top of page

Tell It Like It Was Men. Women, Tractors

Adapted from the original email story by Paul Ovaitt originally sent on September 20, 2022

Men, Women, Tractors – Bernice – Glen - Hannah – Leroy – Glendell – Donald – Lee – Bill – Earl and Helmuth - Ellen – Bernice, again – Paul Kemner – Paul Hopen

Bernice Kemner: You’re not a farmer. I can tell.

Me: Uh…I have a veggie garden.

Gentle readers, today’s topic is tractors, and again I am venturing into a subject I know nothing about. But, why not? You can’t throw a rock in this part of the county without hitting a tractor. They’re part of the landscape, whether mobile or stationary.

In fact, I got inspired to write this story on Duke Road as I was driving by Glenda Drier’s hayfield on September 5, 2022. First, I saw a vintage red tractor, and then I focused on the beautiful windrows of hay. I pulled over and took some photos. Later that day, I texted Paul Kamphoefner to ask if that was his beast in the field…no reply…no matter…a story was bubbling up. I would catch up with Paul. My next two texts didn’t do much better, but I’m getting used to that. I did manage to snag a poem by Glen Frank which captures the mood I experienced as I gazed at the hayfield and the well-used Allis-Chalmers.

There is something sad about a tractor

lying, rusting, next to the barn

worked daily its whole life

in the fields –

with the wheat and the corn

Farmers love their tractors

they will tell you they don’t talk back

except when a tire goes flat…

or the engine block gets a crack…

Everyone has their favorite

red, orange, blue, or green

they do more work and last longer

than anyone I’ve ever seen… Glen Frank

Gentle folk, I was going to call the new story, Men and Their Tractors, until I realized I was displaying gender bias. Make that Men, Women, Tractors. In fact, Hannah Grey, who was the head tractor operator at Mt. Pleasant Winery from 2016 to 2021, was the first person to respond to my curiosity. So, I interviewed her.

She was born in Jacksonville IL, and she is 38yo. She currently lives in Springfield IL. Hannah also has a beautiful singing voice. I played music with her in paulosmallband and in the Hannah Grey Duo/Trio from 2017 to 2020. We performed at local wineries and other fun venues.

I have attached a photo (#1) of a right hand (with fingernail polish) steering a small Kubota, closed cab…guess who? Also check out this blog article featuring Hannah:

Paul: When did you come to Augusta?

Hannah Grey: I came just before I started the job (2016). I came here for the job…I mean, Mom (Teri Moore) was here too.

P: And you knew that you’d be driving a tractor?

HG: Yes. I was excited…nervous, but excited. Nervous because it was something I’d never done before, but excited, probably for the same reason.

P: Sometimes, when you drove a John Deere through Augusta, you’d pull over to say hello. You would open the cab door, and you seemed so at home there, like you were the queen on her throne. Did you have a feeling of great confidence or something cool when you were in the tractor?

HG: I think there’s definitely something unique about it…being a woman…and in that area, it really caught people’s attention. I didn’t intend for that to happen…but I don’t know if I enjoyed that, or it just came with the territory. The best part about driving a tractor was…when I’d be out in a field…and surrounded by nature…trees, grape vines, butterflies, and birds swooping around me… I think it made me feel more connected to the natural world.

Alright, that was fun. The next response came from Leroy Nadler via text. He sent a photo (#2) of his Allis-Chalmers WD…

LN: …which my father purchased new in 1952. It was a 4-cylinder 201 cubic in. The WD was built the same year I was born.

LN: (see photo #3) This is an Allis-Chalmers WD45 built in 1954…same year as my wife . It originally had a 226-cu. in. engine. It had a 7’ mower attached.

On September 6, I walked to my neighbor’s (Glendell Shortt’s) house, to see what he had to offer. He had a Ford Golden Jubilee which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Ford company. (See photo #4.)

GS: I just mostly brush hog with it…keep the back field cut…open…where it don’t grow up.

P: Did you buy it used?

GS: Yes, and I had to put it in a garage…the rear end…the hydraulics that raises the brush hog…I had to get it fixed. I got it up in Warrenton.

On September 8, 2022, I managed to land a phone conversation with Donald Struckhoff. The next day I even videoed him on his International before he drove towards the river. Miranda uploaded my humble effort to YouTube. Check it out.

Paul: You’re noticeable around town…driving your tractor…and people recognize you…and I’d like to ask you about your machines. (He chuckled.) And I’d even like to photo your favorite tractor.

DS: There’s no favorite. It’s whichever one is standing there, needing to be used. We (Donald and his brother, Mark) use some for some jobs, and others for other jobs. It’s like a hammer…when you want a claw hammer, you use that…or a sledgehammer…go find one of them.

P: Are most of your machines old?

