Born a Generation (or two) Too Late

1930 GJ Tractor

Stephanie Lyn and Kelly Ann Cole sitting on their dad's 1930 GJ.

Steve and Debbie Cole

Content Tools

509 Broadway, Greenfield, Illinois

This is a story of a young man who was inadvertently born a generation too late.

This young man is a farmer, has been since his father began taking him to the field with him at age of 2 or 3. His mother has told me that when he was a little boy, he used to work with his tractors and plows and discs in her yard, his 'fields'. Of course this probably started him on his way to renting land-his mother was his first landlord!

This little boy would work all day long, come in for meals nad quickly return to his 'field'. By the end of his day, his tractors were very dirty, just like his dad's. Of course the boy had an advantage, he could just pick his up and scrub them off, then rinse them under the hydrant! Bet his dad wished he could, too!

Well, it just so happens that this boy's father, and his grandfather also, had John Deere tractors. Growing up around all this green must have done something to the boy's preferences, because to this day you'll not find a tractor on the place that is not of the Mean Green Line. The boy's grandfather had once owned a 1926 John Deere 'D' and from the time I first became acquainted with him, he talked of some day owning a 'D' like grandfather had.

Well, time moved on as it usually does and this boy in his mother's backyard became a young man in his father's back 40. While on this back 40, he became acquainted with an older gentleman who took a liking to him and was later instrumental in the young man's acquiring his first piece of old equipment. I should mention that there was a mutual admiration between these two men. One in his sixties and the other his teens. The older gentleman took time to teach and show this youth the ins and out of antique machinery.

It was about this time that the young man and I became aquainted with on another. I was impressed with his good looks, of course, his easy smile and his easy going ways. But a strange thing stuck me also. This young man was very mature. Of course, it's hard to stay a kid on a farm-so many wonderful learning experiences, but also so many hard-disappointments. This young man seemed to take success and failures all with a grain of salt. If he did a good job on something, he expected no praise because on this farm (as on every farm) a good job was expected. But a failure to him meant you'd just have to do it over until it was right. And as on all farms, doing a job twice just costs you time, a farmer's most precious tool.

1935 John Deere B owned and restored

by Steve and Debbie Cole.

A year or so after he graduated from high school, this young man got married and settled down to have a family and farm. He was one of those fortunate people who love their work. What he didn't love on the farm didn't matter, because it had to be done any way-such as, cleaning out the hog pens with an irate sow and squealing pigs, or plunging your arm elbow deep into an unloading auger plugged up with rotten bean or corn. Just one of life's little curve balls to the young man-if you had your catcher's mit on, you caught them, if not you got bopped right between the eyes!

Time went by, the young man became a grown man and fathered a couple of daughters who also like to ride with Dad on the tractors. It was along about this time that this man decided he would like to try working on some of this old machinery just settling around rusting.

He had, by this time acquired his sought after 'D'. No great expense was involved its aquisition, but that changed soon after ownership was his! The man and his wife, (who was also interested in the old tractors), worked every spare moment to strip parts, rust and excess baggage, such as spiders, bugs and bees from the innards of the mighty old 'D'. Looking very much like a stripped down tank, the old monster began to take shape. Many trips to the local John Deere dealer, his nearest cylinder head shop, parts manual and Rolaids jar later, he and his wife had a beautiful piece of history.

This led to other pursuits and many long evenings with the man and his wife working side by side to transform an old piece of rust and broken dreams into a beautiful green and yellow 'Johnny Popper'. Whether the young woman actually enjoyed the tractors was a matter discussed by a few and wondered about by others.

If you saw him working on them, you probably saw her right along side him, with their two girls running around catching butterflies or playing with the little pigs. My personal opinion is that the young wife was interested in the tractors, but what she really enjoyed was her husband's company and the wonderful close feeling they felt when together they transformed a piece of junk into a working, running sleek and shiny piece of equipment. It seemed a real example of what a husband and wife could do together in life. There were a lot of disappointments, cracked heads, busted wheels and oil leaks, but it seemed to be all worth it in the end. Sort of like life.

Well if you're wondering how the story ends, I'm afraid you'll just have to wait for an ending.

My name is Debbie Cole and the young farmer is my husband Steve. This year we will he celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary and also ten years of working side by side. Together with our daughters, Stephanie

Lynn and Kelly Ann, we own our original John Deere 1936 'D', a John Deeere 1930 'G.P.', a John Deere 1935 'B', a horse John Deere stationary engine and a recently acquired buzz saw of undetermined age. We have restored several other tractors, all John Deere, of course! Steve has been involved with local threshing demonstations since they started. They have even used his tractors belted up to anything from a thresher to a stationary bailer owned by friends. It's been a long, hard, wonderful ten years and I've often accused Steve of being born a generation or two too late!