Cultivating Tradition: Trading Tales, Showcasing Antiques at Tractor Day
Gretchen Donohue, left, of Arlington, Mass. steadies her daughter Maeve as she practices shifting gears on a 1952 John Deere tractor owned by Lee Pudvah of Ascutney, Vt. at the Antique Tractor Day at the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vt. on Sunday, August 11, 2013. 13 tractors from 1931-1958 were on display at the event, put on my the Central Vermont Tractor Club. "We were in Killington for the week and my daughter became obsessed with tractors- every time she saw one she wanted to ride, so we heard there was a tractor day here and said we'd come check it out," said Gretchen. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Gordon Conant, right, of Randolph Center, Vt. talks to Roger Brown of Sharon, Vt., left, about Conant's 1931 Case Model C antique tractor at the Antique Tractor Day at the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vt. on Sunday, August 11, 2013. 13 tractors from 1931-1958 were on display at the event, put on my the Central Vermont Tractor Club. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock — Sue Lewis stood in the middle of a white tent on the grounds of the Billings Farm & Museum yesterday, pointing out some of the 13 antique tractors on display, as well as some of their owners.
Many of them are members of the Central Vermont Tractor Club, she said, and Billings’ 13th annual Antique Tractor Day is another way for the club’s approximately 55 members to keep in touch, give advice and see what their fellow members are working on.
“It’s an information interaction,” Lewis said.
But there may be more than just that.
“I think people just want to show off what they’ve done,” she said.
Sunday’s 13 tractors, which were built between 1931 and 1959, were all in top shape. They all worked — at 1 p.m. yesterday, their owners drove them around the farm in a parade — and had all been decorated with shiny coats of paint.
Most were red and green, generally denoting the Farmalls and John Deeres, respectively, but there was also orange and blue on display.
The majority of owners yesterday were from the Upper Valley, and nearly every participant was from Vermont, but Billings Public Relations Coordinator Susan Plump said that past events have featured tractors from as far as Massachusetts and New York.
“Some people have come for all 13 years,” she added.
Sue Lewis and her husband, Phil, of Barnard, are both Tractor Day mainstays. This year, they brought a Farmall Cub to display.
The vehicle, painted a deep red — though Sue Lewis made sure to point out that a new paint job alone does not restore a tractor — is the fourth Farmall tractor Phil has restored and owned.
The Central Vermont Tractor Club was a large force under the tent, even though not all the tractor owners yesterday were involved with the club. Sue Lewis stood behind a table outfitted with piles of shirts bearing the club’s logo. She said that, in past years, out-of-state tractor owners have joined the club. Other than yesterday’s outing, the club meets monthly to “talk tractors,” she said, and twice a year it gets more than a dozen members to plow fields for a member or neighbor in need.
Floyd McPhetres, a founding member of the club whose own machine was on display not far from the Lewises’ Cub, owns nearly four times as many antique tractors. Yesterday, the Randolph Center resident brought a 1947 McCormick OS-4 that his son came across at Townline Equipment in Plainfield. It didn’t need much work, McPhetres said, before it was ready to go.
Early in the day, guests trickled into the tent to view the tractors, passing by a make-your-own-wooden tractor tent, a tractor that children were allowed to climb and play on and, of course, farm animals.
“They’re beautiful,” said Deidre Williams, of Lebanon, of the vehicles. “I think it’s great that people are keeping them.”
Williams said she and her husband recently bought a tract of land and were looking for a tractor of their own, although not necessarily an antique one.
“We’re thinking about buying one,” Williams had said, standing next to Eloise McPhetres, Floyd’s wife.
“Well,” McPhetres said, “we only have 15.”
Jon Wolper can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3242.