Oliver Super 88 Versus Not-So-Super Man

Restoring an Oliver Super 88 tractor brings back childhood memories for Ray Baltes.

| May 2012

My First Tractor (Voyageur Press, 2010) is a collection of 25 stories from notable rural authors relating fond — or not-so-fond — memories of their first tractors, including Michael Perry, Bob Artley, Roger Welsch, Bob Feller, Ben Logan, Gwen Petersen, Ralph W. Sanders, Robert N. Pripps and more. In this excerpt from the chapter “Super 88 Versus Not-So-Super Man,” Ray Baltes tells the hilarious story of how renovating a tractor changed his life. 

Ray Baltes grew up on a farm near Hampton, Iowa, but left after high school to pursue a career in journalism. He served as photo editor for the Charles City (Iowa) Press, then as editor of his hometown newspaper, the Hampton Chronicle. Deciding it was time to slow down, he left the newspaper business to spend more time with his family, write books, and help out on his dad’s farm.

This essay is part of a book Baltes is at work on chronicling the legacy of his family’s Oliver Super 88 tractors.

Restoring an Oliver Super 88 Tractor

I grew up on a small farm in the northern part of Iowa in the 1960s and ’70s, so from an early age I was fascinated with tractors. We always had a tractor on the farm, of course, but visiting my grandpa’s farm was a special treat. My grandpa favored Oliver tractors, and at times had owned an Oliver 70, an 88 Row Crop, and a Super 88. I loved the soothing green color of these tractors, and the quiet purr of their motors.

Grandpa Baltes’s Oliver Super 88 tractor held a special place in my heart. He would hoist me up onto his lap, shift the mighty machine into gear, and take me for rides down the long, grassy lane running along the field just east of the farmyard. I reveled in the characteristic whine of the big Oliver’s gears as we bumped along. The smooth purr of the motor, along with the feeling of Grandpa’s arms wrapping around me to reach the steering wheel, gave me a sense of security and happiness that I would never forget. As I rode, I would watch the tread of the giant rear tires passing in front of the fender. I could look to my left and see the field of very tall cane that was grown as cattle feed at that time. To my right was a narrow pasture and a ridgeline covered with massive stones removed from the farmland and piled high above the creek below. If it was fall and the harvest was complete, I might get the extra special experience of riding all the way around the 320-acre farm. I always wished those rides would never end.

Years later, I would relive those glorious trips down the lane, but not before my patience, my strength, my sanity, my body, and my family had been severely tested.

Gary Smith
7/17/2012 1:56:01 PM

The first one is always the hardest,most expensive and the most fun! When I tell people that my first one, a '47 Farmall "H" cost me $7000 to restore my wife laughs and says that didn't include the garage I bulit to restore it in or the addition to store it or the sandblaster,the larger air compressor for the sandblaster and countless other tools to get the job done. My response is simply, "you are right dear" now I just have to buy enough tractors so the average restoration cost is reasonable. Just bought my 10th, a '41 MM RTI and am building yet another Garage. There is a reason why no one does this for a living.