Top Billing: IHC Wheatland Tractors Are Stars in Huge Tractor Collection

IHC Wheatland tractors are the highlight of a huge collection amassed by a pair of brothers near Lake Wilson, Minnesota.

| January 2015

Practically every late afternoon during good weather, after the daily farm work is finished, Henry Van Ruler fires up an IHC tractor and drives it 8 miles around the two sections of farmland he and his 74-year-old brother, Marion, own near Lake Wilson, Minnesota. “It’s something interesting to do around 4 or 5 o’clock,” Henry says. “I look at the country, go 8 or 10 miles, sometimes farther, see what the neighbors are doing, and maybe see a few deer or a fox or raccoon. You can see more on a tractor than you can in a pickup.”

Henry usually takes a battery pack to start the tractor. “It will get me around that distance easy,” he says. “Sometimes we start six or eight tractors with that battery pack.” That’s the easy part. Choosing which tractor to take is more of a trick.

On almost every drive, Henry takes a different tractor. He has plenty to pick from: He and Marion have built a collection of 350 tractors, almost all of which are shedded on their farm. “I get them running and take them for a ride,” he says, “because it’s good to have them run instead of just stand there. I go in road gear, about 15-18 mph, most of the time on gravel, but once in a while on tar.”

Sometimes the chosen tractor of the day won’t start, as when a writer was at their farm recently and they were working on one of Henry’s favorites, an International 1256 Wheatland tractor. They attached the battery pack but the big beast wouldn’t start. After a few quick words back and forth and a couple of changes, they got it fired up and backed it out of one of their 15 tractor-filled sheds and into the sunlight for a photo session. “If it won’t start,” Henry says, “we monkey around until we get it running.”

All the sheds on their farm – including the calf shed, the garage and the barn – are packed with tractors. Ten years ago, when Marion’s legs began giving him so much trouble that he could no longer milk in the stanchions, the brothers quit dairying. “We took the cows out and put the tractors in,” he says. A dozen tractors remain in the yard, unsheltered. “There’s a few more tractors we wouldn’t mind having,” Henry says, “but maybe we can’t afford them.”

An unintended collection

After their father’s death in 1976, the Van Rulers took over work on the family farm. Marion has lived every day of his life on the farm; Henry moved there with their parents when he was 2 years old. When they started adding to the International Harvester tractors they’d grown up with, they had no intention of building a collection.