“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.” - Corrie Ten Boom
Farmers like to talk about tractors. Old farmers like to talk about old tractors. Even if they meet someone for the first time and they find out you had a connection to a farm, they ask almost immediately what kind of tractor the other person had. It’s what farmers do.
You can imagine, then, my excitement some weeks ago when we were driving across Florida several hours north of Tampa and I remembered that someone had told me about a Farmall tractor museum in that area. Evie was driving and I immediately checked the internet and discovered it was only about an hour from where we were.
We exited I-75 and drove a few miles to Leesburg, Florida, to visit Paquett’s Historical Farmall Tractor Museum. Opened in 2010, this museum is a private collection of Farmall tractors and International Harvester (IH) machinery that is displayed in two huge warehouses.
In approximately 45,000 square feet, the owner has gathered more than 100 IH tractors, pedal tractors, toy tractors, pulling tractors and tractor paraphernalia. There is even a 1940s prototype IH Dealership that includes a showroom, office and a refurbishing shop.
After I visited the office and bought our tickets, we went for a walk down my memory lane. I could hardly believe the huge collection of tractors. But my primary attention went to the Farmall H and Farmall M tractors because those were the ones we had on our farm.
Farmall was a model name and later a brand name for tractors manufactured by IH. Until 1939, IH made a series of tractors identified as the “F” series. In 1939, the “H” series began and the most popular tractors were the Farmall H and later the Farmall M. Those tractors were general-purpose or all-purpose tractors that ran similarly to contemporary John Deere tractors. From 1939–1952, IH made 390,317 Farmall H tractors and 270,140 Farmall M tractors.
Although old farmers talk about the power take-off and draw bar and horsepower and whether the wheels were together or apart, what we really are referencing is a deep connection to precious memories from our childhoods. And a million of them came back to me when I climbed up on that Farmall H so Evie could take my picture.
I remembered driving one when I was so young I could hardly reach the clutch and brake. I remembered plowing and disking and planting and cultivating and harvesting. I remembered the sights and sounds and smells of farm life. Nearly six decades of time evaporated. I even remembered the two brake pedals, one for the left back tire and the other one for the right.
Farmers also talk about their preference for red (Farmall) and green (John Deere) tractors. Most farmers are quite passionate about one or the other. As a Farmall person, we would say, “If it ain’t red, leave it in the shed.” Or, “John Deere’s are green so they can hide in the grass when the Farmall’s drive by.” I suppose John Deere people have similar sayings, but even if I knew them, I wouldn’t mention them here.
You can imagine my surprise some years ago when my brother, who was also a Farmall guy, bought a John Deere lawn mower. When I first saw it I accused him of “going over to the dark side.” He recently moved and he had to sell his lawn mower. I let him know how much better it made me feel.
Michael Keaton once said, “To this day, I have the most fond memories of some of my old toys.” For farmers, their tractors are not toys but our attachment to them can be much like that.
We often talk about walking down memory lane. If I could, I would prefer riding on a Farmall Tractor.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Responses can be e-mailed to email@example.com. Official page: Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer. Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer. Archives at: valleyforge.edu/thinkaboutit.