A Labor of Love A Promise Kept

High school students learn historic values


Students (from left) Austin Boyles, Sarah Kirby, Heath Reeves, Avin Straw, Jesse Masters from Cotton Center High School, who were involved in restoring this 1951 Ford 8N tractor.

Content Tools

Since 1995, the Chevron Delo Tractor restoration competition has rewarded FFA teams on their determination, mechanical skills and business savvy. Through the restoration of an antique tractor, participants develop skills applicable to the modern business world. Chevron Delo pledges $10,000 in cash prizes for those teams that have a knack of bringing antique tractors back from the brink. Enter a long shot ...

The entire senior class of Cotton Center High School, Texas, consisted of 15 students, 8 boys and 7 girls. They received a 1951 Ford 8N tractor from Everett Masters who was the caretaker of the Center Plains Cemetery for over 60 years. He bought the little tractor new and always found time after mowing the cemetery to help mow other sites around town. In the fall of 2001, he asked the school if they would restore his Ford 8N. His great-grandson, Jesse, was in the eighth grade at the time. He taught Jesse how to drive and complete small repairs as any grandpa would do.

David Howell, the CCHS Agricultural Science teacher, told Everett that when Jesse was a junior, his class would restore the Ford. Sadly, the next year, Everett, 89, passed away. In 2005, the junior class had the Ford to restore and funds set aside in Everett's will to restore it back to its original condition. Every time they considered doing something half way, they remembered Everett who never did anything halfway. They called the restoration "A Labor of Love and A Promise Kept."

Equally important to the FFA chapter is the Ralph McFerrin Memorial. Ralph was blinded in a hydrous ammonia accident, but people knew he could still see clearer than most. He knew that even though kids are still growing up on farms, they have forgotten how hard our ancestors worked to turn agriculture into thriving farm communities. They were losing their rich heritage. He could also see that today's young people were not developing critical thinking skills needed for a successful life. A tractor restoration program could make an impact in both areas.

His son, Doyle McFerrin, provided the location and technical assistance for the restoration when the kids got into a tough spot. Every Saturday morning, the class was at Doyle's shop - the boys performing the heavy work and the girls documenting and photographing the progress.

With both Ralph's and Everett's names on their tractor, they knew that 99 percent would not be good enough. Every time they did something that was not 100 percent, they would take it apart and do it over. It seemed funny to them that every task had at least two ways to complete and the first method was always wrong. They learned a lot and had more fun in school than should be allowed.

Their first test was the San Antonio Stock Show where they received second place. Although the tractor was up to the highest standard, they started the tractor from the ground, not on the seat. They learned an important safety lesson that day.

They then entered their 1951 Ford 8N in the National Chevron Delo Tractor Restoration Contest. Cotton Center High School was selected as one of the 10 finalists to present their tractor and oral presentation at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky. The five judges were each experts in tractor restoration and donated their time and expertise to the FFA. The five judges were Chuck Bos (machine shop expert and president of a local tractor club) from Hillsdale, Ill.; Richard Bockwoldt (who has a tractor he has restored on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.), from Dixon, Iowa; Dennis Rupert (another expert in restoring tractors) from Hillsdale, Mo.; Robert Beavers (an expert in carburetor repair) from Spencer, Iowa; and Kent Kaster (an expert on decals) from Shelbyville, Ind.

The little tractor inspired by Everett Masters and Ralph McFerrin won first place in the chapter competition. It was like winning a state football championship! The tiny high school class from Texas has learned about winning and losing. They also learned that planning, budgeting, marketing, project management, dedication, teamwork, presentation and social skills are critical life lessons that will serve them the rest of their lives.

The Atkinson Antique Engine & Tractor Assn. has made special arrangement to have the Cotton Center High School Ford 8N on display during their fall show. In addition, the Illinois Chapter of the Ford Tractor Club will have many tractors and implements to view. Dates are Sept. 15-17, 2006, at the show grounds northwest of Atkinson, Ill., and the show is open to the public. For more information contact: Carol Ann Wells, Event Coordinator, (309) 935-6022.

Contact Dick Wells at: 28476 N. 1500 Ave., Sheffield, IL 61361-9336; (309) 935-6022; wellsrichardc@johndeere.com