional green equipment was manufactured through the years, Donny's experience with Deere & Co. tractors taught him that the later 20 Series models were the best as a group.

'As far as I'm concerned, they (John Deere) quit making tractors after the 20 Series models,' Donny says. 'They were the most economical tractors tested at Nebraska at the time. You could run those tractors forever with a bit of fuel, a little care and lubrication.'