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They can sell everything else, but the 1086 stays in the family

Before anybody starts emailing me about the IH 1086 photographed in this week's Interesting Iron, it's not for sale.

Nope, this particular IH 1086 was only sold twice. Once when it was new in 1977, and again on an auction in September 2020. It won't sell again in any of our lifetimes, I can promise you that.

As of today, we've still got some 1086s listed on Tractor Zoom.

IH 1086 tractors listed on Tractor Zoom

Okay Interesting Iron guy, why tell us a story about a tractor that's not up for grabs at an auction or a dealer? What gives?

Well, because I'm kind of a romantic at heart. This week's Interesting Iron is all about why sometimes, it's not about the money — because it's not what matters most.

It's also about two dear friends of mine — Sam and Rae Lynn Kelley — who met and fell in love through tractor pulling. And this past Saturday, my wife and I went to their wedding!

Let's dig in.

4th generation farmer. Sort of.

Sam Kelley posed in front of his red pedal tractor and his IH 1086 tractor.
Photo credit: The Kelley Family

This is my friend Sam Kelley, and these are probably his two most cherished possessions. (Photo: The Kelley Family)

Sam Kelley and I go back a few years. I met him in the summer of 2016 when I started traveling a little more to take photos of truck and tractor pulling in the Midwest. He was on staff with the PPL Western Series, so we saw each other quite a bit and become good friends.

Sam is a fourth generation farmer from western Missouri, sort of. Farming runs deep in his family's roots — on both sides — but it skipped his dad's generation for a little while. Keith Kelley is a technology director for a school district, and Mom is a teacher. During the off-hours, though, Keith's helped Sam get his farm started on the right foot, so in my mind it's not too much of a stretch to say that he’s a farmer too.

Sam's mind was about made up by the time he was 5 or 6. It was either farm or play baseball for the Kansas City Royals. However, being the practical guy that he is, farming was the better choice. His grandfathers played a pivotal role in that — especially his Grandpa Marvin Luke. Marvin and Sam were pretty much inseparable when Sam was growing up.

Marvin taught Sam all about farming. His operation wasn't huge, but with corn, beans, hay, and a cow/calf operation, it kept them busy. As such, Sam took on responsibilities fairly early in life. He told me once that when he started running the combine for Grandpa Luke, they had to put a weight on the seat of the Case IH combine so that the emergency brake didn't kick off!

A young Sam Kelley posing next to his Grandpa Marvin Luke on his Case IH 1666 combine.
Photo credit: The Kelley Family

This was a pretty common sight at Grandpa Luke's during harvest time. I'm not sure if Sam was running the Case IH 1666 combine by this point or not, but Grandpa Luke looks awfully proud of his little grandson!

Always put the equipment away at night

Marvin Luke's IH 1086 in a black and white photo.
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

Marvin Luke bought this IH 1086 new from a local dealer in 1977, and always took good care of it. And now that Sam has it, he's doing the same.

As I understand it, one of Marvin Luke's cardinal rules was that the equipment always went in the shed at night. He strongly believed that if you took good care of your equipment, it would take good care of you. That's a good rule of thumb for any size operation in my book. He always farmed with smaller equipment — nothing bigger than those 1086s, a Kinze 2600 6/11-split row planter, a 15-foot John Deere 750 grain drill, and a Case IH 1666 combine. Everything was fairly small, but it was always well cared-for.

The IH 1086s: The workhorses

The 1086s — a 1977 and a 1978 — were always the workhorses. Marvin Luke bought the one in the foreground brand new in 1977 (I believe it came from Lawson Truck & Tractor in Stanberry, MO), and then added the second one a couple of years later. They'd both had some fuel pump work done (the 1978 ran a fair bit hotter than factory stock), but both were always treated with respect. Neither of those tractors were the weekend hot rods — Grandpa Luke had a pulling tractor to scratch that itch.

The one that Sam really loved was the 1977 model, mainly because it was the one that was bought new. It had 9,500 some-odd hours on it, and it had been overhauled once. It had also been repainted by Scott Hill, and Kevin Holtmann, an exceptionally talented restorer, had gone through the interior. At the end of the day, it was the nicer of the two, despite having higher hours (the 1978 had 8,600, the 1977 had 9,500).

The Pulling Tractors

Pulling is a part of life in a lot of northwest Missouri where Sam's from, and Grandpa Luke loved to do it, too. He started with a Farmall 560, and then eventually built a Pro Field tractor wearing 66-series sheet metal. After he'd had his fun with the Pro Field tractor, it went to Illinois where the new owner used a few pieces and parts of it in a big time Super Farm tractor!

Sam's family posed in front of the International Harvester tractor they used for pulling.
Photo credit: The Kelley Family

Pulling was a family affair for the Lukes and Kelleys. Here's what the Pro Field tractor looked like not too long after it was built.

Pocket Change: A Case IH pulling tracctor owned by Jerry Barrass.
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

When Marvin Luke sold his pulling tractor, it went to a puller in Marion, Illinois named Jerry Barrass. The rear end of Pocket Change, his PPL Champions Tour Super Farm, is from Marvin's old tractor! I shot this photo in August of 2018 in Hillsboro, Wisconsin. Hit the photo to shop Case IH tractors on TZ!

