Ralph Ekhoff and one of his John Deere tractors.
Mobile home dealer Ralph Ekhoff is a tractor collector who lives at 3629 S. 85th East Ave., Tulsa, OK 74145.
The following article is adapted from one by Nick Foltz which appeared in the September 23, 1984 edition of Tulsa World.
Ralph Ekhoff has five acres of land and 57 tractors. He figures that's enough land, but he'd like some more tractors.
Ekhoff is shattering custom-instead of using the tractors to help grow things on the land, he is using the land as a place to let his tractor collection grow.
As a teenager, Ekhoff drove an old Hart-Parr tractor and helped his father with wheat, corn and oat crops on the family farm near Anthony, Kansas. He learned how to make minor repairs and developed a fondness for husky work machines.
Now 72, Ekhoff spends much of his spare time restoring tractors for his 'tractor farm' south of Tulsa.
Ekhoff often spotted prospective additions for his collection as he drove down remote country roads making mobile home deliveries. 'These old tractors usually are set back somewhere with sunflowers growing around them. Of course, after you find one, you have to bargain over a price.'
Purchases, he says, are more easily accomplished and cheaper than the restoration process. 'I order parts through dealers, and sometimes one part costs more than the original price of the whole tractor.'
Each of the tractors has its separate set of memories and a story about how Ekhoff obtained it. His collection includes International Harvester, Allis Chalmers, Case and numerous John Deeres.
The collector admits his hobby at times becomes addictive. 'I will buy anything that is old, if the price is right.'
His most valuable possession is a John Deere Model D, manufactured in 1929.
One of his favorite stories has a 'Dear John' theme about a John Deere tractor, at least for the previous owner. 'He told me it was in good running condition, but the engine wouldn't start. He wanted $350, so I offered him $250 on the idea I would have to spend money fixing it. When I got it to the shop, I found out what was wrong. He had hooked up the battery backwards.'
Near Fort Worth, Texas, an obviously wealthy farmer made an unusual proposition. 'He had this clean, slick tractor, and he said he would sell it for only $200 on the condition that I would also haul away a bunch of farm iron.
'That's an expression for metal parts that pile up around a farm. Well, his farm iron pile was so big it looked like it stretched two miles. It took three big trucks to haul it off.'
Ekhof's tractors are restored and painted their original colors after rust is removed. Surprisingly, major mechanical repairs are rare. 'Sometimes all they need is some gasoline in the tank,' says Ekhoff.
When the tractors are restored to showroom condition, they are placed inside a building. Ekhoff has never sold one of his tractors, although he has done some trading. He intends to make the collection bigger, not smaller.