Letters to the Editor

Orchard tractors hold top billing in Illinois collection

| April 2007

The Buckert family of Hamilton, Ill., collects Case orchard tractors for three reasons. First, as a family, they've collected tractors for more than 40 years. Second, the Case orchard tractors they favor are different from most tractors found in Illinois, where they live. And third, Case orchard tractors were built in small numbers.

"My dad, Fred Buckert, has been collecting tractors forever," says Danny Buckert. "All of us kids just grew up around all these old tractors." The clan includes Danny's brothers Kenny and Alan; Kenny's son, Kyle; and Danny's sons Jared and Jeremy.

Fred was president of the J.I. Case Collectors' Association for many years. During that time, the association published production numbers for Case VA and SO tractors. "(VA and SO) were low production and 'oddball' in this part of the country, and we tend to go that way," Danny says of the family's collection of more than 100 tractors.

For Midwesterners, orchard tractors have special appeal. "The orchards are something different, a specialty tractor used in Florida or California or Michigan. You don't see a lot of them in the Midwest," Danny says. "Not a lot of them were built, and few are left today, because they had a tough life, getting pretty well beat up."

Case a la carte

Special tractors often come with memorable stories. Take the Buckerts' Case VAO. Danny and his wife, Karen, were visiting his cousin in Riverside, Calif., about 15 years ago, and decided to go out for supper one night. "We were running down the interstate and pulled into this place," Danny recalls. "Everybody was all charged to go into the restaurant when I stopped. There, sitting in an empty lot across from the restaurant, was a tractor."

To make things even better, it was a Case tractor, one of a line the Buckert family has collected for years. "My wife wasn't really happy with me," Danny says. "I think she thought I should be able to put tractors aside for a bit while we went into the restaurant. But first priorities first." That meant trotting across the street to take a closer look. As it turned out, the tractor was in decent shape. All the sheet metal was intact, a miracle in itself, because orchardists routinely removed sheet metal from orchard tractors. And if it hasn't been removed, it's been pummeled by tree branches … or worse.