Homemade Tractor is Work Ready

A homemade tractor and wagon pull their weight on an Iowa farm.

| January 2018

  • Ezra Schroeder and his father, Dan, with their homemade tractor and trailer.
    Photo courtesy Cindy Stoppel
  • Given the little green tractor’s homegrown characteristics, replacement parts are not normally a problem.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Side view of the homemade trailer.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Three of Dan’s nephews enjoy rides in the trailer almost any time they want. Shown left to right: Logan, Stratton and Weston. Logan and Weston are twins.
    Photo courtesy Cindy Stoppel
  • The tractor’s radiator, gas tank and exhaust appear to have come from the same source, but what that source was remains unclear.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • When Ezra bought the homemade trailer, it needed a new bench. He and his dad built a replacement (shown here).
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The tractor’s engine came from a John Deere combine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A rear view of the homemade tractor.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Dan has thought about replacing the dual automobile tires on his homemade tractor with tractor tires. “Power isn’t a problem,” he says. “Traction is.”
    Photo by Bill Vossler

In Ida Grove, Iowa, it’s nothing out of the ordinary to see a small tractor pulling a wagonload of kids around. The locals there know it’s just Dan Schroeder and his relatives having fun in the country.

But there is one thing extraordinary about Dan’s activity: Both the small tractor and the trailer he uses are homemade. “My dad (Wayne Schroeder) saw that little homemade tractor at the Audubon, Iowa, flea market in 1982, and it was quite inexpensive,” Dan says. “The seller said he’d used it for a lawn sprayer, with a little pump mounted on the side and run off the fan belt pulley.”

Wayne bought the tractor as a novelty – sort of like holding onto the horse-drawn equipment used on the farm decades earlier – and Dan adopted the tractor after his father’s death. “My wife, Dana, thinks it’s nuts that I like messing with the old farm equipment,” he says with a laugh. “I tell her it’s good for my mental health, to get away from things, to slow down and simplify things, to get out with nature. I can appreciate things better at a slower speed.”



For Dan, that little old homemade tractor also provided a natural transition from his childhood. “I grew up with old iron,” he says. “My father grew up on the farm where we currently live, so we had old equipment around everywhere. He liked old stuff and used it around the place, so he taught us to tinker with it and repair it. He had old tractors and draft horses and played around with the old stuff.”

A patchwork piece

The tractor was probably built in the 1980s, Dan figures, but he has no specific history on it and doesn’t know who made what the family has come to call the “little green tractor.” “When we got it, we used it for years around the farm,” he says. “We lived half a mile from our grandparents, and I didn’t have a driver’s license, so I used the tractor to haul feed back and forth from farm to farm with a little 4x4 swivel trailer that wouldn’t jackknife. We used it to do chores, kind of as our four-wheeler.”