Tractor creates family connection

JI Case 2390 with handwritten maintenance records links Sheehan to grandpa

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SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — Looking around online has reunited Jason Sheehan with an old J.I. Case 2390 tractor that had been in his family.

Jason, a Washington dairy farmer, grew up on a dairy farm south of Rochester near Simpson, Minnesota, with his grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

Today, Jason is the owner of this tractor, which was the last Case tractor his grandpa and uncles, Jimmy and Jerome, bought. He is also the owner of its manual, which includes handwritten notes of servicing dating to May 22, 1984.

“It’s fun for me to have it now,” Jason said. “I don’t think it’s ever going anywhere again.”

When Jason saw the Case 2390 for sale in April 2020, he said he knew it was his family’s tractor because of the black rock box and black toolbox on the tractor. He reached out to the salesman at the implement dealer in Wisconsin, where it was located, to inquire.

Jason said the salesman was unconvinced the tractor was from the Sheehan family, but at Jason’s insistence, the salesman tracked down the owner’s manual. Inside the back cover were the tell-tale service records.

However, the tractor had already been sold to a man near St. Cloud, Minnesota. When Jason called him a month later, he said he would keep Jason in mind if he ever wanted to sell.

In 2022, Jason told his wife, Karen, about the tractor.

“She looked at me and says, ‘Why haven’t you bought the tractor?’” Jason said. “I said, ‘Did you just give me permission to buy a tractor?’ And she goes, ‘Well, that’s something that you’re never going to find again, and if you want to buy it, go ahead and buy it.’”

When Jason called the man again, he was ready to sell. The tractor was delivered to Jason’s farm Sept. 19, 2022, about 10 years after the tractor had been originally traded off the Minnesota farm.

Jason said the handwriting in the manual is the “coolest part” of owning the tractor.

“It’s a connection to family,” Jason said. “I’m probably one of the few people that has his handwriting.”

Jason said he spent a lot of time with Grandpa James Sheehan, who passed in the 1990s. James was an Army mechanic during World War II. The veteran performed much of the farm’s equipment maintenance after his service.

“Grandpa was very detailed all the time,” Jason said. “When he would service a tractor, change the engine oil, or change the transmission oil or whatever else, he would always take the operator’s manual, and he would write in one of either the front or back cover whatever service he did and the date and how many hours (was) on it.”

Jason moved to Washington in 2002. He and his wife have taken over her family’s farm near Sunnyside. They milk 3,800 cows in two parlors about 1 mile apart. Their cows are housed in free stalls and an open lot. Jason and Karen and a team of 43 employees care for the herd.

Jason and his family also farm 2,000 acres, including 90 acres of wine grapes and 60 acres of cherries.

“A lot of the things I learned from Grandpa I do the same thing here,” Jason said. “You continue with all the things ... that you learn at a young age.”

Jason uses the tractor to seed hay. He installed autosteer to make the tractor easier to use.

“As I’m driving it, I always think that my grandpa, who never saw autosteer or GPS or any of that stuff,” Jason said. ... “He would probably get such a kick out of it, that these tractors are steering themselves.”

The Case 2390 had just a 1,000 horsepower power take-off, so originally, it was used by the Sheehans for tillage and to apply anhydrous and liquid manure.

Jason’s grandpa always bought Case tractors. Jerome said the first Case tractor in the Sheehan family was purchased in 1936.

“He just liked the Case, and they always seem to be cheaper than the rest of them,” Jerome said.

In December 2023, another family tractor found its way back to the Sheehan family. This tractor was purchased by Jason’s 15-year-old son Andrew.

“He’s probably way too much like me,” Jason said.

The newest return is a Case 830 that was originally purchased in 1969 before being traded in 1996.

During a visit to Minnesota at Thanksgiving, Jason, Andrew and other family members visited Hammell Equipment Inc. in Chatfield, Minnesota. The Sheehan family has been doing business with the dealer for many years.

While there, Andrew asked Dan Nosbisch — who has worked with their family — about the Case 830. From records in their filing cabinet, Nosbisch was able to identify whom it had been sold to 27 years earlier.

By chance, the Sheehans were close to this man’s farm, and Andrew asked if they could drive past. They inched by the farm slowly to see if they could spot anything. They saw nothing, so Andrew suggested they pay the man a visit.

The man still owned the tractor. In fact, he had tried to start it the day before.

During the time the Sheehans had owned the tractor — over two and a half decades prior — the cab had rattled, so Grandpa Sheehan put hoses from the milkers between the cab and tractor to keep it from vibrating.

“(The owner) still had that slid in there,” Jason said. “It looked identical to how I remember it.”

The man was not willing to sell initially, but when Andrew called him back in mid-December, he agreed.

“It’s hard enough to find a family tractor,” Jason said. “I’m surprised how we found two.”

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