They shouldn’t be abandoned like this (photo). These old tractor yards along the back roads of IA and NE are depressing. Some have hundreds of machines in rows containing every brand and color (photo). Most of these machines are my age plus or minus 10 years. Most haven’t been abandoned because they quit working, but only because they were superseded with modernity, a problem I can relate to personally.
I have one of these old tractors; a Farmall F-20, just like the one I drove on the farm as a kid. It is an ugly duckling, but it revolutionized row crop agriculture and put the US on the map as a world food producer. I loved this old machine so much, that I bought one on ebay, and, with a little help from a friend, hauled it to Virginia from Kansas.
But James Johnson (photo) loves F-20s more than I do. I pulled Boxxer down fast when I saw James’ antique tractor yard next to Iowa 64. He was loading a couple of F-20s for an auction the next day. He clearly didn’t mind my interrupting his work because he spent the next 30 minutes, with great enthusiasm, telling me about his experiences and restoration work. “I’ve owned and sold 800 to 900 F-20s”, James told me. “Best tractor ever made.” “My dad owned John Deeres, but they were primitive by comparison. When I was a kid, I used to manure out our neighbor’s stables for nothing just so I could drive his F-20.” OK, he got me with that one.
James had 15 or 20 F-20s, 30s, and 14s. He opened his workshop and showed me his pride and joy, his recently restored F-14; a real beauty. He began tearing up when he said he was selling it to keep his business going.
Thanks to James and others like him, some of these old, worthy machines are being rescued from the graveyards and restored to their former beauty and function. But not most; most are succumbing to the elements, rust, and tall weeds (photo) and will sink into the earth along with everything else we no longer value.