In this 1938 photograph, Allan Tuttle stands beside his Minneapolis Moline UDLX, of which only 150 were ever made. He purchased the first one sold in the United States. (John Tuttle collection).
The Minneapolis Moline UDLX tractor, of which only 150 were made, has special memories for 79-year-old retired farmer and businessman Allan Tuttle of Scottsbluff. When he was living and farming in Marshall County, Iowa, he purchased the very first UDLX sold.
Tuttle had been wanting a big tractor, and when he saw the UDLX advertised he bargained for it. 'The price at that time was in excess of $2200,' he said, 'but they made me a special deal on it. I think I bought it for $1,800 cash.'
As the first buyer in the United States to purchase the UDLX, Tuttle rated special recognition.
'When I bought the tractor, they had a big deal up in the St. Francis Hotel in Minneapolis,' he remembers, 'and boy, they put on a shindig up there like you can't believe. Had all the big company officials and farm papers and local papers. It was quite a deal. Along about midnight they took a picture of me getting the key sitting out in front of the hotel.'
He also received an 18-carat gold watch fob as a memento of his purchase. On one side of the fob appear the two Minneapolis Moline M's, and on the flip side it is inscribed to 'Allen (sic) Tuttle. The world's first owner of a M-M Comfor tractor.'
'There weren't too many four-wheel-drive tractors in central Iowa at that time,' Tuttle said. 'Most tractors were tricycle type, row-crop tractors. There were a few of what we call three-plow tractors. International Harvestor made a big tractor at that time, the 2236, but the price would have been less because of all the extras in the Minneapolis Moline cab.'
The four-cylinder gas engine was a good one, according to Tuttle. 'It performed real well. I had a big farm and a lot of livestock, I pulled big trailers with it, used it on the belt, used the power takeoff. And in the wintertime you'd get in that thing you didn't have to freeze to death. It could certainly plow snow, had high clearance, big tires. Lots of snow we could go through with that thing.
'That tractor was used awful heavy. It wasn't a plaything in any sense of the word.
'It has a lot of power, and it stood up well for the way we used it,' Tuttle continued. 'Of course, you couldn't cultivate with it or do row-crop work. The wheelbase wasn't right on the tractor for cultivating, and there was no adjustment. It was mainly for plowing and tillage and that kind of thing.'
Besides the three working speeds forward, the UDLX had a 14 mph speed and a 40 mph speed.
'It would drive down the road just like a car,' Tuttle said. 'Of course, it was a little dangerous because it had such a short wheelbase, but it was well balanced.
'It was just unbelievable the things we did with that tractor besides just straight farming,' he added.
One incident he especially remembers. As he tells it, 'One time in particular we had a young man and his wife right close. They came over at midnight. It was 25 below zero, and they had a little boy 3 years old and a baby a couple of months old. The baby had pneumonia, and we had one of those 48-hour blizzards. The roads were all closed, nobody had been over the roads at all and we were 8 miles from town.'
'I had a young fellow working for me. I called him and we went out and got this tractor and we took about a 100-foot cable. This fellow got his pickup truck started, and he got his wife and two children and we headed for town. I don't know how we ever made it, but we never stopped. It had cleared off, and the wind had gone down. It was a beautiful night. But the good Lord must have had his eye on us because we made it.'
'They said if we'd been just a little later getting to the hospital the baby would have died.'
The tractor was used frequently to pull bogged-down vehicles out of the mud. 'A lot of times on mud roads in the spring of the year some dad-gummed idiot would drive off in the mudhole, and I'd pull him out,' Tuttle said.
Sometimes the snow would work to Turtle's advantage. 'I had a couple of young fellows working for me,' he said. 'We kind of liked to have a little fun once in awhile. When we'd get one of those big blizzards we'd just tie in to it and get our work all done. Then after lunch we'd go to town in the tractor.
'We had a friend who had a billiard parlor, a pool hall. We'd start down the road, and we'd charge them a dollar. We needed $5 for playing pool and refreshments. After that we wouldn't charge them,' he laughed.
Tuttle would also go rabbit hunting in the timber with the tractor when the weather was bad.
Tuttle used the tractor five or six years, then sold it when he went into the implement business.
'A fellow who didn't live too far from me bought the tractor and some of the big equipment that we had with it during the war. He had some bad luck with it, upset it, set it afire.'
'I heard that he ended up taking the cab off and taking the tractor to the junkyard.'
Tuttle cannot understand why the tractor 'didn't take off. Of course at that time people had one tractor, two at the outside, a row-crop tractor. But we were farming heavy enough that we had extra.'
'I'd have thought it would have been a valuable tractor in dry-land country where there wasn't row-crop work.'