Russ' Vintage Iron

Vintage Iron Enthusiasts Hit Parades, Shows as Summer Begins

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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While mostly retired, the Quinn family's 1957 John Deere 620 tractor does still work on the farm occasionally. The tractor has been in the family for 65 years. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

OMAHA (DTN) -- With Memorial Day in our rearview mirror, we mark the unofficial beginning of summer. This is especially true for vintage iron fans, as most parades, tractor shows and antique tractor pulls take place in the next few months.

What a wonderful time of the year!

The month of June is when many small-town "days" take place. There are many activities associated with these events, but one universal highlight is a parade through town.

I would guess most of the small-town parades are similar. Most have floats from civic organizations and businesses, fire trucks, horses, maybe newer farm equipment from the local implement dealer(s) and, of course, the antique tractors.

In the various parades I have taken part in over the last 20-plus years, there was always a dedicated group of vintage iron enthusiasts who love to show off their tractors from many decades ago. Many of the older farmers ran these machines themselves back in the day, and many were enjoying them again -- this time not in the fields but on Main Street in front of family, neighbors and friends.

Time stands still for no one, and we have lost many of that generation. Many people running the old tractors today are those farmers' children, who remember these machines from their childhood.

Some are even grandchildren, carrying on a family tradition, to steal a line from the classic country song by Hank Williams, Jr. Even great-grandchildren are keeping these old tractors running.

This is the case in my own family. While my grandpa has been gone for almost 43 years, my dad, myself, and my oldest son, who just graduated from high school a couple of weeks ago, will drive our vintage two-cylinder John Deere tractors in various parades this summer.

While we have several vintage tractors to select from, the one tractor that always goes to parades is my grandpa's last tractor, a 1957 John Deere 620. This is probably no surprise to anyone who has ever read this column.

This is a special tractor. My dad and uncle repainted the tractor about a quarter-century ago, and its life is mainly driving in local parades and the county fair antique tractor pull every July.

My grandpa bought that tractor in the spring of 1958. It had some major engine issues in the first months after he bought it, but the local dealer took care of the issue. Grandpa used it faithfully as his big tractor on his small dairy farm for many years.

By the time I came along in the mid-1970s, my grandpa had retired, and my dad and uncle had newer tractors. But whenever they would purchase a tractor and trade in an old one, neither one of them wanted to get rid of their dad's 620.

I will be completely honest, I never liked to drive the 620 in my early teenage years when I was learning to drive tractors. My dad would have me rake hay with it, and it was hard for me to steer considering I was a skinny little teenager.

I remember asking my dad once back then why they kept it all these years considering the newer tractors they could have traded it for. And all he said was it was his dad's tractor.

With age comes wisdom, and some 35 years later, I would never consider getting rid of the 620. This year marks the 65th year it has been in our family.

Whoever continues this family tradition in years down the road, four generations of my family have sat in that seat and operated the tractor, whether in the fields or in parades. Not very many families can say that, and I think it is fairly impressive.

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