Tractor: The Movie

FULL EPISODE

Tractor: The Movie

Tractor: The Movie is a collection of 7 different stories exploring how and why tractors have touched the souls of so many people.

AIRED: April 08, 2019 | 0:26:49
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TRANSCRIPT

From WV Public Broadcasting

Do you love your tractor, but it's

hard to say exactly why?

Is it how it rides and that zenful hum of the engine?

Maybe how it looks or feels when a job is done?

It might just be a warm memory from your past.

we are exploring how and why tractors touch the

souls of so many people.

Now, if you are anything like me, step one is to

get the darn thing running.

A traveling tractor repairman might be a good start.

Well I'm Ted Kalvitis, I have a mobile

farm tractor repair business that I operate in

the Shenandoah Valley, in what they call The Hunt Country.

And I host two columns for Antique Power Magazine.

The Traveling Mechanic which is annual and

another column called Of Grease and Chaff.

I usually get all the exotics and the brain

buster problems that no one else can figure out.

Not that I'm any smarter but I'm just persistent.

I know which ones to avoid.

I do a lot of work for collectors, antique

tractors that is and I rescue a lot of barn finds

which is what we're doing today.

Oh, Isn't that beautiful, smell that hey

Oh yes, that looks like the late 40s early

50s allis-chalmers WD 45 and from the look of that

fuel we're gonna be taking the carburetor with us and

may be washing out the fuel tank.

oh this is neat, I've been running into these this is

to provide vacuum to a milking machine.

It runs off the intake manifold

Isn't that grease beautiful old caked on

dirt and grease a history of a farm in dirt.

This is what would classify as a barn find

tucked back amongst hay bale someplace you'll

still find old tractors like this This one's shown

promise so far it's at least it's run within our lifetimes.

It's a good place to go now and then to get out of

the here and now.

Ted's specialty is not only getting antiques running again.

He sparks memories and then tells those stories

he comes across in his journey.

I grew up on the farm and there is a nostalgic connection.

I can get on just about any tractor from that

period of time and start it up and drive it.

And the exact color of paint, the smell of the

exhaust, the sound and all these factors just come

together in your brain and they energize place that

have been quiet for years and all the memories come back.

Steve Slonecker had not moved his father's

Oliver Super 77 since his Dad parked it and passed

away shortly after.

A few years passed since then, so he gave his old

friend Ted a call.

There is never any agreement for payment

specifically for fixing a tractor but we always seem

to have apples around.

My Granddad and Mr. Haines here my

neighbor -- which, we felt of him as family -- farmed

back and forth together.

They bought machinery together.

They owned a combine together.

Things of that sort.

And for 50 years they did that, for 50 years and

they never had a disagreement, never had a cross word.

Never had a contract.

All they ever had was a handshake between them.

I think probably the reason my Dad settled on

Olivers is my Grand Dad decide you could only have

one tractor and he needed a tractor big enough to do everything.

You know a big tractor can do the small things too.

Their more awkward but the little tractor is limited.

It can do a lot but it can't do the really big jobs.

So that is why he settled on an Oliver verses a Ford Ferguson.

Which is pretty common in this area back at that point in time.

But the old Oliver was always the ol'e standby.

That was always the one that we relied on.

Then he bought the one that we have today and in

fact he used it upto shortly before his death.

Alright

We will see what it does.

The moment of truth.

Lets see what if will start.

Alright!

It's charging, It's got oil pressure

So what do I do now?

Put it back again?

It's a mixed feeling for me today.

A lot of emotions today, I mean it's a good emotion

You know I just left it like he left it and to see

it out today It's a little emotional for me.

But it's a good emotion.

All and all it's a good day.

I'm glad you guys are here to share some memories and

take some pictures of the ol'e tractor.

Now that the Oliver is running again its

Breakfast time on the farm.

It Is a great place for planning the day, but this

morning is more about remembering.

what the tractor ment to the family.

Olivia are you ready for bacon this morning?

It's your favorite so go ahead and get you some.

Mother do you remember the tractor

pulling contest we had?

Dad and I had?

I faintly remember that Steve but not really much about it.