DS: Yeah, they’re old…got some age on them. We’ve got a Farmall Super C…and an International B275…a Farmall M…a Farmall 806…

P: Do you have a preference for older tractors?

DS: Well, that’s what we’ve got. The thing is…if they’re well taken care of, and well put together…you can fix them.

P: Who works on your tractors?

DS: We do. We have a machine shed. We usually have something torn down in there. We have grinders and welders…torches…stuff like that, but nothing like a regular milling machine.

P: Is this rainy-day work?

DS: Well…if they break down, we have to fix them…whatever the weather. You get motivated pretty quick.

P: What does it do to your day if you get paged for a fire or an emergency around town?

DS: (Chuckle.) It messes your day up…and that’s just what happens…you just try to keep things to where you can get started again when you come back. You get things shut down when you leave…make sure nothing’s going to burn…nothing too hot when you’re leaving.

P: Will you be somewhere on a tractor tomorrow?

DS: We’ll be on the levy…probably straight out from town. We’re baling hay on the levee. Well…we’re pretending to bale hay; that stuff is practically rotten, so we’re just getting it off there. We cut it, and it rained, and it rained. There’s not much feed value in some of that.

My friends, Donald kindly agreed to call me before he headed out from his home. The next day, when he buzzed me, I jumped in my car to meet him by the ball diamond, but he beat me there. Anyway, I made a clumsy video, and now I’m vowing to stay more composed when I simultaneously interview and video.

Equally cooperative was Lee Newman, a member of the town board, 1995-1997. He worked on the Augusta sewer project with Vern Massman, Mel Fuhr and Tony Kooyumjian. Lee moved to Marthasville in 1998 when he married Susan, whose last name I can’t recall…but she’s a very nice person…and she helped me with this segment, and she reads my stories!

Lee is 74yo, grew up in Concord MA, came west to go to Westminster College in Fulton MO, graduated and went to STL for a year before buying the Salem Schoolhouse in 1971. (I owned the same schoolhouse from 1980-1994. It was in the floodplain below what is now the Augusta Shores dam.)

Lee Newman: It was a sweet spot. I’m kind of sorry it’s gone. I lived there for 2 or 3 years, and met my first wife, named Diane, in STL, and in the meantime, my parents had died and left me a little money. So, I decided I was going to be a cattle farmer. I found a farm I liked in Chamois Mo. We lived there about 5 or 6 years, then we split up, and my 2 daughters lived with me. I tried running a farm and being a single-dad, and…it didn’t work. Then we moved to Kirkwood, but I’m a happier guy out in the country. So, I bought the house on Jackson St. (Swan Haven Inn now).

Paul: Tell me about your tractors.

LN: When we had the farm in Chamois it became obvious that I needed a tractor, and I decided I like these nice little…sort of 1950s…maybe earlier. So, these would have been maybe 20yo. I bought…the first one was a Ford Jubilee tractor, which was about a 31-32 horsepower, gas powered…had a great hydraulic system on it. And then it became clear that that wasn’t really enough tractor for the work that needed to be done…and I found a second tractor called a Ford 801 Powermaster. (See stock photo, not numbered.) It was a 4-cylinder diesel…about 45hp…a great tractor. I loved them both. And eventually I bought an Allis-Chalmers 190, which was a much larger…probably 60, 70hp…with a front-end loader. It was great for picking up big round bales.

LN: I sold them after I moved here to Marthasville, and not in the farming, or farm improvement business anymore…it just seemed silly to keep them. I didn’t have room in the garage, and I didn’t want to leave them out in the rain until they became so old and funky that they wouldn’t start. But I do have very fond memories of them.

P: Tell me how you used your 2 or 3 tractors in the Augusta area.

LN: I had 2 Fords there. First, I sold real estate through Countryside Brokers for several years…and then I would sell a farm…and the people who bought it were almost invariably a doctor, a lawyer…an accountant…who lived in STL, and they had a full-time job…and they really didn’t have time to be working this farm. So, they would say, now that we’ve bought it, do you know somebody that can…you know…fix this fence and patch the barn roof. And I said, I can do that. After a few years I had more work doing that than I did selling real estate…so eventually I bowed out of the real estate business.

P: You mentioned your daughters earlier. Would you remind me of their names?

LN: My oldest daughter, born in 1973, is Elise, who…due to my hippie leanings…her first name was Blossom growing up. But she has abandoned that name. And Laurel is my youngest daughter, born in ’76.

P: Did they go to the Augusta grade school?

LN: They did. And they graduated from Washington High School.

P: Do you miss your tractors?

LN: Yes! I do!

