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Tinkering with toys pays off for Hoosier brothers
Indiana Correspondent

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. — Some say the only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys - and farm toys are no exception.

Twins Dean and Duane Leonard grew up tinkering with their toy trucks, tractors and wagons, and when something was broken their dad Jim helped out with some welding. Sometimes they had ideas that would make the toys more efficient.

“We were all the time seeing something that needed improving,” Dean said.

After about 10 years of fixing the boys’ farm collection, Jim told them they could fix their own stuff. “We learned how when dad said he wasn’t going to fix things any more,” Duane said.

By the time they were juniors in high school, the boys had built a full-size hay trailer.

Nearly 25 years later Dean and Duane have made themselves a reputation for metal fabrication, gaining them recognition in Successful Farming and other publications.

Not only do the Leonards do all of their own repairs, they also do repairs and build custom equipment for others.

“Sometimes it’s more than we can get done,” Duane said.

Father, sons and an uncle farm 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Morgan County. They also feed 60 Hereford and Angus cows and bale hay, including some custom baling.

After they built their first small hay trailer in high school, Dean and Duane knew the second one would be better. They used a gooseneck trailer and built it wider to hold six large round bales that would drop off the trailer. It can also be used to haul sheet metal and other material.

The Leonards’ biggest challenge to date is a farm service truck they built in 1997.

They found a ’92 Freightliner cab that had a 5-foot sleeper and 24-foot van box.

“We thought that would make a nice service truck for the welder,” Dean said. “We took the bed off and shortened the frame.”

The men found a second Freightliner cab that had burned at a junkyard. They spliced the two cabs together and made a four-door cab, with room in the back seat to sit four men comfortably.

The 9-foot service body holds a crane, welding supplies, carpenter tools, jacks, chains, shovels, a vise, impact wrenches, grinders, oil, and an assortment of hitch pins, screws, sockets and bolts.

The work started in February 1997, and the truck was ready to use by planting season that spring.

“The paint was still fresh,” Dean remembered.

“I taught them all I knew, and then they passed me,” Jim said about his sons’ work, and he’s already looking ahead to the next project.

“The next truck is going to be all-wheel drive,” he said.

This farm news was published in the June 21, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.