Hart Ford
Hart Ford

Deere John…

It is still winter… The sun is streaming through my windows warming the family room floor, while outside, the thermometer boasts a balmy 27 degrees. The inbox on my email has begun receiving notifications of vacation destinations and seed catalogs, and from the other room, I can hear U-tube sounds of a two-cylinder engine. Spring must be close!

For those of you unaware what that sound is of, that would be the engine of a John Deere Garden Tractor. An OLDer John Deere, not to be confused with a “lawn mower” or one of those new fangled ones from one of the big box stores. No, Deere John…your offspring of older garden tractors, as well as the L, LA, H, 40, 3020, 420 and others, all have that special “purr,” pop-pop, pop-pop, pop-pop….

My husband, Ed Thoma, was raised on the family Centennial Farm in Monroe County. When his dad, Arthur Thoma, upgraded from walking behind the horse and plow in the late ’30s, he purchased his first tractor, a steel wheeled Fordson, but “the darn thing kept getting stuck in the sand.” In 1945 the farm went green when his dad purchased a John Deere A. Over the years there “may” have been a blue Ford or a red Farmall H, but “green” was really the bloodline of choice.

Ed’s Deere “herd” has become something of an anomaly. Ed has named many of them after their former owners and I have been “educated” as to the greater worth of a 110-round fender over that of a flat fender.

The youngster of the herd is a 1964 – 110 round fender purchased from the Fick auction.  His first of the Garden variety, a 140 (Timothy), was purchased from a 14-year-old youngster out of Burton, Michigan. Three of them came from Pennsylvania, and all of them hauled to Michigan inside a 1997 Chevy Astro van we used to own. Yes, inside. There IS a photograph of a tractor sitting inside that van. The tractor pictured is of one Ed purchased from Amos, an Amish man. Ed met Amos through our grandson, Brandon, who lived near Amos in Pennsylvania. When Amos discovered that Ed liked the old garden style tractors, Amos insisted that Ed should buy his 212.

When we visited Amos and his wife Sally and their two young daughters, the girls were anxious to show me their toy box. Along with the traditional Amish baby dolls and stuffed animals. were several John Deere toy tractors. The girls collapsed in giggles at my shock and surprise!

For nearly twenty years, Andy Cherven had a 1953 John Deere 40 sitting in his front yard. Over the years, Ed asked if he could purchase it. Andy always had hopes to” fix it up.” When Andy passed away, Ed asked Margaret. She agreed, they settled on a price, and then she cut the price enough for Ed to get a tow truck to bring it the three miles to our home. Margaret said, “you know there’s no way you’ll be able to drive that thing!” As the tow truck was unloading it, the rear tires and wheels began to disintegrate and collapse! The engine was frozen up as well, but Ed worked on it and got it running. “Andy”, the tractor, now resides in Elkton, MI at our daughter and son-in-laws.

Our grandson, Brandon, gave his 1973 – JD 112 to Ed, with the stipulation that it be put in Ed’s will, that one day Brandon would get it back along with another of his choosing. Done!

Friends, grandchildren, a son-in-law, and I are all considered enablers to this obsession. Of course, WE only deal with assorted toys, flags, signs, curtains, milk pitchers, salt, and pepper shakers, and such. Evidence of that may be seen throughout our house, especially on his porch. Our 99-year-old neighbor refers to Ed as her “John Deere angel.” He clears her drive of snow and mows her lawn.

We’ve traveled to tractor shows from Buckley to Bad Axe, West Branch to Columbus, OH and Gary, TN. Auctions/sales have been in Lewiston, Alpena, Grand Rapids, Grayling, Gaylord, Tawas, East Tawas, Hubbard Lake, Pennsylvania, Roscommon and in between. Our vacation last spring began with a tractor show in Gary, Tennessee.

Soon, more pronounced signs of spring will appear across the countryside, and colors of red, blue, green, yellow or orange will slowly move across the landscape. Get with any farmer or former farm boy, and he will give accolades of why “his” color is best. In our family they say “their blood runs green” however, two of our children and Ed’s brother, may have some orange.

Ed’s “herd” of seven, ranges from production years 1964 to 1989. They all have duties.  The 110 round fenders mow the grass, a 316 with a cab can blow snow, the 140 will smooth our little road or push heavy wet snow. Some tow the work trailer, others are backups for when a battery needs charging, or a pin comes out of a pulley, but they all run! Because you know…” NOTHING RUNS LIKE A DEERE!”

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