A Labor of Love A Promise Kept

By Staff
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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.

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

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)

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

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