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.
Linda's fond of another tractor brand - John Deere. She owns her late father's collection of 11 John Deere tractors one of every 'Letter' series - and his two JD stationary engines.
Bob collects vintage cars - a 1923 model T roadster, a 1929 model A pick up and a 1931 model A coupe reside in his garage - and among his other vintage tractors are a 1923 Fordson and a 1940 John Deere D.
He said he bought the F-20 10 years ago from Richard, who bought it earlier from another neighbor, now deceased.
'It's been years since this tractor really worked,' Bob says. F-20s were the third model of Farmalls introduced, after the Regular and the F-30; they were made from 1932 to 1939; the serial number on this one is FA96495.
For the day's activity, Bob had hitched up a John Deere two-bottom plow that he bought 20 years ago at a farm sale between Eudora and Baldwin, Kan. 'I think it's an old, old plow,' he said, and the F-20 had no trouble pulling it.
Many of the plows in the field came from the Knabes' collection. Styles ranged from a 50-year-old slatted- moldboard International to a couple of four-bottom rigs. Richard says the slatted style was made especially for gumbo soils, which were less likely to stick to the slats than to a solid moldboard.
Pulling the four-bottoms were one of Linda's tractors, a 1949 diesel John Deere R, and Richard's D19, which runs on propane. The R was driven by several folks during the day, including one of the Knabes' nephews, Edwin Eisele, who works for Deere & Company in Waterloo, Iowa. The R pulled a John Deere plow while a Minneapolis-Moline was hitched to the D19, which was steered down the furrows at various times by Dave Tuggle, another neighbor, and Karl Eisele, Edwin's father.
Karl owned and drove several A-C tractors at the event; among them was a D-17 and a 1954 WD-45, bought new by his dad when Karl was a boy.
Neighbor David Beebe brought over a 1951 Farmall 'M,' with another family connection. This tractor was bought new and is still owned by David's grand father, Bill Neis. David's cousin, Brad Neis, drove a 1949 Farmall 'M,' bought new and still owned by his grandfather, Clarence Neis - who is Bill's brother.
Bobby Gabriel shared driving duties on his tractor, the International 660, with George Hunsinger, tractorless that day because his trailer was in use elsewhere. Rhonda Tuggle turned in the only woman's plowing performance; she took several spins around the field on a Massey-Harris 333, made in 1956 or '57, and Gary Beers, under an umbrella atop a 1948 Farmall H, plowed for what Richard described as 'probably the biggest fan club' in evidence - his mother and several other cheering family members.
Rich Wakeman of Lawrence, Kan., drove 'about a 1956' Farmall 300 and helped his sons test drive their mother's early 1960s Farmall Cub, while Dale Sawyer, a former neighbor who now lives in Lawrence, bent his elbows steering another of Richard's rigs, a 1950 A-C WD pulling a three-bottom A-C plow.
Richard says the recent event drew more tractors, and observers, than in previous years, and served its purpose well: 'I think everyone had some fun!' FC
- For more information about the Plow Day, contact Richard at 39460 W. 143rd St., Eudora, KS 66025.