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Grandfather's tractors have new life

All farmers out there are proud of their colors — the colors on their tractors, that is. It is not uncommon for farmers to drive the same color of tractors that were used by their fathers, and even grandfathers.

Tractors, it seems, do have some sort of “generation grasp” when it comes to colors, no matter how old or new the tractor.

Tractors of today are powerful, electronic and hydraulic marvels, with cab comfort that will rival any car on the road. However, in the eyes of most farmers, it's still the color that makes the tractor. An antique tractor pull is the best place to watch this “color code” unfold.

All tractors in an antique tractor pull must be a 1959 or older. Each tractor pulls in a weight class and must cross the scales before each pull. A sled that has a weight transfer system applies more weight to the front of the sled as the puller moves the sled down the track.

The tractor that pulls the sled the longest distance is declared the winner.

The event is filled with tractor color and pride. The Minni Mo's yellow and red tractors always put on quite a show with their tractors of the past; the candy apple red and grey Massey Fergusons are colorful as they hum down the track.

The familiar pop of the old John Deere tractors can be heard as they flash their yellow and green colors; red Farmall tractors celebrate their past as they buzz toward the sled, confident as a red game cock; and, who could forget the Persian orange of the old Allis Chalmers or the meadow green and clover white of the Oliver tractors as they head down the track?

Some of these tractors have been fully restored and are in mint condition. Others, well, they are just taking the weekend off from their farm chores to have a little fun.

Some antique tractors at these pulls are very rare, and in many cases, are keeping their colors from going extinct. Many tractor manufacturers have come and gone in our agricultural history, but they are kept alive by antique tractor pullers who drag them from fence rows where they have been resting for half a century or more, restore them, and show off their original colors and power at these events.

At the last pull I attended, I decided to survey the farmers there who were pulling old tractors. With all of this tractor and color pride floating in the air, I just wondered if the color of the tractor pulling the sled matched the color of the tractor pulling the plow back home. You guessed it. The colors matched.

So, if you want to have a great time, meet neat people, and observe a little of our agricultural history, I suggest you attend an antique tractor pull.

By the way, you'll also be able to predict the future for your kids. No, not future grain or cotton prices, but the color of the tractors they will be driving — pulling a sled for fun or a plowing a field for work.

Steve Thompson, Ph.D., is the manager of John Deere Technical Training Programs at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. Readers may write him at 3200 W. 7th Ave., Corsicana, Texas 75110, or e-mail: [email protected]

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