Don’t tell Paul Lemmer that you can’t go home again.
Paul himself returned to the home farm near Redfield, S.D., after a few years working on his own in the 1970s. And recently, he also brought back a piece of family history.
Paul purchased a John Deere B tractor that his grandfather Ray Fleming bought in 1948. It had been a part of the Lemmer family farm until 1974 when Lemmer’s father, George, traded it in for a tractor with a cab.
“I always wondered about that,” Paul recalls, “I used that tractor for feeding, and I froze my butt off. And I graduated and left, and he buys a tractor with a cab on it.”
Still, Paul recalls fond memories of that JD B on the family farm where George and Aliene Lemmer raised their eight children. “I learned how to drive on it and so did two of my brothers,” he says.
The 17-hp tractor was used around the farm and even became a school project of sorts. While at Redfield High School, Paul remembers taking the tractor in as a project for a mechanics class. “We overhauled it in the shop, and it was kind of a teaching tool for the mechanics instructor and ag teacher,” he says. “Our class rebuilt that tractor.”
A few years later, younger brother Jim brought the B back into the high school ag department where he restored and repainted it.
“It’s been in the family a long time,” Paul says.
Piece of farm history
The family farm has a long history; it was settled by Paul’s great-grandfather Bernard Fleming at the turn of the 20th century. After coming back home, Paul gradually took over the farm from George, who had taken over from his father-in-law, Ray Fleming. Ray had taken over the farm from his father, Bernard.
Paul and wife Rosanne now live on the same farm where it all began. “My grandpa lived in the same house where I spent the first seven years of my life,” Paul says, before the family moved to another house. Both of Paul’s parents are gone — Aliene passing away in 2018, and George last December.
The Lemmer farm of Paul’s youth was a typical farm of the 1950s and ’60s, with dairy, beef cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens.
Just as most farms across American changed, so did the Lemmer farm and the need for larger equipment became a reality. The tractor that replaced the B gave way to larger equipment that culminated in four-wheel-drive tractors, a 42-foot air-seeder and a 24-row planter.
Recently, Paul decided to rent out the crop ground, and the large equipment was sold off piece by piece. Now, Paul and his son-in-law Matt Weller raise about 90 beef cattle.
In selling off his equipment, Paul ran across the private collection of Darrel Jensen of Redfield that was being sold. Low and behold, the JD B from the Lemmer farm had found its way to Jensen’s private collection.
“It left our farm and got stored in the machine shed for 35 years, and I brought it back to the farm,” Paul says. “Technically, do I need it? No. But do I want it? Yea. To me, it’s the family tractor.”
In with the old
Timing can prove ironic, and that is the case on the Lemmer farm. The arrival of the JD B reversed a common phrase to “out with the new, in with the old.”
The last piece of Lemmer machinery to leave the farm, save a loader tractor and a feed wagon to take care of the cattle, was a four-wheel-drive tractor with a front blade.
“We brought it [the B] home and parked it there,” Paul says. “I had sold the four-wheel-drive tractor, and the next day, the guy came and got it. You watch that drive out of the driveway; you knew it was the end. We had rented the ground out, and you sit there and watch it go over the hill.”
Paul then turned around, and there sits the “ol’ B John Deere. People tease me that I traded down.”
Now that the JD B is back where it began, Paul says it may be relegated to mower duty around the farm. “It’s just something that brings you back,” he says. “If something happens to me, I pray that it stays around here, and I’m sure it will.”