Russ' Vintage Iron

Vintage Utility Iron

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Even though I love vintage farm machinery, I also enjoy newer technology like social media -- specifically Twitter. When I first joined, I didn't understand it much; but if you follow the right people (in my case those involved in agriculture) you can learn quite bit.

Occasionally you will see a photo or video of an old tractor still working hard on a North American farm. Just the other day, someone posted video of a restored John Deere 70 plowing away in a North Dakota stubble field.

This is not something you see every day.

My oldest son, who is nearly 17 years old, is always bugging me to buy a utility terrain vehicle (UTV). Look at all the cool things we could use it for, he says.

I have driven UTVs before and I can see how they would be useful on the farm. But then I remind him we have the original UTV -- vintage tractors.

When I was kid, it seemed my dad was always fixing fence in the pasture. The barbed-wire fence was really old and the cows always seemed to locate the weakest spots to escape.

This became especially important once the neighboring farm (and ultimately our rented farm) became a golf course. It's a really bad feeling to look out into the pasture and see your cows grazing on the putting green instead of being on the right side of the fence.

An electric fence was run along that old barbed-wire fence, and that was the only time in two years they got onto the golf course. No damage was done to the course and cow pies which were deposited on the putting green were quickly flipped over the fence.

My dad's utility vehicle of choice was either the 1973 Ford F-100 pickup that had been retired to farm duty (it was extremely rusty) or he used his utility tractor, a John Deere 620.

If it was just a light job, he would fill a five-gallon bucket with various tools and hang it off the back of the tractor or throw it into the back of the old pickup. If the job was more in-depth, he would load the pickup with various manual post-hole diggers, fence tighteners and other fence-fixing equipment.

The 620 has sickle mower brackets mounted on the back of it and he built a small, wooden rack that would utilize these mounts. This way he could again load up the fencing tools on the back of the tractor.

I tell my middle son, who turned 12 this summer, helping my dad fix fence when I was his age was how I learned to drive. He usually let me drive the pickup from the place out into the pastures, which was a natural obstacle course of various width gates and avoiding the ditches and holes which were out there.

The farm had a small stream dividing it in half, one end had gently sloping banks which you could cross by vehicle if it was dry but the other end had large cliffs that dropped probably 10-20 feet straight down to the stream.

There was a gate at that end you had to drive through to get into the pasture right next to this end of the creek. To leave this pasture, you had to swing out near the cliffs to be straight enough to fit through the narrow gate.

I was deathly afraid to drive anything near those cliffs as though we would fly off the ledge. My dad thought it was funny to swerve over there when he was driving. I, however, did NOT think that was a good time.

Our farm today has a mixture of barbed-wire and electric fences. The previous owner had invested in some decent fence around the place, so we have not had to fix fence like we did some 30-40 years ago.

The old '73 pickup is long gone now but I will use our vintage tractors, including the 620, to check the cows in the pastures and to figure out where the electric fence is shorting out.

While one tractor stays at my dad's house in the winter to push snow and rake hay in the summer, I will usually rotate driving the other ones to check things out in our pastures. Again, a bucket hung from the back of the tractor serves as a nice tool container.

Much like our old farm/now golf course, there is also a stream which flows through one end of this farm. However, there are no scary, large cliffs to freak out young kids as they learn to drive.

I'm sure my 12-year-old son appreciates this.

Russ Quinn can be reached at

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