Russ' Vintage Iron

Vintage Iron and National FFA Week

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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FFA students in Arlington, Nebraska, participated in a National FFA Week event to drive tractors to school on Feb. 19. Shown here is Kyle Quinn on his great grandfather's 620. FFA members who also drove tractors to school that day were Cassidy Arp, Blake Kracl and Kobe Wilkins. (Photo courtesy of Jill Hensley)

Over the years, I have written about my own family's vintage iron quite often. We have several, but the one I have written about the most (and obviously my favorite) is a 1957 John Deere 620, which was my grandpa's last tractor.

He bought the tractor slightly used in 1958. He operated a small dairy and crop farm and for about a decade this was his big tractor.

In 1968, my dad and uncle took over the farm for my grandpa who had developed some health issues. They traded several tractors in the years that followed, but never traded this particular tractor because it was their dad's tractor, according to my dad.

My grandpa died in 1980 and by then the 620 was firmly entrenched on the farm. While certainly not the big tractor anymore, it had found a niche on our farm as the utility tractor.

In the early 2000s, they repainted the tractor and because of this it certainly didn't sit outside anymore, so it lost some of its duties. The now 62-year-old tractor ran an auger this fall, but now it sees more parades than fields.

About this same time my oldest son, Kyle, was born. He is now 14 years old but even as a little kid he enjoyed everything to do with tractors and farming.

Kyle is in 8th grade this school year and joined FFA at his school, Arlington Junior-Senior High School. This is an interesting story in itself -- this rural school in eastern Nebraska never had an ag education/FFA chapter until just three years ago when one was started.

I had gone to a different school that didn't have FFA when I was growing up. My dad went to the same school as me, and he said they did have an FFA chapter when he attended there -- and he was an FFA member.

This week was National FFA Week across the country. One of the events was Drive Your Tractor to School Day.

This event was Feb. 19 at Arlington and Kyle really want to drive a special tractor to school -- his great-grandpa's 620.

"It's pretty cool that I'm the fourth generation of our family to sit in that tractor seat," he told me.

I thought this sounded like a fun idea and so we concocted a plan.

We live about 16 miles from school and two-cylinder John Deere tractors do not travel at a very high rate of speed. He would have had to get up in the middle of the night to be at the school by 7:30 a.m., so I told him we would take the tractor by trailer to about a mile outside of town and then he could drive it to school from there.

The only issue with this plan was Tuesday morning it was minus 3 Fahrenheit at our place. We had loaded the tractor the afternoon before and backed the pickup and trailer into the shed, and even put a magnet block engine heater on the tractor.

Before we left at 6:30 a.m., I thought we had better try starting the old tractor. It turned over slowly, but it finally started and so we let it run on the trip to town.

Because of the extreme cold, only three other kids drove tractors to school and they all drove tractors with cabs. Not my kid! Kyle did tell me the roughly one mile to school "was kind of a cold drive."

After the school day started, several of his teachers complimented Kyle on driving that tractor on a morning with sub-zero temperatures. While only one asked him if he was crazy, most said they thought it was pretty cool.

I think a stereotype many junior/senior high kids face is they are slackers who do very little work while playing video games in their parents' basement all day. This, however, is not the case for all kids.

While my kid is not perfect and sometimes he doesn't always want to do livestock chores, he understands the importance of them and completes them. The future of our world and specifically agriculture looks to be pretty bright if you spend any time around these 37 FFA students in Arlington.

As I followed him into town in the warm cab of the pickup, I couldn't help thinking my grandpa probably would have been absolutely thrilled my son was driving his tractor to school. Sure, it was frigid outside, but then again, I'm sure Grandpa drove the 620 on days like that many times.

As one of the other dads of a tractor driver said that morning, this was certainly a proud dad moment. I would agree.

Russ Quinn can be reached at

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Russ Quinn