Earlier this year in this column, we had a couple different folks send us vintage iron stories about the International hundred series tractors. These would be tractors manufactured during the mid- to late-1950s, so these machines would be right around 60 years old now.
It then occurred to me that one of my own family's vintage tractors is also that old. If you read this column, over the years I have written about my late grandpa's last tractor, a John Deere 620.
I guess the family tie to this particular machine is why it is so important to me, as it probably is for many people who keep vintage iron for decades. The person who owned this tractor may be long gone, but we all feel like we still have a piece of this person in the form of this old machine.
It is not a one-owner tractor like many family vintage tractors are. Although, 57 years in our family is pretty close to being a one-owner tractor.
The 620 was brought new to the John Deere implement dealer located in Bennington, Nebraska, which is just to the northwest of Omaha. It was bought new and spent the first three years of its life on a farm near Blair, Nebraska.
In 1960, my grandpa decided he needed to upgrade his tractor line up, so he traded in a mid-1940s B for the slightly used 620. In those early years, it was his big horse for tackling plowing and disking chores in the spring, various hay baling activities in the summer and corn picking duties in the fall.
My dad likes to tell me about one particular fall harvest in the late 1960s when the 620 developed a bad back tire. If you ever spend a day attaching a mounted corn picker to a tractor (which I never did), you will appreciate this story: they had to take the corn picker off, fix the tire and then put the corn picker back on it to finish picking only to take it off again when corn harvest was over.
In 1967, my dad and uncle took over most of the duties of the farm after my grandpa had some health issues. The next year, they traded in his old International M for a John Deere 730, the first diesel tractor on the farm.
The 620 at this point, become their planting tractor in the spring and was still active in haying during the growing season. A Paulson front-end loader was bought and put on it at this time as well to help on their dairy farm.
The next decade rolled along and newer, larger tractors were purchased during this time, and most of the old tractors were traded in on the new ones -- except the 620 was not one of them. I asked my dad why this happened and he said it was "dad's tractor" so they always kept it.
By this time, I had come along and after my grandpa passed away six years later, it was very clear this tractor was not going anywhere.
During my childhood, the 620 was mainly relegated to a secondary role.
Once in a while, my dad would occasionally use it for baling small bales of hay or spraying the pasture, etc. But really, it only had two regular jobs at that point -- to rake hay in the summer and run an auger/elevator in the fall.
My earliest memory is standing on the platform as my dad drove it and him letting me steer the tractor. As I grew I learned to drive it, although it was often difficult for skinny, teenage me to pull the hand clutch to stop the 620.
Then in 2000, we had the tractor painted, changing it from its working clothes to the equivalent of new tuxedo, I suppose. While it will still run an auger once in a while on the farm, its main job now is to look good for running in some parades and for tractor rides during the warmer months.
My oldest child is now 12, and he is learning to drive the 620, the now fourth generation to drive it. I see him use all his might to pull the hand clutch back, and I just smile to myself.
Russ Quinn can be reached at email@example.com
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