CLARION – Tractors, ranging from large farm row-crop machines to smaller garden utility vehicles, lined a two-block stretch of Main Street in Clarion on Sunday, Oct. 6. Despite frequent rain showers during the late morning registration period, the tractor enthusiasts on hand remained nonplussed, unconcerned that their machinery might get wet on the last day of the 66th Autumn Leaf Festival.
“They’re built for it. They’re used to being out in the weather, in the rain and working in all kinds of weather,” said Matt Musser of New Bethlehem.
Musser had two tractors on display, a green 1953 John Deere 50 and a red 1948 Farmall C. A service technician raised on a farm, Musser was hard pressed to identify a favorite, finally deciding it might be the John Deere. Noted Musser, “I’m partial to the green more. That one was bought new by my grandpa. I restored it for my senior project in high school.”
Ethan Champion, a tech school student majoring in heavy machine operations, was also there with multiple tractors. The New Bethlehem native became interested in restoring tractors by working with his father. “It was something we always wanted to do and finally got the time to do it and some money to do it. So we decided to go ahead and start doing it.”
“We first restored my grandpa’s 1952 Farmall H and enjoyed it. So we decided to get another one. So I bought a 1953 Farmall M last fall and my dad and I restored it this winter, painted this spring, and I’ve been taking it to shows,” reported Champion.
Reynoldsville’s Dave Moore, a retired welder, had a 1954 Farmall Super C. Moore began restoring tractors after deciding he was too old to ride his motorcycle. Explained Moore, “I got to a point where I knew I couldn’t ride two wheels anymore. I grew up on a farm. I’ve been running tractors since I was about six years old. This was my uncle’s tractor. It became available and I started down the antique tractor path. I have more than one now.”
Armed with a copy of the bill of sale, Moore added, “The tractor was purchased in 1954 in DuBois. It came complete with a plow, fast hitch, a harrow and touch control, which were all optional at that time. And the sales tax was 1 percent. You can see the tractor was $1,850 with all those attachments and of course the 1 percent sales tax put another $18.50 on it. Now, three years ago, this thing sat in the barn with the tires dry rotted. I put four new tires on it and new tubes and it was $1,850 for the tires. Now you see what happened with inflation.”
Steve Huffman of Shippenville and his son Billy were displaying a hand-built, all-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle. “It has Allis Chalmers’ axles out of an Allis Chalmers tractor. It has a Jeep engine, an army surplus Jeep engine in it. Four speed transmission. It’s got air brakes, air steering, it steers like a skid steer. It goes pretty good. It handles well. Overall, it’s a pretty good machine.”
Not all tractors were only for display. Ray Lander originally restored his 1956 Farmall 300 because it needed work to remain functional. “I grew up on a dairy farm. I’ve had this tractor since 1982 and it was pretty bad when I bought it. I needed to do some mechanical work on it and one thing led to another and then the next thing I had it restored,” stated Lander.
Lander still does some light plowing with the tractor and drove it from his home in Lickingville to Clarion the day prior. Pulling family and friends in a manure spreader he had converted into a 10-seat trailer, Lander made the 20-mile trip in about two hours, noting that though the tractor can go 18 miles-per-hour he frequently was only doing five on the hilly roads.
Because restoration of farm machinery can be costly, some of those with more limited budgets stick to garden tractors. Jonathan Smith of Clarion, who graduated from high school this past May, was showing off his orange 1979 Case 222 Performance King.
“I’ve been coming to the tractor show up here since I was knee high and I’ve always had a passion for farm equipment. If you want to get a bigger tractor, that’s too expensive. I got into garden tractors, started about five years ago. I went to Ohio to this auction, and bought one for a hundred bucks. Tore it down, repainted it, built the motor up, got a new carburetor and everything on it. And it runs like a champ and it’s just a hobby, something to do,” said Smith.
Summing up the day’s display of tractors, Moore pointed out that it was a chance for those in attendance to view the history of agriculture. “I think they (attendees) should come here and look and learn and appreciate where our past is and how we went from horses to modern tractors.”