Plow Day

| September 2002

A couple of dozen vintage tractors, mostly unrestored and still working on real farms, showed up one recent Saturday noon in a field of wheat stubble south of Eudora, Kan. Some of the tractors arrived chained to flatbed trailers; others chugged up the lane on their own; about two-thirds of them had come to plow.

The owners and drivers were neighbors, relatives and friends of Richard Knabe and Bob Gabriel, who decided three years ago to take time out of their busy schedules for what Bob smiles and describes as 'our joint venture.'

'We spread the news to four or five different people and it's just word of mouth from there,' Bob says. 'Whatever happens, happens; whoever comes, comes.' Richard notes the informal gathering, called simply 'Plow Day,' began for no particular reason. They just wanted to get their friends and neighbors together to see what their old machinery could do and to have some fun.

The oldest tractor in the group this year was a 1937 Farmall F-20, owned by Bob; the 'youngest' two were a 1961 Allis-Chalmers D19, owned by Richard, and a 1959 International 660, owned by Bobby Gabriel, Bob's son.

This year's drivers fired up about a dozen of the old tractors that appeared. Somebody picked out a starting point in the 70-acre field of golden yellow stubs, dropped his plow into the ground and turned the first furrow. Others followed suit, trailing each other across the field and back toward the house again, raising a faint cloud of dust and laying over a growing rectangle of rich, brown prairie loam.

Richard and his wife, Linda, both collect vintage tractors, and Bob collects tractors and cars too. Richard is especially keen for Allis-Chalmers, a penchant much in evidence in the field, where the A-Cs even outnumbered the Farmalls. 'I was raised on the WC model,' Richard says. 'That was the first tractor I drove as a kid.' Today, in his A-C collection are examples of every year of the WC series, starting with a 1934 tractor, Serial No. 3106, and ending up with a model released in 1948, the last year WCs were made. Those from the war years were a little hard to find, Richard says, but they're all there, along with many A-C implements and other tractors too.