He never did get rid of the 560, though. It's still in his shed today, and although it's been returned to stock(ish), it's still probably a little hotter than your average 560. It makes for a great little tractor ride tractor.

Granda Marvin Luke's first pulling tractor: A Farmall 560.
Photo credit: The Kelley Family

This was Grandpa Luke's first pulling tractor. It was the tractor that Sam learned to drive on! 

Anyway, enough about pulling tractors for now.

Grandpa Luke slows down

Late in 2019, Sam told me that Grandpa Luke had decided to retire. By then, Sam was farming a little on his own, and there were plans for him to farm some of the family's ground the following year. Rod Dollars, a local auctioneer, was to host the auction in late March 2020.

He also wanted to know what 1086s were going for. He told me that he wanted the 1977 model. It was the one that had been on the farm the longest, and it was special to him. I told him what they typically brought (at the time, $15,000 would buy you a pretty nice one). I also promised him that we'd work with Rod to get the auction listed on TZ as soon as the catalog was ready.

Then about a month after we had that conversation, the pandemic hit and turned everybody's world upside down.

The auction, which was originally scheduled for March 28, had to be postponed. The new sale date was to be September 19.

So, Sam went on to farm that ground, and spring planting went off without a hitch. We went pulling together quite a bit that summer, talked auctions and farming, and so on. As the auction grew closer, I knew he had a number in his head for the tractor, but I didn't know what it was. (I still don't.)

Auction Day

A pair of IH 1086 tractors, and an IH 986 tractor that worked on Marvin Luke's farm.
Photo credit: Sam Kelley

For about as long as Sam can remember, these were the workhorses on Grandpa Luke's farm — a 986 and a pair of 1086s. That September Saturday morning, the workhorses sat together for the final time. This was a photo that Sam sent to me the day of the auction.

The day of the auction, when Sam got to the farm, people he didn't know were carefully looking over the 1086s. That was when it all got very real for him — and honestly, I don't think it had sunk in until that morning. (I can totally understand why, and I suspect some of you can, too.)

Now, Sam's a methodical guy. He thinks things through, doesn't make impulsive decisions, and doesn't get rattled easily. But the thought of the 1086 in the foreground going home on somebody else's trailer — that rattled him. And right then and there, he made a promise to himself.

They can buy everything else on the auction, but the 1977 model IH 1086 stays put. That one is mine.

And it did stay put. But it didn't come cheap.

Sam's 1086

 

The red IH 1086 tractor.
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

When it came time for the 1977 model to sell, the locals (who all knew that Sam wanted this one) did the honorable thing. They stepped back and kept their hands in their pockets. However, there was one other bidder. Sam doesn't know who he was, but I got the impression that he was from out of town. And he wanted that tractor pretty badly, too. The bidding went back and forth for what seemed like an eternity, but Sam wasn't about to break the promise he made to himself.

So he kept bidding.

So did the other guy.

Back and forth they went until finally, the other guy threw in the towel.

When the hammer dropped, Rod smiled as he said, "I'm happy to say that this one is staying in the family."

Sam told me that as soon as the hammer fell, he turned and looked at Grandpa and Grandma Luke. "Ryan, I don't think I've ever seen bigger smiles from them in all my life than I did that day," Sam told me.

The final sale price?

$20,600.

Marvin and Janet Luke posed in front of the IH 1086.
Photo credit: The Kelley Family

Marvin and Janet Luke on the day of the auction. I'm pretty sure that by this point, Sam had become the new owner, judging by the big smiles.

After the sale

The day of the auction, I was at a tractor pull in Nashville, Illinois — one that he normally would've been on staff for. A bunch of us were hoping to hear good news, and once we did, it traveled pretty fast. I don't know many pullers who don't have a special place in their hearts for family tractors, and knowing that he did what it took to keep one in the family? That made us all very proud of him.

Sam didn't waste time in putting the tractor back to work — he couldn't. It was harvest time!

The red IH 1086 hard at work during harvest season.
Photo credit: Sam Kelley

In the weeks following the sale, the tractor went right back to work, as they started harvest quickly after the auction was over. This time, though, it was Sam's crop, not Grandpa Luke's.

Sam once posted a photo on social media and told a little bit of the story, and of course, the critics came out about as fast as the congratulations. People said he was foolish for spending what he spent on a 1086, and others tried to fault Marvin for not selling it to him privately because it was a family thing. And to his credit, Sam handled it all very well. I wouldn't have. I'd have probably snapped back with something snarky, and I know he wanted to.

His answer?

Keeping that 1086 in the family was what mattered most.

But wait, there's more to this story!

Here's where we go back to pulling, and the events of this past weekend.

Remember how I mentioned that this story was about two dear friends of mine, and how there was a love story entangled in all of this?

Let's talk about that for a minute.

