The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
The Great Tractor Ride Keeps Growing
by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner
Just think about what all the hundreds of classic tractors that were rolling across the heartland represented this week. It was certainly more than what meets the eye.
Every make and model of old classic tractor that can be imagined was rolling into the Port of Burlington Tuesday and on Wednesday will be found moving across the Great River Bridge into Illinois, on the last leg of an event that has brought lots of attention to the area.
Initiated 14 years ago by two fame WHO radio station ag broadcasters Mark Pearson, and the late Gary Wrgen, this year's program brought about one of the best turnouts ever with nearly 600 tractors and many more people in support of the ride.
The organizers bringing works of functioning mechanical farm history is the result of countless hours of restoration by people from the farming community. They are men and women who have a passion for an era of innovative machines which has resulted in the most productive farming nation in history.
Attention to detail is what has resulted in thousands of talented mechanics, for the most part, homegrown on the farm, and working together to gather hard-to-find parts and fix-it solutions.
What is sad is that many of today's modern day tractors will never inspire the passion that old time bolt patterns and artfully formed casings had created.
But this tractor ride is more than just a swap meet for parts and fixing up relics from the past.
According to one Iowan farmer who has been a part of the Great Iowa Tractor Ride since the first one was organized in 1996, Luverne Schmidt it's a journey back in time reminiscing, making friendships, preserving a heritage, and family time along with a great adventure.
Luverne, who had farmed along side his grandfather before his two sons joined the business, said he was listening to Mark Pearson and Gary Wrgen talk on WHO radio about what fun it would be to gather a group of farmers together and drive their tractors through central Iowa.
Luverne decided to join them, along with most all of his other friends from their small town of Klemme, 70 miles north of Ames.
"The first year there were 135 tractors who went from Grienell to Des Moines. A dozen of us decided we would drive down town Des Moines and park in front of the Spaghetti Works over the noon hour, Luverne said. We sat there in the heat and people came out of their businsses and hurried by us as fast as if there'd been road kill there for three days. We had a police escort that took us from Altona to the Spaghetti Works but he left us in a lurch to get out."
At 1 p.m., it was hot and one of the guys who knew Des Moines tried to plan to hit the lights on green. Luverne went through several green lights but being third from the end he said he started hitting the reds. "I ran through them and got some salutes," he laughed.
They all enjoyed themselves and were invited to an event that had ageless iron put on by "Successful Farming" magazine. There were a lot of benefits to the ride.
Luverne has continued each year to come to the tractor ride with his two sons and their spouses, and his two married grandchildren were home running the farm.
"You meet people and get acquainted," he said, "And now I am selectively retired.
Luverne said that means when the boys ask him if he has some time, he replies, "Well, what do you have in mind?" Then he decides if he wants to do it or not.
His boys Lonnie (wife Chris) and Jamie said they never wanted to do anything but farm. They both admitted it was Grandpa who had the time to teach them about farming because dad was too busy.
They learned to drive a truck when they could barely reach the peddles and would look through the stearing wheel when they were about 5 years old, out in the oat field.
Grandpa had the time.
In 1978 Luverne and the boys incorporated the farm and as the next generation returned and asked if there was room for them, they kept growing.
Today they farm 3400 acres and have a farrowing house, buy cattle and feed them out and have some horses. They love the way of life and enjoy family working and playing together - such as the Great Iowa Tractor Ride.
They posed for a quick photo and then were inside the Drake to eat together.
They drove three John Deere tractors Luverne was very proud of, two with the first serial number for that model, but he said what you hear most often is, "I want one like dad had."