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Antique John Deere club turns Michigan farmland
By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
Michigan Correspondent

BLANCHARD, Mich. — Putt, putt, putt … the sound of two-cylinder tractors broke the morning silence last Saturday as about 30 members of the Greasy Fingers Two-Cylinder Club worked a field at Roger McCarthy’s farm in Michigan’s Rolland Township near Blanchard.

The smell of freshly worked ground lingered in the heavy morning air as the rich brown soil rolled over in rhythm behind a field of green tractors. Plow day is the John Deere club’s annual spring gathering. George Derby and his son, Dennis, made the 45-minute trek from Big Rapids to the Isabella County farm with their 1951 John Deere A and a two-bottom plow loaded on a trailer.

“We’ve never plowed with this one,” George Derby said as he tinkered with the tractor, which they’ve owned for about four years. “I left my antique at home.”

The “antique” is a 1936 John Deere B that his father bought new.

“We’re worse than the old car guys in a way,” he said. “With my old B, I’d get up at daylight and spend all day and plow probably four acres.

“By the time I’d come home, my hands would be all bloody from running the levers all day,” he said.

George Derby said his love for two-cylinder tractors started at a young age.

“When I was 4-years old, a guy would come out and I’d sit up on his tractor like I was king,” he said. “It’s just kind of what you grow up with. It gets in your blood.”

Now, he and his adult son share the experience.

The day’s participants ranged from toddlers, young couples and retirees to 93-year-old Leo Cohoon of Shepherd. Cohoon enjoys the camaraderie of the group.

“I’ve got an H and a ’45 B war-time tractor. It’s kind of an oddity,” he said.

Edward Hansen, 80, of Sidney, and his grandson, Ed Hansen, brought a 1937 John Deere B with one-half of a two-way mounted plow and a John Deere H with a one-bottom, steel-wheeled plow.

“My dad used it. That was his to haul wood, rake hay, whatever,” Edward Hansen said of the H. “Five generations drove that tractor.” The elder Hansen listened as his grandson fired up the tractors to unload them from the trailer.

As the putt, putt rolled over, Hansen said with a grin, “You know what that is? It just fires once in a while, then it’s resting.”

Club members Max and Cindy Cole made more than an hour-long trek to the plow day from their Cedar Springs area home.

“We just came up to check things out,” Cindy Cole said.

“We didn’t bring a tractor, but Roger said he has lots of them that I could use,” Max said.

In the field, 44-year-old Darrell Elder of Evart was enjoying his slow ride on his 1935 Model A.

“I like the club and the fellowship,” he said. “We enjoy getting the old tractors out and working them, not just showing them, but working them.”

Elder said he took the day off work so he and his son Casey, 17, could attend.

“We have another A at home. It’s a 1950 wide-front,” Elder said. “Next time we’ll take that one. It’s the one Casey likes the best.” Weidman-area resident Bob Kolarik and his brother, Don, of Beal City were “bystanders.”

“We just came out to watch today,” Bob Kolarik said. “We’ve got some of these old John Deeres, but I can’t get on ‘em right now.”

Kolarik is recovering from a broken leg and knee, which kept him on the sideline.

“Reminiscing, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “We’re die-hard club members,” said Kolarik, whose license plate bears the letters GFTCC, for Greasy Fingers Two-Cylinder Club.

As the event’s host, McCarthy said he has the plow day every year for the club because “I just enjoy doing it.”

An avid collector of John Deere memorabilia, McCarthy’s home, pole barn and yard display items ranging from a 1935 John Deere BR, an original dealer sign from Crooks and Buskirk, which moved out of downtown Edmore in 1958, to toy tractors and various farm implements.

In front of the barn is McCarthy’s John Deere H, as well as several other antique tractors and implements.

“It’s my grandson’s favorite tractor,” he said with a twinkle in his eye as he talked about 6-year-old Ryan Baker, who lives near Williamston. “It’s the one he likes to drive all the time.”

The Greasy Fingers club is one of 11 in Michigan and is based in Big Rapids.

This farm news was published in the May 17, 2006 issue of Farm World.

5/17/2006