Do you?

Sure, Well I had just gotten my first new

tractor that I ever bought.

Oh yes I do now.

Dad was not convinced that the new

tractor could do much more than the Oliver could do.

So we debated that for some time and we decide

just to find out.

So we pulled them out in the driveway there and

tied them together with a chain.

Had a tug o war and I have to admit after the dust

settled and the smoke cleared away.

It was a pretty even contest.

All we accomplished was digging big hole in the driveway

Steve's mother Iia still lives with him and

his family on the farm.

She raised him there and remembers a different era.

I Remember going to the well and

getting water with the old crank pump.

Bringing milk in and skimming it and cerning,

you know making butter.

It seems like a long time ago but now you just go to

the store and buy it.

Back then you did everything the hard way.

Everything was done by horses then.

Plowing, Mowing, loading hay you name it we did.

The tractor was some much better than horses.

It was a great experience to go from the horses to the tractor.

It was pretty revolutionary to be honest

with you because a team of horses would take days to

plow one of these fields and then when the first

tractor that I recall.

You could plow the same amount of acreage and

ground in a day versus a week.

You know that was just revolutionary in those times.

It really was because after you used horses so long.

It just made like a night and day difference in your work.

Plowing or whatever you had to do.

And of course making hay made a big difference too.

Because if you had horses and a wagon it took about

three times as long as it would with a tractor to

pull a wagon and load your hat on.

But he was really proud of that tractor.

It was a cadillac to him.

It really was.

I said to him one time why don't you trade and get

another one.

And he said no I will never get rid of that Oliver.

He said that is part of me and part of my life and

good part of my life.

There is now way I could part with That tractor.

So it seems a tractor can be a friend for life.

Life long friends are best met as early as possible.

And it's always a plus...

if they go super, super fast.

I'm Eliza my tractor is a Cub Cadet I

love it because my tractor goes super super fast.

We were at a fair one day and we seen

the tractors and I said to myself, that looked pretty

interesting to me.

And we decide that when we found her tractor -- we

bought it for her just to really run it around --

and then we got the idea to to fix it all up and

make a pulling tractor and it just developed into a family thing.

And it's not only an intermediate family, it

brings our whole family together and they watch

and I guess the biggest thing, it really shows

them responsibility.

You know they got responsibilities with the tractors.

And you know when they're out there only they can

control the tractor.

I mean you know I can help but it's nice to see how

the tractor can grow the responsibility at the age

of five and six years old 7 to push the clutch in

stop the tractor, start the tractor, to know what

to do where a lot of people don't get that

opportunity to learn till there at an older age.

Whenever we first started his mom

and his sisters and even my mom were very hesitant.

I mean they thought that they were going to fly off

the tractor they're going to get hurt I mean they

just thought it was going to be like a bad thing and

then after the first come over first couple pools

and they saw what was going on.

They had the helmets They had the seats and things

were safe now they go almost every weekend and

my dad he's he's always been like a motorhead so he loves it too.

Chuck Kleine: what's your favorite part?

Eliza: Winning the trophies.

Chuck: Yeah?

How many trophies have you won?

Eliza: Um ...5.

Tell them -- it was tractor

pulling or cheerleading and you pick tractor pulling.

We own our own company so Chad works a lot.

I mean he leaves really early in the morning and

even if he gets home early it's usually doing

something to the truck and just trying to trying to

make a living.

So the time that we can all spend together and

especially that they can spend with him on the

weekends -- that makes it a world of difference.

If the girls wanted to quit tomorrow we would

quit you know if they didn't want to do it.

I'm not going to make them doing something they don't want to do.

Eliza said I would really like to have one of those smoker tractors.

You know you know the finances are there and stuff.

In the future when she gets older if they still

have interests in it too to build them a tractor

like that and be able to just show them the girls

can do the same thing, you know.

MUSIC

In the market for a tractor?

Want to buy one?

but which tractor is better?

Check your oil and wipe off your seats because at

the Preston County antique tractor show opinions are

running hot to find the answer to the infamous

groundbreaking question: red or green?

