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Golden Days: What do you recall from the early days of tractor mechanics and service dealerships?

Tom J. Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

April 2, 2024

3 Min Read
 An old black and white photograph of a young man working on a tractor
TRACTOR REPAIRS: This early 20th century photo from the J.C. Allen collection shows a young man working on an early tractor. Courtesy of Fred Whitford

Fred Whitford is at it again. The director of Purdue Pesticide Programs and author of multiple books about early Indiana agriculture history will highlight the transition from farming with horses to farming with tractors in his next book. Once again, he needs your help.

“Did your ancestors fix their own tractors?” Whitford asks. “Did either Purdue Extension or dealers offer training on working on equipment? Were equipment dealerships well-established by the 1930s?”

Email your best, true yarn to [email protected], or mail to: 599 N. 100 W., Franklin, IN 46131. Whitford will send one of his books to the person providing the best information.

The March Indiana Prairie Farmer featured a Model T car being used to plow a field. Here's the article online. How else did early farmers use Model T’s?

“My Uncle Victor Bultemeier jacked up the rear axle while Uncle August Selking and my father, Edward Selking, fed meat into the meat grinder mounted on that axle,” explains Lynn Selking, who farms near Decatur, Ind. “That was in the early 1930s. We still do our own meat processing and canning along with sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids.” But no, not still with a Model T!

A worn, sepia-toned photograph of three men and a boy working with a meat grinder attached to a Model T Ford

Ron Renkenberger, Laotto, Ind., recalls: “My grandfather raised sheep. The local sheep shearer would come in his Model T, take off the back wheel and attach a contraption of mechanical arms and cables that ran the shears! Grandpa also mounted a buck rake in front of a Model T and made a haystack.”

Best story

Whitford selected Ted and Mary Lynn Hunt, Farmersburg, Ind., to receive a book for this unique story. “Our longtime friend purchased a neighbor’s place,” Ted says. “The family selling to him said there were a couple old cars in the garage.

“An old, unique tractor caught his eye. Excited, he bought it. Later, he realized it was something converted into a tractor. He painted it solid black and stored it away. When his health failed, he showed it to us. We made a deal to buy it.

“As it turns out, it’s a 1924 Model T Ford converted into a tractor with a conversion kit sold by Montgomery Ward. The sales pitch was: ‘Work it all week, reinstall original wheels and drive it to town.’ We’ve restored it, and it turns 100 this year. We will drive in as many parades as we can.”

Identify the tractor

The tractor pictured below, sold by John Deere, is over 100 years old. It has its own place in history.

A vintage John Deere tractor

Identify the model by name and letter and become eligible to win a $25 gift certificate drawn from all correct entries. Email [email protected] or mail to: 599 N. 100 W., Franklin, IN 46131.

Indiana Prairie Farmer featured an unusual tool in the March issue and online. Its current owner doesn’t know how it was used. The best guess came from Doug Kjellin, Durham, Kan., who will receive a gift card. He believes it could have functioned as a bearing grease packer.

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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