Minnie-Mo Steals the Show

| December 2003

The prairie just north of Lennox, S.D., was awash with gold this past August - prairie gold paint that is. The South East South Dakota Threshermans Association hosted the national Minneapolis- Moline show at its 19th annual threshing bee held on the grounds of Goemen Auction Co. This year's showing of the gold included fine examples of Minneapolis-Moline-related brands such as Moline Plow Co. horse- drawn implements, as well as tractors from Universal Tractor Mfg. Co., B.F. Avery & Sons Co., Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. and White Motor Co.

The Threshermans Association membership ensured a good variety of 'other' implement colors were on hand, but the vast majority of exhibits were Minneapolis-Moline tractors sporting their trademark prairie gold paint. Visitors also witnessed harvesting and threshing machines in action. In fact, the prairie-gold spectrum included everything from the powerful Minneapolis-Moline Vista 1000 front-assist tractor to the diminutive Jacobson Mfg. Co.-built Minneapolis-Moline garden tractors.

Rare tractor treats

Among the unusual tractors at the show was a 1949 French-built Mathis-Moline VRTE vineyard tractor owned by Dennis Parker of Arlington, S.D. The striking tractor is one of only 168 of that model built in 1949 - and one of only 338 manufactured. The tractor is exceptionally narrow, with a 36-inch width and adjustable front end that allowed it to fit between rows of grapevines. Dennis Solvie of Hancock, Minn., displayed his 1954 Minneapolis-Moline ZB Nursery Special designed to ride high above seedling trees. Bill Schultz of New Holstein, Wis., brought his very rare 1949 Waterloo Bronco tractor, built by the Waterloo Mfg. Co. in Canada. Waterloo was the Canadian distributor for Minneapolis-Moline and painted its tractors prairie gold with red trim on the wheels. Allen Dougan from Jamestown, Calif., displayed a beautifully restored 1956 Minneapolis-Moline Model 445 propane-powered tractor that he found on an Air Force base in northern California. Allen also brought his 1968 Jetstar 3 Super diesel-powered tractor to display. While many Jetstar 3 Supers were produced, Allen's tractor is one of only 60 diesel models manufactured in 1968.

The 1938 Minneapolis-Moline UDLX Comfortractor is perhaps one of the most collectible tractors of any kind. These unique machines, with sweeping sheet metal, enclosed cab, heater, windshield wipers, jump seat and 40-mph road gear, look like a three-way hybrid between a tractor, a truck and a 1930s coupe. The UDLX was marketed as a comfortable tractor by day and a family car by night, but it wasn't as well received as Minneapolis-Moline hoped, and only 150 units were produced. Its limited success was partly due to the tractor's exorbitant price during the Great Depression. Farmers who could afford its $2,155 price tag in 1938 shied from its comforts lest they be judged as 'soft' by their neighbors. A nicely restored UDLX sold in 2003 for $98,000, which indicates that attitudes have indeed changed since its introduction, and now the UDLX is a big attraction at any tractor show. Two beautifully restored UDLX Comfortractors respectively owned by Al Nordstrom of Aberdeen, S.D., and Paul and Kay Weiss of Reinbeck, Iowa, made the trip to Lennox and appeared in the tractor parades. Minneapolis-Moline installed similar cabs on a portion of its Model R tractors built in the late 1930s, but operator comfort didn't become popular until well into the 1960s.

Threshermen at work and play

The influence of the Threshermens Association's sponsorship of the Minneapolis-Moline show was evident from the equipment demonstrations. Club members put up a bin of ear corn in the fall of 2002 used to feed two Minneapolis-Moline corn shelters during the show. These ingenious machines process ear corn in one end and deliver the grain, cobs and chaff to three separate locations. Modern combines accomplish all those tasks in addition to harvesting corn. An oat field and a wheat field, planted adjacent to the show grounds, also were harvested during the event. With plenty of ripe grain standing in the fields, vintage-harvesting machinery got quite a workout. Mike Klingbile of Lennox, S.D., cut oats with a Minneapolis-Moline M-96 pull-type windrower powered by a 1953 Model R tractor of the same make. The windrower and tractor are both owned by Fett Farms based in Lennox, and Phillip Fett, a club board member, was instrumental in hosting the Minneapolis-Moline show at Lennox.

The windrowed oats were processed with a Minneapolis-Moline Model 69 pull-type, pick-up combine owned by Randy Blass of Estherville, Iowa. Randy used Lloyd Raves' 1956 Minneapolis-Moline 5-Star tractor to power the combine. Although many people believe that pick-up combines are old-fashioned and antiquated, they're still used in regions where small grains must be cut in order to properly dry. Modern windrow pick-up heads are available for most combines, including some of the very largest. Even though self-propelled combines are widely available, not every farmer uses the machines, opting instead to continue using pull-type variants.