All tractor collectors are awful nice

people but when you come to these things you know

you want to try to get the most of your color.

When you have good friends like these that come

around and have these nice tractors and they go out

of their way you know to haul them up here and come

a long distance.

It's really a good thing you know when your color

gets the most prevalent here at the show.

I mean that's a super good thing yeah you can really

talk trash then.

International painted theirs red you know, and see with these

John Deere's you can farm with them.

The fields are green and with the internationals

they had to paint them red so you can find him when

they break down.

John Deere's never broke down.

I got a little story I can tell too.

I was at a tractor show once up from New

Centerville Pennsylvania.

They have one up there and this guy had an old John

Deere that wouldn't start.

So he asked me if i hook up to him a pull him to start it.

I said, 'You're going to take a big ribbon for this.

You know that don't you?'

He said, 'Yeah, I know but what are you going to do?

You got to get started I guess.' I pulled him and

got him started.

All cranking aside the truth remains hidden in

the fields, beneath the crops and lost in the barns.

The age-old question of "why wont this darn thing just start?

There is always something that will need fixed and

there's nothing a can of spray paint can do to help.

Well most of the time.

There will be no red in my shed.

I just always liked the Farmall tractor.

I thought it was not a tractor if it wasn't Red.

It doesn't make any difference they

got a green tractor or orange tractor or red

tractor you don't meet anybody who is an arch

enemy or anything.

We joke around about them a lot, you know.

Just like the guy here that's the president of

the club this year I've actually sold in red parts.

I told him I didn't want them at my place.

No matter what color your tractor is, they can

be beautiful things.

Engineered for function yet Some still seem to

trot threw the fields like they are just another

living creatures on the farm fr om a children's book.

Hi I'm Ben Gage and I'm an artist.

I carve stone among other things but for living I handle art.

I go all over the world and install and hang and

pack great sculptures and painting.

Well I'm an artist and and as in as an artist I have

feelings towards design and objects so it's a

natural this design because it evokes the

classic almost a priori idea of a tractor.

I mean let me think about it.

When you think about a tractor, you're not

thinking about a big John Deere combine right?

You're thinking about something that you could

just jump in and sit, start and do something.

yeah so it is a sculpture and and what I like about

let's say not just this tractors but things that

were that are and were manufactured.

Is that literally these are sculptures in editions

of a hundred thousand.

It is the tractor that the kids feel personal with

when they look at it it's the one in their chu chu

book or saw favorite right.

And when I drive it, when I use it, it feels like

that tractor you got as a kid that you pretended and

needed to drive in your imagination

[Music]

I love this tracker because when I'm on it.

I feel young again.

Yeah, yeah.

It's so old- time it remembers what it's

supposed to be and allows you to understand what you

were when you are that guy and and how many instances allow that.

And not just for your first time but over and over.

Yeah.

Love can't even do that.

Because the tractor is a personal experience.

I'm constantly on the hum.

The sound of it.

When it sounds different I know something's up!

Right.

So right now I'm trying to understand where it's

tuned to be as a working piece of equipment and

when you're riding something that's that's

working humming as designed well then can I

do that if I can't then why?

So maybe it's just like a like an adjusted all the

carburetors are soft

Some folks just can't have one tractor, but all

collectors have their reasons.

When it comes to John Beavers Farmall H, It

started when he was 3 years old.

I'm John Bevers I grew up here picking corn

and mowed hay.

We put hay up in the hayloft on hot summer days.

I guess my first dealings with the farmall H behind

me was when I was three.

I was in the house and my dad had had brought the H

up near our house and parked it and I guess I

sneaked out and got on it and started thankfully it

was in neutral and didn't go anywhere.

it was was out of gear and once I started getting the

roar of the engine.

the rest of it was just me crying and sat on the big

seat for a three-year-old

and my mother came and rescued me and gave me a

few words as you know don't do that any again.

That kind of thing.

The tractor behind me was it was an original tractor

to the farm in my lifetime as a young young boy we

had four and my father and uncle split them up in the

early 1970s and we got two and my uncle and cousins got two.

