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.
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.
We will see what it does.
The moment of truth.
Lets see what if will start.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
I love this tracker because when I'm on it.
I feel young again.
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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.