Russ' Vintage Iron

A View From The Shade: Buggy Top, Umbrella Shades Allow Fair-Skinned Folks to Enjoy Vintage Iron

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Quinn family's tractors lined up for the 2023 Fourth of July parade in Tekamah, Nebraska. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Someone who I just met recently asked me how in the world did I have such fair-colored skin and still manage to be a farmer and outside all of the time. In all my years I don't think anyone has ever asked me this before.

I had to think about it for a moment. Well, I'm certainly not outside ALL the time as a part-time farmer and when I am outside my best friend is the shade.

And sunscreen. And wide-brimmed hats.

Having red hair and fair skin, I can only be in the sun a relatively short time before I get sunburned. When I was kid, I would occasionally get sunburned badly when I would go to the pool with olive-skin-toned cousins. As an adult, I have limited these painful events by just not staying in the sun for long periods of time.

Luckily the tractors we actually farm with have cabs, which obviously helps quite a bit. A couple don't have cabs, but we have sunshade buggy tops and umbrellas which keep the sun off.

This also applies to the vintage tractors which we take in the summer to the local small-town parades. Even with the old two-cylinders, all of those tractors have holes in the fenders to mount the buggy top or an umbrella bracket.

When I was teenager and began to help drive tractors on the farm, we had three tractors and only one had a cab. Among my first tractor-driving chores was to move round bales with the open-station John Deere 4010 tractor and a three-point bale mover.

I think we had an old buggy top sunshade on that tractor before, but it was falling apart so my dad and uncle bought a brand new, bright yellow umbrella. It was obviously for their use mainly, but it did allow me to spend some hours on the 4010 bringing in alfalfa bales from the backside of the farm.

With a fender-mounted radio and an umbrella, I thought I was in the lap of luxury back then. I had some tunes -- even if there were only a few stations you could hear over the roar of the engine -- and some nice shade; I was ready to go!

I told this story to an older neighbor and he told me the story of mounting an umbrella on an open station combine for his dad many years before this and he, too, thought he was in the lap of luxury. He farmed most of his life with horses -- sitting under an umbrella and operating a combine was MUCH better than sitting behind horses all day, he said.

I think of that story every time I put the buggy top or umbrella up on one of our tractors. While an air-conditioned cab would be best, an open station tractor with some sort of sunshade is MUCH better than farming with horses.

I have asked my dad what they did to stay safe from the sun's harmful rays when he was young. Growing up on a dairy farm and putting up small square bales of hay all summer, he did spend most of his summer outside.

His answer? Not much.

They didn't wear sunscreen, but they did wear long-sleeved shirts in the summer when they were in the sun for long periods of time, he said. My grandpa had umbrellas that he would put on his tractors (a Farmall M and various John Deere tractors) to keep the sun off while he was doing fieldwork.

However, over the years the negative effects of spending so much time in the sun did arise. My dad has had many spots from his face, neck and ears removed as they were some forms of skin cancer.

Knowing my own limitations with the sun and his issues with skin cancer, I have been extremely careful to avoid sunburns.

During my boys' youth baseball games, I was usually in the dugout helping coach. This wasn't why I coached, but it was a nice side benefit. With my daughter's softball games, I'm usually the guy standing in the shade of a nearby tree or building.

Last summer, my dad, my son and I took a few vintage tractors up the road 15 miles to the Tekamah, Nebraska, Fourth of July parade. There were many old tractors in the parade, as you would assume in a small-town Nebraska parade.

However, not many of the other tractors had buggy tops and/or umbrellas.

Our three tractors had a buggy top on one and two umbrellas on the other ones. If anyone knows us, this is no big surprise.


Editor's Note:

To see tips on sun safety and what to do or don't do with sunscreen, see:

"Sun Safety Is No Joke,"…

For more tips and to download a sun safety checklist, see: "Farm Safety Check, Sun Safety," at…

Russ Quinn can be reached at

Follow him on social platform X @RussQuinnDTN

Russ Quinn can be reached at

Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @RussQuinnDTN