Gentle Augustans, I was aware that Bill Ferris, who lives on Lower St., was very much into tractors, so I dropped in on him, and I was soon overwhelmed by the quantity and variety of machines right there on his property. Bill merits a full interview, but for now I’ll share one photo (#5) of a tractor that was owned by the late Earl Mallinckrodt’s father, Helmuth. Bill bought it from Jan Mallinckrodt after Earl’s death.

And about the same time, I emailed Ellen Knoernschild

EK: Sorry, I have never been on a tractor.

P: Do you mind if I quote you? I think every reply has some merit.

EK: Go ahead. I think Bernice Kemner used to do some tractor work.

Bernice Kemner: I did…at the Volkerding farm…at Paul’s grandpa’s farm.

P: Was that close to Emke Road?

BK: Yes, it was. I drove for Paul (Kemner, her husband). He worked at the Augusta Garage (now Augusta Glass), but he also…after his uncle couldn’t do it all anymore…then he would go up and help him…he’d go after work and help. But they were busy at the garage, so he asked me if I would learn how to do it. Why not? (Laugh.) I loved it.

P: I bet you were good at it. What kind of chores did you do with the tractor?

BK: I just drove it. I didn’t do any greasing or maintaining it. I plowed, I disced. I cultivated corn. I shredded corn stalks…everything except planting and harvesting.

P: Did you cut hay?

BK: I didn’t cut it, but I drove the tractor for the baler.

My questions became clumsier and clumsier, prompting Bernice’s observation that you read at the beginning of this story. Oh well…I moved on to Paul Kemner.

PK: We were a McCormick-Deering, International Harvester dealer when dad (Pete) was in business…and I was working there…so I imagine I can answer some questions. The dealership…dad gave it up before he passed the business on to my brother Bob and myself.

PK: Arthur Haferkamp’s father had the International dealership first at the Uptown Store (now Lisa Carmon’s store) when the wheat binders came in to being the right thing to have. Before that they cut their wheat with a sickle…now they had a binder that would cut it and put it in a bundle. Mr. Haferkamp got into the business there…I think…with McCormick-Deering...selling binders. (McCormick-Deering was not a company. It was the trademark name of a line of tractors and farm machinery manufactured by International Harvester.)

PO: When you and Bob had the Augusta Garage, I suppose you were still repairing tractors.

PK: Oh yeah, we…I was the one who did the tractor work. Bob was more into automobiles. Because I was a farmer…I knew what the problems with tractors were.

PK: You know, there’s a big tractor cruise coming up this Sunday…put on by the Knights of Columbus. It’s starting in Concord Hill…they’re coming through Augusta sometime after lunch, and then going on to Washington. If you want to see all different types of tractors…that would be the opportunity.

Gentle readers, on Sunday, 9/11/22, I sat in Dave Klaas’ front yard and watched a very impressive parade of tractors, courtesy of the K. of C. Tractor Cruise. I have included a photo (#6) of the lead tractor.

And now, in my mind, a stream of tractors is still flowing, but it will have to wait for part 2. There are still some interesting things to come, but let me just share a text conversation with Paul Hopen that will whet your appetite:

PO (via text): Next story is about tractors. Who has the biggest, baddest, newest in the area? Thanks.

Paul Hopen: it’s not about the biggest baddest in the area it’s the biggest baddest of its times of course the Kessler’s had the biggest one in the 70s and of course Bob Struckhoff had two hooked together to make one to plow his fields and don’t forget the caterpillars that plowed after the 93 flood

Friends, I hope you’re looking forward to reading part 2 as much as I’m looking forward to writing it.

And one more thing before I sign off: I am so pleased and grateful for the response to my plea for TILIW-museum donations. Already I have received generous donations from Gary McWilliams, Gloria Attoun and Michael Bauermeister, Chris Arnold, Tom Niemeier, Jody McWilliams, Mel Walls, and JoAnn Milster. thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU.

Immediately, Miranda and I decided to post the rest of my older stories at a rate of one per week. In case you were unaware, here’s a link to the latest reposting of my Lucian Dressel/Mt. Pleasant, part 1 story.

When all previous stories are posted we will debut all current stories on the museum’s website, which is as it should be. People on my email list, and folks on the Augusta Community Facebook site, will receive a link whenever a brand-new story is posted.

You can still make a tax-deductible donation. Besides the cost of posting each story, there will the cost of adding a table of contents and an index. And then there’s the maintaining and updating of the TILIW portion of the website. You can donate on the website and follow the prompts to make you donation apply for TILIW written stories.

Or, you can send a check to: Friends of Historic Augusta

c/o Sally Heining – 296 Lower St. – Augusta, MO 63332

Be sure to specify that your $ is for TILIW. Sally will send you a legal receipt, and if you give her an email address, you can receive notice of events and new stories. And BTW, I don’t receive a single penny for my work.

Thank you for putting your money where your curiosity is.


80 views0 comments


bottom of page