Dear County Agent Guy

The two-cylinder club


My wife and I recently attended an evening meeting of a two-cylinder club. This was quite exciting for us as it’s as close as we’ll ever get to going nightclubbing.

For the uninformed, a two-cylinder club is not some sort of a double-barreled cudgel; it’s an association of people who are antique tractor aficionados. Specifically, they are Johnny Popper junkies. Green and yellow gear heads.

Having grown up driving John Deere As and Bs, I totally empathize with those folks. I am among those who think that the sound of a Johnny Popper is as soothing as a mother’s heartbeat.

A meeting of a two-cylinder club is one of the few places where a heated argument might break out over the virtues of a pony motor versus an electric starter. It’s the rare gathering where the words, “My favorite tractor is a Farmall M,” would probably lead to fisticuffs.

A guy named Bob Tabbert asked me to come and speak at the meeting of his two-cylinder club. I could tell instantly that he was a machine head, mainly due to the fact that Tabbert is suspiciously similar to the word “tappet.”

Several dozen souls attended the meeting of the Siouxland Two-Cylinder Club. As one might imagine, there were a lot of plaid shirts and seed corn caps in the room. A number of ladies were also in attendance, which was a good thing. We all know what a rowdy crowd those antique tractor buffs can be.

It was gratifying to see that there were young families at the meeting. We need young people to move the shift lever of enthusiasm and engage the clutch of dedication in order to keep our traditions plowing ahead. Without the sparkplug of youth, our past would soon be as dead as a waterlogged magneto.

When our two sons were small, we exposed them to old-time tractors on a regular basis by taking them to such things as Old Timers Day in Volga, South Dakota, and the Prairie Village Steam Threshing Jamboree in Madison, South Dakota. Both of our boys were highly impressed by these prehistoric contraptions, but the biggest impact was on our eldest son, Paul.

The first time we returned home from a visit at Prairie Village, Paul, who was 4, constructed a fully functional miniature steam engine. Sort of. Let’s just say that the fulfillment of his dream was stymied by the limitations of Lego technology.

Speaking of technology, when I was growing up on those tractors, I was painfully aware of how far behind the times we were. After all, the Space Age was well under way; yet, there I was driving a machine that was deemed modern at the dawn of the Second World War. It was like using a hand-cranked, punch-key cash register in this age of computerized laser barcode scanners.

When I was young, I heard rumors of a thing called a tractor cab but had never seen one in person. Supposedly, cabs kept the operator out of the wind and the rain and mitigated the effects of cold and heat. My deep-seated fear of being spattered by the shrieking seagulls that wheeled overhead would have been eliminated by one of those mystical cabs.

I was excited as a barn cat at a mouse convention when Dad purchased a John Deere 60. The 60 had live power and live hydraulics and power steering. Such marvels.

I would have never believed how far tractor technology would advance in my lifetime. Who could have imagined tractors equipped with GPS and autosteer along with cabs that swaddle the operator in a cocoon of luxury, capable of giving him a bath, a shave and a haircut, and trimming his ear hair?

Tractors are connected to the internet, allowing their operators to remain in constant contact with the world. He or she can update their Instagram page (I’m discing the north 40 and am about to make a turn on the far headland.) or post on Snapchat while shopping for shoes and watching “Green Acres” reruns.

Like most young people, I couldn’t wait to leave behind the stodgy old stuff of my youth. Like many aging baby boomers, I have come to regret my rush to toss out those things. What we once scorned as old junk is now lauded as classic and the sort of thing Warren Buffett would invest in.

And had we hung onto those tractors, I might have been motivated to join a particular type of classic tractor club. The kind of organization where the words, “He’s only hitting on two cylinders,” would be considered a compliment.

Jerry Nelson is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here