Russ' Vintage Iron

Pennsylvania Farmer Gets First Tractor Back; Son to Restore It for FFA Project

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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A 1974 Case 1370 tractor came, then went, then came back again for one Pennsylvania farmer and his son. (Photo courtesy of Lucas Criswell)

Over the years, I have written about the bond between farmers and their tractors. In some cases, it was their own tractors, and in others, a tractor that belonged to a father, grandfather or even a neighbor.

The first tractor someone owns, when starting a farming career, often leads to an emotional attachment to the machine -- some people will choose to keep that first tractor forever, while others need the equity to help purchase the next one.

Pennsylvania farmer Lucas Criswell initially chose to trade his first tractor, yet it seemed to keep popping back up in his life. That ultimately led him to buy it back to create an opportunity for the next generation of his family.

Criswell, who farms near Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, started farming in central Pennsylvania in the mid-1990s. He now raises corn, soybeans and wheat; he also has a custom hog operation and fertilizer business.

In 1996, he applied for an FSA machinery loan, was approved and bought a 1974 Case 1370 tractor from a local farm machinery dealership. If you are familiar with this series of Case tractor, you know that most of these models featured a cab. Criswell's did not.

"I thought it was unique since it didn't have a cab," Criswell told DTN.

After he first bought the 1370 -- the tractors were originally painted orange, white and black -- he decided to repaint it red and black, which Criswell said are "true Case colors."

In the spring of 1997, Criswell used the 1370 to pull a 13-foot no-till drill on his farm. The tractor did various other tasks on the Criswell farm that first year as well.

However, Criswell soon realized he really wanted to have a tractor with a cab. So, the following year, in 1998, he traded the open-station 1370 for a 1370 with a cab at the local implement dealer. That dealer eventually sold the open-station 1370, and Criswell didn't know where it went from there.

Fast forward several years, and Criswell was looking to buy another Case tractor, this time a 970 Case. He was visiting another farmer who lived a couple hours south of him and had a 970 for sale.

As he walked into the farmer's shed to examine the 970, an open-station 1370 tractor caught his eye. After taking a closer look at it, he realized it was his old tractor.

"There were a couple of clues this was my 1370," Criswell said. "The lights in the front grill were different, and I replaced a hydraulic line with a rubber hose one time, and they were both on this tractor."

While it was interesting to run across his old tractor at this guy's farm, Criswell went home that day without his old 1370.

Another seven or eight years went by, and one of Criswell's neighbors showed him an ad in the local paper for a Case 1370 open-station tractor for sale. The neighbor, who had helped Criswell's father start farming many years before and is a good friend of the family, went to look at the tractor and bought it.

When Criswell saw the tractor, he once again determined this particular 1370 was indeed the same one he began farming with in '96. Then, just about a year ago, the neighbor asked Criswell if he wanted to buy his old tractor back.

Criswell's initial answer was "No," as he said he really didn't need another tractor.

(Although one thing I have learned over the years is when it comes to farmers and tractors, you can NEVER own too many tractors.)

It was one of Criswell's three sons, Nathan, who changed his mind. Nathan is a freshman at Mifflinburg Area School District and is highly involved in FFA. He told his dad he was interested in restoring a tractor for his FFA project.

That's when Lucas Criswell remembered his old 1370 and the neighbor's offer to sell it back. "It was like a lightbulb went off in my head," he said.

A deal was struck between neighbors. After 25 years, the open-station Case 1370 tractor was back at the Criswell farm.

Criswell said Nathan has started to restore the family tractor. Both father and son are excited to see how the process goes, and they are both looking forward to the end product.

You never can have enough tractors.

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