Bill Garner heads the Arkansans Valley Antique Tractor Club
Bill Garner of Booneville, Arkansas is president of the Arkansas Valley Antique Tractor Club.
Like so many American farmers, Bill was raised on the farm and around tractors his whole life. He was about 3 years old when his father Pleas would place the young child right with him as they drove down the road. Then when Bill turned 7, his dad had him stand on the drawbar until it was time to open the gate. Then Bill’s job was to crawl into the seat and drive through while Pleas opened and closed the gate. About a year later Pleas told Bill to keep on driving and Bill felt like he was on “cloud nine.”
By the time he was 12, his father had a 1940 V C Case that Bill used to plow all day. By 13, he had progressed to using a two-row cultivator.
“Though I continue to work designing individual septic systems and have sold my cows, I still bale hay because driving a tractor is one of the joys of my life,” Bill said.
“I’d known about Arkansas Valley Antique Tractor Club for years and always felt I was too busy. Then, in 2009, I figured out I wasn’t getting any younger, and it was about time to share my love of tractors with others by talking to fellow tractor enthusiasts and displaying them for both farming and nonfarming. The Arkansas Valley Antique Tractor Club has upwards of 100 members from teens to seniors. The club meets once a month, usually on the first Saturday, and have moved from potlucks at their Ozark (, Ark.) headquarters to eating at a Western Sizzlin in Fort Smith. Because the membership is so spread out including people from Sallisaw, Hodgen, and Heavener in Oklahoma, meeting attendance is usually around 40, with a core group that attends every month and others when they can.”
The purpose of the group is to share their love of tractors and find as many ways to display them as possible. These events provide an opportunity for nonfarming families to see the equipment that helps put food on their tables. Up-close exposure is one tool in the endless effort to educate consumers about what agriculture really is.
Members attend several tractor shows including their own in early June and drive in numerous parades. The Arkansas Valley Antique Tractor Show features hay baling, a working blacksmith shop, a parade and a corn grinding exhibition as well as displays of antique tractors, old hand tools, hit and miss engines, in addition to implements and toys.
The numerous parades club members attend are in a variety of places and sometimes on the same day. Consequently, club members have to divide in order represented in each parade. Paris, Ark., has the first Christmas parade right after Thanksgiving; while the Veterans Day Parade at Fort Chaffee is becoming an increasingly popular event and one they especially enjoy.
At the Ozark, the Fort Smith and the Waldron fairs, the club also sponsors pedal tractor pulls for children 4 through 9 in different age divisions. Usually the fairs offer a trophy while the club supplies the pedal tractor.
Some tractor owners, like Bill, perform only small repairs and touch ups on their tractors, while others restore them. A restoration means completely redoing everything so they appear show room perfect. Pride comes from saving and sharing a piece of history when their tractors rumble and growl for others to see as they chug down the road.
Like most members, Bill has more than one tractor. His collection includes 12 tractors ranging from a 1941 VC Case, just like the one his father owned to a 1951 H Farmall, which was the third top-selling tractor ever built and the bestseller for Farmall with just under 400,000 units sold.
Members find tractors through magazines, newspapers and word-of-mouth. Perhaps Bill’s favorite is his 1941 VC Case, which he purchased because it was exactly like his dad’s. He found the tractor through an ad in one of the many trade magazines. A woman’s husband had passed and Bill spied the ad where she was selling his equipment. Bill made a call to the West Virginia number and asked if he could see a picture. She informed him that the tractor was featured in the latest issue of Antique Power, picture and all.
“Like farmers, most tractor people are trustworthy and she told me to send her a check when I was ready and had arranged transportation,” Bill commented.
While most members of the club are seniors, the club has younger members, as well as four teenagers who love to compete in tractor pulls and go to parades. The club also contains several women, including mother/daughter duo Agnes and Dianna Ives from Boonville, Ark.
As older members pass on, younger members, who are often seniors themselves, enter the ranks because they have more time than those raising young children.
Further, the definition of “antique” changes because the middle-aged farmer of today remembers riding with his father on a tractor just as Bill did but in a much younger model.
Nonetheless, love for this vital equipment is strong and the future of the club looks green or red or whatever the color of a favorite brand, colors are much brighter than gold to tractor lovers.