"What could be better than this?" asked Dick Kruse, Ladoga, as the Indiana FFA Tractor Drive prepared to kick off last Saturday morning. The third annual event, held on April 18, featured a 40-mile drive throughout Johnson County, home of the Indiana FFA Leadership Center.
The drive is held each year to raise awareness and hopefully also raise funds for the Indiana FFA. It's the brainchild of Tim Newcomb, Noblesville, a former Indiana FFA Foundation Board member, and Brian Buchanan, Indiana FFA Foundation Director.
Two years ago a late March rainstorm pelted drivers who made it from the state fairgrounds, all the way through downtown Indianapolis, and eventually to the FFA Center. "Last year was the coveralls drive," Kruse jokes. This year the weather was near perfect. If anything, it was a little warmer in the afternoon under a clear, spring Indiana sky than some of the old tractors could tolerate.
"You've got to remember most of these gentlemen (the tractors) are 50 years old, more or less," Kruse says. "Some of them are being driven more today than they have been in 15 years."
Added Bill Canary, a retired local farmer driving a Super M, "Some of the drivers aren't quite as good on reflexes as they once were either."
That was true for some, but not others. My son, Daniel, 18, joined me on the ride for the first time. And Ross Striebeck, long-time FFA advisor at Delphi High School, chaperoned four young FFA members, each one driving a tractor. Striebeck owned the Farmall with deals that started on the rout. Unfortunately, it was a casualty to the afternoon heat, finally overheating, requiring a tow about three-fourths of the way through the course.
One year ago when the drive finished at the Johnson County fairgrounds, an International had to pull three John Deere's to get them started to load onto the trailer, Newcomb recalls. This time, following the last stop at the Dairy Queen in Edinburgh, Charlie Canary's Farmall 300 had to be pulled by a John Deere 60, owned by Kruse and piloted by none other than yours truly.
It had been a while since I had pulled a tractor to start it, and Newcomb hooked up the tow strap so I was pulling him backwards. His tractor started, but I didn't realize it for a minute or tow. "I wasn't sure where you were going to take me," Canary chuckled later. "Here I was going backwards and I couldn't begin to tell where I was going."
To be fair, the JD 60 had its share of problems. A common malady affected it as it tried to go up a steep hill- the clutch slipped. With a few adjustments at the final stop, in the shadow of the Dairy Queen across the street, it made it back to home base in fine shape. Only thing was those working on it and watching, including me, had to forego a long-anticipated ice cream break to keep it in action.
The date for the fourth annual Indiana FFA tractor drive has already been set - it will be the Saturday after Easter next year. If you missed it this year- check it out. The fellowship alone is worth the price of admission- which is simply a small donation to the Indiana FFA.
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