The John Deere tractor is as much Iowa as corn, hogs and the one-room schoolhouse.
The green and yellow machines have churned down corn rows for almost a century, an essential implement in the Iowa farming industry. Hundreds of antique collectors and restorers have taken a likening to the tractor for this reason, and Alta retiree Dick Christiansen is one of the most fervent of them.
Christiansen, a long-time farmer and former chairman of the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center's Board of Directors, hunts out antique Deeres, takes them apart and meticulously cleans and paints each individual part and eventually returns them to their original condition.
His machines don't rest behind velvet ropes, however. He loves to use them to pull floats in parades, as he did at the Newell Pride Days last weekend, show them off at Threshermen Days, which are coming up in Albert City this weekend, or just for fun, with his grandkids each picking out their favorite to drive around on a small track.
So far, Christiansen has restored eleven John Deere tractors, the oldest a 1928 model GP, and each of them run, a symphony of rumbling and puttering that is music to his ears.
"You don't know what a feeling it is when you get something so old and cruddy, and then when you turn it over it starts," said the 72-year-old, who farmed on family-owned land just outside of Alta until 1996. "I just enjoy doing it. I don't like to fish. I don't like to boat. I don't want to just sit around in a rocking chair."
Christiansen found the bug for restoring antique tractors when he helped his son repaint an antique Allis-Chalmers that had been sitting on the family farm for years. The next project was a Farmall H completed about five years ago. Since then, its been nothing but John Deeres.
"It's probably the most popular antique tractor," Christiansen said. "These tractors were ahead of their time."
The first John Deere he restored was a 1929 D that was owned by his wife Betty's father, Claus Frahm. The tractor is named "Claus" in his honor, one of Christiansen's favorites. Another tractor, a 1940 A, is named "Roger" after Betty's brother, who gave Dick the 2-cylinder machine.
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