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Hoosier farmer collects antique farm machinery
By NANCY VORIS
Indiana Correspondent

EDINBURGH, Ind. — There are no pink flamingos, the seven dwarfs or other knickknacks in Harold Hodges’ front yard. Forget the frilly stuff. Hodges’ lawn features a plow from the 1860s, an F-20 Farmall and a working oil well.

As a collector of antique farm machinery, Hodges said he’s like a woman with a new dress when he gets a new piece and likes to display it for everyone to see.

“I just want to show it off,” he said. “I’m so thankful men have preserved these things and that scrap yards didn’t get it all. I have a turn-of-the-century plow in my yard with flowers and bushes around it.”

Hodges shared his story while waiting out the rain at the Johnson County Antique Machinery Assoc.’s 15th annual show last weekend at the Johnson County Park in Edinburgh. He joined other members to display 194 antique tractors, with a total of 250 tractors on the grounds during the three-day event, according to show field chairman Dan Poe.

Hodges’ collection includes six tractors - two Farmalls, two Cases, a John Deere and an Allis-Chalmers. One Farmall, an F20, belonged to his father who farmed in Iowa. It was Hodges’ first restoration project.

“My father was a farmer all his life,” Hodges said. “I think when you worked on a farm you get attached to those kinds of things; you’re attached to the things you did in your childhood.”

Hodges lived in Iowa for 57 years and worked at Firestone Tires in Des Moines for 35 years. He moved to Indiana in 1989 to be close to his son.

After he restored his father’s tractor, Hodges was hooked. He added tractors and implements to his collection through the years, bumping out the walls of his pole barn occasionally to make more room.

The shop is heated and has a bathroom, so Hodges can “escape” and work on his machinery no matter what the weather.

His machinery collection includes an antique wrench collection, a gristmill, an oil well, a John Deere corn sheller and an antique tractor seat collection.

“A lot of guys are addicted to golf and beer, but this is my hobby and it keeps me home most of the time,” Hodges said. “Deep in my heart I love anything that’s old. I get more attached to these than I would a brand new John Deere.”

He remembers the summer of 1934 on the farm in Iowa, when his father planted 240 acres but did not harvest one ear of corn. It was a drought year, and hard on the family with 13 children.

The farm had a windmill for pumping water and he remembers his father telling the family to shut it off, there’s a storm coming.

“It’s just something I remember,” Hodges said. “So I bought a 1923 windmill and set it up in the backyard.”

Being a new Hoosier, Hodges said he didn’t feel like he fit anywhere until he learned about the antique machinery clubs. There he found neighbors next door and around the state who were as interested in the old ways as he was.

“It was a real blessing to get into the tractor clubs. I belong to five of them,” he said, grinning. “People you meet are the best in the world. We don’t compete and don’t judge anything. It’s entertainment and enjoyable to me.”

Hodges likes to bring his implements to machinery shows so that people can see the antique tractors hooked up to authentic farming tools.

And unlike many collectors, he doesn’t baby his machines with fancy covers or keep them in barns away from sunlight.

“These animals were meant to be outside. I don’t even cover mine up,” Hodges said.

But his son thinks he’s a little crazy. When he inherits his grandfather’s Farmall, he says it will be kept inside.

In the meantime, Hodges plans to share his love of antique machinery every chance he gets, including a display at the Johnson County Fair in nearby Franklin July 16-22.

“I’m thankful I had the opportunity to come from a farming background,” he said. “I just feel like I know a little more about life.”

This farm news was published in the June 28, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/28/2006