Tractor Trek

Family Pictures 2012 117

   Last week I spent some time on a friend’s farm just a mile from where I grew up in the Burwalde area between Winkler and Morden. It was interesting to see his current line of farm equipment. His newest tractor is only a year old, and apart from the steering wheel and the knobby tires, it bears relatively little resemblance to the tractors we grew up with in that area quite a few years ago. Digital readouts have replaced round gauges with needles in them. The only lever in the cab is about five centimeters long, and that is the lever he uses to shift gears. The other controls are a combination of buttons and “touch-screen” computer monitors. These monitors allow him to control both the operation of the tractor as well as whatever implement he is pulling.

   In stark contrast, 46 people spent a good part of last Saturday driving tractors that are at least 50 years old along a 53-kilometer route in an effort to raise money for Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and Eden Foundation. None of these tractors had computer monitors or digital read-outs on them. Most had three or four gauges and five to ten levers, depending on the make and vintage. Furthermore, none of them had air-conditioned cabs. In fact none had any sort of cab, and few had seats designed to encourage good posture for a whole day on the field.

   It would seem that these drivers must just enjoy old tractors, and they do. But they also value the two organizations benefiting from the proceeds of the event.

   I suspect they also enjoyed the fun, food and camaraderie they experienced through that day. After a substantial hot breakfast in the Livery Barn Restaurant and a prayer for safety, the trek headed for Blumenort. Keeping 46 tractors together in a tight group became particularly challenging when the group needed to cross the highway at a traffic light. In Blumenort, we drove through town past the seniors’ home and then pointed the tractors toward Landmark. The lunch stop in Landmark allowed both drivers and guests to vote for their favourite tractor. A barbecue lunch and fine hospitality were provided by the Landmark Kinsmen.

   With a cooler wind in our faces, hinting at the possibility of rain, we headed south to Randolph. There the folks at the Neufeld Garage had prepared coffee and snacks for the drivers and any guests who wanted to drop in to see the tractors. The guests were also invited to cast a ballot for their favourite tractor. From there we headed back to Steinbach in warm sunshine.

   In addition to a fine dinner at MHV, the drivers and guests were given the opportunity to win prizes through a silent auction. The judges also announced their decisions with respect to a number of award categories in which all tractors had been entered. Ben Unger’s beautifully restored 1961 Allis Chalmers D-19 Diesel received the Driver’s Choice award, and Kent Reimer’s 1963 Massey Ferguson Super 90 earned the People’s Choice award.

   The contrasts between the lovely old tractors we spent the day with on Saturday and the high-tech tractors like the one I saw recently at my friend’s farm are significant. Technology has brought about so many changes. It’s interesting to contemplate what might be written about today’s tractors 50 years from now. It would be even more interesting to see what tractors will look like in 50 years.

   At MHV we sometimes talk about the fact that history is always in the making. Eventually everything becomes “history.” Which makes me wonder what stories MHV will be telling in 50 years and what technology will be used to tell those stories. Imagine our smartphones and Apple Watches being on display as artifacts in a museum. A lot of interesting things will no doubt happen on the way to that point.

Calendar of Events

June 19-21 – Waffle Booth at Summer in the City

June 21 - Father's Day Lunch Buffet (11:30-2:30)

July 1 – Canada Day - FREE ADMISSION (10:00-6:00)

July 13-17 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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