Russ' Vintage Iron

Here's to Another 25 Years Working at DTN

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Brothers Kyle (8 years old) and Burke Quinn (3) stand next to their late great-grandpa J.B. Quinn's 1957 John Deere 620 tractor in 2012. Ten years later, Kyle (17) is now a junior in high school, while Burke (12) is a seventh grader. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

On May 5, I celebrate my 25th year of working at DTN. This is not bad considering that when I first started, I didn't think it would be a very long stint here, mainly because I started in an entry-level, in-house sales position, and I quickly learned I was NOT good at sales.

Luckily, I saw the newsroom had a position open about a year after I started, and the DTN staff were open to teaching a farm kid about agricultural journalism. And 24 years later, I am still here.

During the first several years in the newsroom, my job consisted of looking through various reports. We would pull select numbers out of these reports to be put on the DTN pages.

My favorite had to be old Quebec Hog Report, which was completely in French. I don't speak or read French, so I always hoped it actually was a hog report and not something else with a lot of cuss words in it.

In the morning, I would read through feeder auction results from sale barns across the country and post their prices. Today, a computer program sends these pages automatically.

With fewer daily reports to run, my job morphed into some continued daily reports but also some original writing. Again, I did not go to journalism school, but I joked I went to the DTN Journalism School, taught to me by my bosses and colleagues who did actually go to j-school as they called it.

I learned to listen closely to people I interviewed and find interesting things they are involved in to write about. I learned how to research a topic before writing about it. I learned how to arrange a story so the most important items are in the lede.

One of my very first writing assignments was to go to Husker Harvest Days in September of 2001 and see what was new at the outdoor farm show held every fall in Grand Island, Nebraska. The events of 9/11 happened the day before I was to go out there, and thus, my focus changed. I recently wrote about those emotionally heavy days with the 20-year anniversary of 9/11. (See….)

As for my Vintage Iron column, I believe I have been writing this column for about 20 years, as I began to write more during that time.

It began as a weekly column. I mentioned to my bosses at the time that while new equipment was obviously important to write about, I thought a column exploring vintage iron would also be well-read -- and so they let me write it.

After several years, we decided to make the column a monthly column, as my other writing assignments increased and as sometimes it was more difficult to find interesting topics to write about vintage machinery.

The best part of writing this column has been the interaction I have had with readers. I have many interesting stories and photos of vintage iron sent to me during the past two decades.

I really thought the column was most interesting when readers would often share their thoughts about their own vintage farm machinery. We all would learn fascinating things about the tractors they owned and the ways they acquired these old machines.

Not surprising to anyone reading this, my favorite stories were the ones with a tractor that had been in the family for multiple generations. In these cases, the kids, grandkids and maybe even great-grandchildren all had many memories of driving one particular tractor.

Many people probably would just see a little, obsolete tractor with very little use or monetary value; they'd wonder why anyone would have an emotional tie to it. It is difficult to explain to someone who thinks this way, but for some of us, we do get attached to this machinery.

I believe the tie to previous generations, especially those relatives who have passed away, is what really drives the love of vintage machinery for some folks. On our farm, we have some tractors we have acquired over the years with no emotional attachment, but the ones we have had for many decades are still my favorites.

So, I will continue to write about interesting agricultural topics (including vintage iron) as I come across them. Someone the other day wished me another happy 25 years at DTN.

If they are as enjoyable as the first 25 years, it would be OK with me. However, I will be 73 years old in another 25 years -- I would be OK if retirement could come a little earlier!

Russ Quinn can be reached at

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