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Local Editorials

On the Great Iowa Tractor Ride: Part 1

The wind-driven rain was horizontal, stinging our faces, and numbing my hands gripping the steering wheel.  Peeking through the hood of my raincoat, I wasn’t sure if there was hail mixed in with the rain or not. Then I saw a white pellet strike my rain suit.  Yep, hail.

Even farmers don’t work in this stuff!  They go to the barn, or into town for a haircut.

Then the sun poked through, the wind and rain died down, and the great green rolling Loess Hills shown through in all its Iowa splendor.  I looked at Mary beside me in the double seat. 

She was looking around and smiling.  This was her first time on a tractor and, same as me, she was having a ball.  What a celebration of American agriculture!

We were on the WHO Radio Great Iowa Tractor Ride, this year centered out of Sioux City.  John Van Ryswyk, from Monroe, owns 100 antique tractors.  Each year he has half-a-dozen or so tractors in the Great Iowa Tractor Ride, and lets friends drive them.  I begged and pleaded until he agreed to furnish me with a tractor. 

I hadn’t been on a tractor since I was a kid, and Mary had never ridden on a tractor, period.  Therefore, John furnished us with one of his pride and joys — a Farmall 560 Diesel Demonstrator.  This beauty, completely restored, came factory equipped with a double seat, and steps.

Of course, being “first timers,” Mary and I had arrived unprepared for bad weather.  I had brought a hooded sweatshirt and a wind breaker, but we had no rain gear to speak of. 

Not to worry.  The group of great people we were with had extra gear and took good care of us “city slickers.”

John Van Ryswyk was our “trail boss.”  John’s brother, Carl, from Texas, was the “top hand.”  When the Van Ryswyk brothers hollered “Move’m out!” we all jumped to.

There were more than 500 tractors in this 17th annual Great Iowa Tractor Ride.  I saw tractors I had never heard of before, like Montgomery (Monkey) Wards, Silver King, and a Cockshutt.  I even saw a purple Oliver (original color). 

One member of our group was Jerry Woody of Reasnor.  He drove a Wards.  On the front of his tractor, he had a sign that read, “Woodys Monkey Wards.”  On one side of the sign was a stuffed monkey, on the other side was a large white hand with the word “Hi.”  The hand was attached to a windshield wiper motor. 

When oncoming traffic approached, Jerry flipped a switch and the hand waved back and forth.  Everybody waved.

Most of the tractors were hauled to Sioux City on trailers.  However, Roger Vander Kamp of Sully, along with a couple of other people, drove their tractors to Sioux City, a distance of 200 miles or so.  They averaged 24 miles-per-hour, 40 down hill.

One other fellow, had his dog riding along with him, a basset hound.  During all the rain and hail, the basset wore a black plastic trash bag.

Like RAGBRAI, food was plentiful.  In Le Mars we had pork-chops-in-a-glove.  Another first for me.  I do believe that it was the best pork chop I’ve ever eaten.  Of course, Le Mars is the ice cream capital of the world, therefore, there was an ample supply of Blue Bunny Ice Cream.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to next year’s Great Iowa Tractor Ride, that is, if boss will have me.

I’m also thinking that my next car might just have to be a tractor.

Note: This is Part I of The Great Iowa Tractor Ride.  Part II, the women behind the riders, will be next week.

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