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Machinery Pete: Emotions and tractors

Agriculture.com Staff 09/17/2009 @ 11:19am

I've spent the last 20 years documenting the value of used equipment.

I've done this by compiling auction sale price data. Tons of numbers, over 222,800 sale prices in our web site today. But you know what? There's one thing my sale price numbers can't quantify when it comes to used farm equipment.

The powerful emotional connection between man and machine.

This truth was driven home to me last Thursday (September 10) as I filmed a nice farm retirement auction in northeast Iowa. Dean Eastman was the auctioneer on the sale for Gary and Cheryl Pearson. Gary Pearson's longtime righthand man on the farm was Tom Shimek. The detailed maintenance records Tom kept on all the equipment was astounding. Gary's hand written notes filled I'd guess at least 60 pages and were displayed nicely and neatly in the shop before the sale.

I've been covering auctions 20 years and honestly, I've never seen anything like it.

One of the headline pieces of equipment up for sale on the auction was a 1997 JD 8400 MFWD tractor. She was a beauty, with only 3,678 original one owner hours. So when it came time on the auction for the 8400 to sell auctioneer Dean Eastman hands the mic to Tom to tell the crowd a little something about this tractor.

Tom tried, but wasn't able to talk.

Hard to talk with an emotional lump in your throat. Dean took the mic back and explained that Tom had driven that 1997 8400 off the assembly line 12 years ago. The meticulous notes on that tractor's care spoke volumes about how Tom felt about it. For folks who don't farm it will sound silly, but Tom loved that tractor.

I've been a writer for a long time now, but when it comes to love, how to explain the hows and whys? Not easy. I guess I just figure for Tom that tractor represented all encompassing memories of farming with his friend Gary for the last decade plus. He'd done a lot of good solid work with that tractor. It treated him well. He was going to miss that tractor and everything that went with it, namely farming.

It sold for $85,000. Just a number.

Makes me think of a cute story a buddy of mine, Dale Leslein, from Dubuque, Iowa, relayed a few years ago. Dale had been in the market to find a really nice smaller used combine for his acreage. He found one, way up in west-central Minnesota in the town of Starbuck, very near where I grew up. An old Scandinavian farmer had a 1981 IHC 1420 combine only 1,902 hours on it for sale. I'll call him Ole.

Dale bought Ole's combine for $9,500.

Some months later Dale got an unexpected phone call from Ole up in Starbuck. Seems Ole was going to be visiting a relative within shouting distance of Dubuque and wondered if he might be able to swing by to see his old 1420. Sure, no problem, any time.

Ole and the 1420 had a nice reunion. More return visits and phone calls have followed.

Or what about the antique tractor auction I filmed August 22nd out in southwest Minnesota, Bill DeYager's staggering line of restored Deere tractors, including numerous rare "Hi Crop" models. What a day. Bill's extended family had on color coordinated tee shirts proudly showing the DeYager name. Must have been at least 40 family members in those yellow shirts.

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