522 East North Street Brandon, Wisconsin 53919
The sun beamed warm on my back, but the occasional snowflake that fluttered down was a sign from Mother Nature that it was time to neatly pack them away for another year. A feeling of disappointment seemed to linger in the air as Dad drained the water out of each relic. To an outsider they appear to be piles of steel, but to Harris Ferch they are relics of the past transformed by pride and hard work into shining productive machinery prepared to meet any task presented them.
In the 20 x 30 foot shed cowers a tiny 1945 Farmall A. It is in good condition since all parts and paint are original. Harris bought the Farmall A in 1958 to handle the three acre plot of land which he and his wife had just acquired. The A might have looked small to some, but it was ideal for the task at hand; it could handle a one-row cultivator, a disk, a quack-digger, or a single row plow.
Next to the tiny A towers the big burly 1937 Farmall 10-20. This was Dad's first real adventure at restoration. It had been painted red, white, and blue for America's Bicentennial. The tires were leaking fluid, and the fenders had a million dents in them. With sandpaper, time, and love, Dad brought that 10-20 back to life. He even used hair spray to make the tires shine like new. He has always treated this as his baby, his pet, even though it just about jiggles him to death each time he drives it in a parade.
Next to it proudly stands the 1938 F-20. When Dad found this tractor the color scheme was at least right, or was that red color really just rust. Well I can assure you, there is no rust on it anymore. His love and imagination renovated that tractor into a raving beauty ready for a date with any four-bottom plow, or supplying the horsepower (guts) it takes to run the McCormick-Deering threshing machine which is carefully tucked away in another shed.
Squeezed into the north corner is the 1954 Super W-6. Dad spotted this tractor in 1991, hidden from sight behind a barn near Brandon. Aided by his wife and his grandson Mike, he carefully restored that Super W-6 to showroom quality. Because of the time and love involved in this project, the Super W-6 holds a special place in the hearts of all the family. The tractor was even entered in the local 4-H fair as a restoration project and received a blue ribbon.
Next to the Super W-6 stands the tiny McCormick-Deering corn binder. It may be tiny, but it gets the job done. Around September, neighbors curiously watch as Dad and the A pull the binder through the rows of corn with Mom faithfully riding the binder on behind. The family is called together to shock the bundles. Recalling the past when he shocked 20 acres of corn with his own father, Dad reconstructed, from memory, a corn-shocking device to help stand up the bundles of corn before they are tied into shocks. During each harvest Dad prays the corn will dry fast so that it can be shredded before neighborhood goblins try to tip over the shocks on Halloween night. When the corn is dry, the family reunites for a day of shredding and merriment. As I am dreaming to myself, I accidentally say out loud, 'See Dad, we may grumble a lot but the family really enjoys helping you reenact your dreams of the past.' Dad answers, 'What?' but quickly goes back to his work since the winter air is starting to chill his aching elderly bones.
Dad had all of his 'babies' put to bed in this shed, so it is time to move on to the garage. I followed him to the garage, but not consciously knowing why. As Dad opened the overhead door, Felix, their cat, ran out. Dad mumbled, 'Stupid cat!' Felix likes to sleep on the feeder platform of the 1935 New Idea husker-shredder. Down deep, Dad has a soft spot for Felix and doesn't mind him taking a catnap on the shredder as long as he doesn't scratch the paint. This piece of posterity was also originally purchased from the heirs of an old friend. Tucked around the shredder is the 1951 Farmall H. Several years ago, Dad hauled it home and dismantled it, piece by piece. When the weather got too cold to work in his shop, he hauled each piece to the basement to sand it down. The job looked endless to others, but as Dad sanded, he dreamed of spring when his latest creation could be repainted. Mike developed an allergy to paint fumes, and Mom seems to get busier each year with her gardening, greenhouse, and sewing, but Dad refuses to let the McCormick-Deering-Farmall legacy die.
Squeezed ahead of the family car is the 1926 Farmall Regular. It sure shines now, but was a total basketcase when it arrived. It hadn't run for years and someone had either started to tear it apart to fix it, or had just swiped parts from it to fix something else. Dad and Mike rummaged through several tractor junk yards before finding the missing pieces. Again the legacy lives on. Everyone seems to fight over the opportunity to drive this tractor in parades. I'm not sure why, I'm just proud that his son, sons-in-law, and grandsons drive the legacy of the past down the parade route with pride in their hearts and smiles on their faces.
By the way, 1995 marked the beginning of another legacy. A female Ferch heir was allowed to drive one of his pets in a parade for the first time; my daughter Patty drove the 1945 Farmall A in the annual Pickett Gas & Steam Club Thresheree Parade. In 1996, the female Ferchs built a float for the Pickett parade entitled, 'Behind every good man, is a good woman!'
Back to the business at hand. Dad has put the final baby to sleep. As he closes the overhead door, again I let my thoughts spew aloud, 'Why did a man who farmed with John Deeres all of his life end up collecting Farmalls?' He replied, 'What do you say?'
P. S. Just in case anyone wants to know why all of those people are wearing the same shirts in the picture, Dad's three children, three in-laws, 12 grandchildren and wife all wore custom made Ferch's Farmall shirts for Christmas last year to show their love and support for his legacy. As you can see by the smile on his face, he loves those Farmalls just as much as we love him.