Russ' Vintage Iron

Valentine's Day and Red Go Together; Why Not Some Tales of Red Tractors?

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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A red tractor for Valentine's Day. This 1956 International 300 tractor equipped with a Wagner backhoe is owned by Robert Robinson of Parkhill, Ontario, Canada. (Photo courtesy of Robert Robinson)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Today is Valentine's Day. The main color associated with this holiday for most people is red as many give roses, cards and candies in all the various shades of red.

It is only fitting that vintage International tractors are on my mind today. That seems perfectly acceptable for this day, doesn't it?

Just don't tell my wife.

While we have nearly all John Deere tractors on our farm, we do have one, lone red tractor.

We have a 1955 Farmall 400 tractor with a DU-AL loader on it. We bought it from my late uncle, whom I wrote about last month, to be used as a second loader tractor. We started to put up hay roughly 25 miles away from the home farm, so we needed another loader tractor.

It is certainly not in mint condition. Having been a loader tractor for decades, it has a long list of imperfections. The one cylinder of the loader leaks pretty good and the one side of the hood doesn't have much red paint left on it -- just your regular, old loader tractor.

While it may not win any beauty contests, the old 400 will start and run every time we need it. As the second, or backup, loader tractor, it doesn't get used for periods of time during the course of the year, but it will always start.

As we have acquired other tractors in more recent years, my dad and I have talked about putting a loader on one of these newer tractors and selling the 400. We have not done this yet as the one red tractor in a shed full of green tractors still pulls its weight whenever we call on it.

Maybe someday we will take the loader off and restore it with a nice, new coat of bright red paint. I always thought the IH 300/400 series and their all-red color scheme was a nice look.

The other International tractor I have thought about recently was a Farmall 656 which belonged to a late neighbor/friend of my grandparents. When I was in high school, I helped Welland Bock bale hay and walk beans on his farm. He would drive the 656 out to the field when we walked beans and I would sit up on the fender.

His great-nephew, who is also a friend of mine, bought the tractor on his great-uncle's farm sale nearly 20 years ago and fully restored it shortly after. I saw him recently and I asked him about the old gas-burner 656.

I knew he restored it after he got it as that family has an extensive International tractor collection. I hesitate to use the word "collection" as they do farm and many of the tractors still work, although I know some are retired to parade duty.

He told me the story of taking the 656 to the nursing home where his great-uncle was living to show it to him after restoring it. The home was in Lincoln, which is about 60 miles from where he lives and so he trailered it down there.

He got to the facility and the parking lot was extremely small and the streets around the nursing home had many cars parked on them. He found a spot to park the pickup and trailer, unloaded the tractor and drove it up as close as he could to the front door of the home.

Then they bought the former owner outside. I guess Welland was very impressed with the appearance of his old tractor that day. I had never heard that story before.

He passed away in 2008, well into his 80s. I haven't really thought about his 656 in many years.

I do know this 656 was by far his favorite tractor. His only other tractors were a couple of old Farmall Ms, one with a loader on it. One M might have been a Super M. I think the great-nephew ended up with those too.

Welland told me the story of when he bought the tractor years ago. The tractor was on a farm equipment auction in northeastern Nebraska near the town of Wayne, which was just about 100 miles from his farm.

He bought the tractor that day and drove it all the way home. It was winter and obviously it was cold outside, so he and his nephew rotated driving the open-stationed machine home that day to keep warm.

I'm guessing this was probably in the 1970s when he bought it as neither had a trailer back then. It was the late 1980s/early 1990s when I helped him on his farm.

I left my friend with a promise that someday soon I was going to stop at his place and see his great-uncle's Farmall 656.

Maybe he will let me sit up on the fender one more time. Hopefully, I won't have to walk any beans.

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