This is one of those two that we got.

it's made by International Harvester

Corporation it's called a farmall they started in

1923 and then this is an on down the line 1951

model age it's the next to biggest size for that

particular year it's called a row crop it has

the narrow front end or you could plow corn and

deal with other crops that required spacing so you

didn't crush the plants and things like that

they're a bit dangerous on hills and a lot of folks

don't like them but collectors like me we we

enjoy them because of course I grew up with it.

In my collection I have 14 all of them but one or by

International Harvester

If I had the dollars to do so I would like to sort of

recreate a 1950s farm but that's a dream but they

you know but just because looking at the window

watching my dad my uncle and you know that kind of

thing and longing again to be outside on a machine it

brings that back as a collect these and you know

I guess you might say play with them or whatever as

an older guy there's a lot of tranquility with

tractors and hopefully being able to keep these

open spaces in our family you know.

we can go for quite a while without going on a

public road and just the you know that

the noise of the motor and the exhaust and all that

riding my dad's lap and grip the steering wheel

and that meant a lot to me and we had a lot of good

times together on this particular tractor but

that the three-year-old thing was my first first

match up with it it just brings back a lot of memories for me

There's one cultivator tractor that has become a

favorite of the local food revolution Steve and

sunshine have one.

We met in San Diego and we left San

Diego because we wanted to live a more sustainable

life and that was sort of the dream.

We wanted to be able to work for ourselves and we

wanted to be able to be with our kids and so it

turned out that farming seemed like a good fit to

be able to meet the needs of being able to be

together as a family and support ourselves and take

care of our kids.

Round Right Farms.

That's from the Shaker song tiss A gift to

be simple and by turning turning will come "around right".

kind of the idea of us returning to the land and

turning the soil

[Music]

We sort of learned early on, you know for our

first year we had this little we used a lot of

hand tools and a little like walk-behind tiller,

and really small scale things that are really

designed more for gardening and we quickly

realize that if you know if we wanted to make a

living doing this that we were going to have to move

up to the next scale and you know get a tractor and

and start doing things with it.

So yeah it's I mean there definitely kind of your

workhorse that allow you to get a lot of stuff

done, you know in an efficient manner.

So this tractor which is called the it's made by

allis-chalmers it's called the Model G and they made

them in the the late 40s and early 50s.

What's unique about them is that the engine is

behind you and that the the lifting arms are in

front of you, Where most tractors have had the

engine in front in the three-point hitch.

Which does all the lifting behind you and we we have

we have a tractor like that you know that that's

our main tractor.

This tractor is pretty much exclusively used for

cultivating.

[Music]

This tractor is an important part of ,

definitely one of our philosophies of being the

kind of sustainable farm that we are in that this

allows us not to use a lot of herbicide and get the

earth to work for us rather than just covering

it up for killing whats there

So having that, those lift arms in the

front makes it really nice just because the tractor

tires straddle the bed and then you have your

implement in front of you usually some type of

shovel that's you know pushing dirt aside taking

out weeds and it's nice to have that in front of you

because you just get to drive forward looking at

the ground the whole time where you know if you have

that if you have that in back of you you're doing a

lot of this you know you're doing that the

whole time it's really easy to to get off a little bit.

it's a lot of fun it's just a lot of fun to drive

I think we're learning a lot from the

people around here and learning by our own

mistakes and experiences I think the average farming

age of the United States right now is somewhere

between like 67 and 70 - so if farming isn't going

to totally be outsourced and it for me we're gonna

be able to continue to create our own food here

in this country then somebody has to take over.

The number of farmers has really died

off since the you know since the 70s but there

there's still all these great old tractors you

know that were made in the 50s 60s and 70s that that

aren't getting used anymore and so you can

actually find a machine that's in in pretty good

shape for not very much money

[Music]

Since their invention tractors have become the

friend of the family, making life's necessities

a little easier on the farm.

For some reason the tractor seems to hold the

memories of the seasons, deeps in its layers of

grass and oil.. It remembers you sitting on

grand dads lap knocking down hay on a sunny day.

It truley has only been a few generations that the

tractor have been with us but some how they feel

like time machines, forever holding what makes

family the most important part of the farm.

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