Exactly five years ago, at a tractor pull at the Putnam County Fair in Unionville, Missouri, Sam met Rae Lynn. She eventually stole his heart, and as of last Saturday, his last name, too.

I know this for fact, because I was there that night, and I took the first photo of the two of them together!

Sam and Raey Lynn posed with the tractor pull team. A corgi is there.
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

Sam's in the center. Rae Lynn is on the left.

It was Rae Lynn's first night on staff at a PPL Western Series show, and boy, was her head spinning. She caught on quick, though, and before long, she was an integral member of the team.

"It's about frickin' time!"

Here's the thing, though. It wasn't like they fell for each other right away. They became friends, but like any coworkers in a high-stress job, they butted heads here and there. The funniest part was that they couldn't see what all the rest of us saw pretty much right away: They were perfect for each other! All of us in their pulling family dropped hints — staff, photographer/media people like me, competitors, everybody!

I'm pretty sure Rae Lynn fell for him first, but being a typical guy, I don't think Sam saw it coming. I can say that because I'm a typical guy and I didn't see it coming when I met Kara, either. Just before Christmas in 2020 (and possibly with a little liquid courage), they finally opened up to one another.

I was probably the first to know mainly because I made a snarky comment to her one night just after it had happened (I didn't know at the time), and she called me and yelled, "WHO TOLD YOU?!"

I started laughing and replied, "You did, honey. Just now. It's about frickin' time you two finally saw the light!" (And I'm pretty sure everybody else said the same thing, too.)

The most recent job for the 1086

Sam and Rae Lynn Kelley posed in front of their red pedal tractor and IH 1086, both loaded up on a trailer.
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

Sam's IH 1086 and the Farmall H pedal tractor both served important roles in their wedding.

About three weeks ago, Sam spent gobs and gobs of time getting his IH 1086 and his Farmall H pedal tractor polished up and ready, because they both had important jobs this past Saturday. 

Sam Kelley riding on the little red pedal tractor, in front of his IH 1086
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

Of course, Sam had to try it out and make sure it still worked. (It did.)

After the minister had proclaimed them hitched, one of the ringbearers took his baby sister out of the church in a little wagon hitched up to the pedal tractor. It was super cute. The 1086, on the other hand, that didn’t make its appearance until the reception.

A photo of Sam Kelley's IH 1086 tractor taken on his wedding day.
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

I knew the 1086 would be involved in the wedding somehow, so I brought my camera gear along. You know, just in case. I was happy with the way these photos turned out!

I think that in Sam's head, he thought it'd be cool to leave the wedding reception in that tractor. However, if you've ever been in an IH 1086 (or any of the 86-series tractors), you know they're a little tight on space. They've got levers on both sides of the cab, too, which would NOT be easy to deal with in a big wedding dress! So, I think common sense took over and Sam decided that it would just sit there and look pretty, which it definitely did.

Wrapping up

I know Sam’s story isn’t unique, but I always have (and always will) admire a man who feels that strongly about his family’s heritage. At the end of the day, long after Grandpa Luke has taught his last lesson, Sam will still remember what he learned in that cab. And God willing, someday he’ll teach his kids some life lessons in the cab of that tractor. 

The story of Sam and Grandpa Luke and the IH 1086 has been a LONG time in the making. I've wanted to tell it for nearly two years now! But, when "Sam" became "Sam and Rae Lynn", I had a sneaking suspicion that if I waited just a little bit longer, the story would be that much more fun! It turns out that I was right!

So, congratulations, Sam and Rae Lynn. Your pulling family loves you, and we're so happy for you both!

One more thing. Remember when I said that Sam got the farming blood from both sides of the family? Well, the other half farmed green, and there's only one green tractor Sam will ever have his eye on. This beautiful Sound Gard 4440 that his Grandma Kelley owns!

Sam Kelley's red IH 1086 and green John Deere 4440.
Photo credit: The Kelley Family

Sam only wants one green tractor for the farm. This one. Keeping family tractors in the family is one of the things that matters most to him. I hope that someday, he gets it!

IH 1086 tractors listed on Tractor Zoom

Here are photos of a couple 1086s currently listed on Tractor Zoom. Hit the link above to see them all, including one that came from Stew Paquette's collection down in Florida.

An IH 1086 tractor in red paint.
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

This IH 1086 is currently for sale at a Greenmark dealership in Three Rivers, Missouri. Hit the photo to see the TZ listing!  

An IH 1086 with the side taken off to expose its engine.
Photo credit: Ryan Roossinck

Here's another IH 1086 that's currently listed on TZ. It'll sell on a DPA consignment sale that wraps up on September 13, 2022. Hit the photo to see the listing! It'll need some TLC, from the looks of it.

Ryan Roossinck
 Hi! I’m Ryan, and I love tractors. It doesn’t matter if it’s a showpiece, an oddball, or seen its share of life ... if it’s unique and it’s listed by one of our auctioneer partners at Tractor Zoom, I’m going to show it off a little bit! This equipment is all up for auction RIGHT NOW so you can bid on it. I think it’s cool, and I hope you will too! This is Interesting Iron!

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