Out of the Badlands


Content Tools

RR 3, Box 67, Garretson, South Dakota 57030

If other tractor collectors are like me, much of the fun of this hobby is finding tired iron and bringing it home. Such is the case with this story, a few years back, over Easter.

Besides farming, I am a school teacher and have to arrange my hobby around those two occupations. My brother-in-law at Wall, South Dakota, had told me of an old McCormick Deering he knew of out in the Badlands of Western Dakota. Wayne works for the telephone company in Wall, which covers a huge territory, so he gets around. After calling the owner, I found it was a 10-20, engine stuck, but full steel.

Now most collectors probably wouldn't jump up and down over this tractor. But to me, we were looking for a little vacation at Easter time and there is just something about the quiet beauty of western South Dakota that is always inviting to me. So when 4:00 on Friday rolled around, we rushed home, finished loading the pickup, hooked up the trailer, and my wife Dawn and I and our 1-year-old girl Erin headed west into the sunset on Interstate 90 for 300 miles.

After a good breakfast the next morning at Wayne and Gwen's, I headed down into the Badlands National Park to find the Sylvan and Lawrence Kruse ranch. It was a raw cold morning with wet snow on the ground. I finally found Lawrence Kruse on one of his other farms. It was calving season and the cold wet weather was taking its toll. When a calf was born, all a rancher could do was put him in the pickup, get him warmed up good, and put him back out and hope good warm mother's milk would help him survive the weather. Barns plentiful enough to protect every cow and newborn calf on the range are unheard of.

From Lawrence, I received directions to Sylvan's farm across the White River. Now I could go a route just 2 miles away or I could travel some 20-30 miles by another route. The choice sounded easy. But there was one catch. The short route meant fording the White River with my Ford pickup. Now that sounded exciting! All went well going across empty, except for accelerating a bit too much and hitting the bank on the other side quite hard.

After inspecting the tractor, I noticed it had quite unusual rear wheels, probably an option for a tractor used to do road work or something. The tractor had been sitting near the river bottom since Sylvan had bought the ranch some years earlier. He had no idea as to the origin of the tractor.

After negotiating a fair price came the fun part. We loaded the tractor by pulling in on the trailer backwards. The next question was 'Could I make it back up the bank on the other side loaded?' I was tempted to try it, but we decided to take the safe route. We hooked Sylvan's Case Agri-King on to the trailer and he got the honors of taking her across.

From there it was back to Wall with the 10-20. After an enjoyable Easter sunrise service the next morning in the beautiful badlands, my sister-in-law feasted us with a great Easter dinner with relatives. And the next morning we would head back east.

Now for some of you the trip back home might seem boring. But me, I enjoyed the gazes and smiles as others passed us. You can't imagine the number of heads that turn as even cars in the far lane admire just another piece of rusty, tired iron going to a new home.