The first few tractors trickled in Thursday with their owners excited to show off their original paint jobs and mechanisms and eager to tell the stories behind them.
By Saturday morning, Mohawk Trail was buzzing with both tractor aficionados and families looking for a cool day out of the house.
The sixth annual Hopkinsville Antique Tractor Show had managed to draw a crowd, not as large as past years, according to organizer Howard Jones, but large enough to warrant still hosting the event amid the pandemic.
Terry Minuth was by far the most popular collector at the event, known in the tractor-show circuit to have amassed over 90 antique tractors since 2006.
“I brought 12 out here today,” Minuth said as he stood near a line of his fleet. “Usually a show will have a theme or a featured brand, but I’m mainly a Case and Colt (tractor) guy; I also have all the Oliver’s.”
Minuth, an accountant from Elkton, said he got into antique tractors and the history behind them 14 years ago as a hobby.
“I was born and lived on a farm out in Kelly, and we got a brand new 430 (John Deere), but then we moved to town,” Minuth said. “(In 2006) I was trying to find a 430 and I bought one of these little Case’s and it looked just like one. Then I found out they had different models and it just snowballed.”
Minuth said he mainly keeps his tractors for show and tell, but they are operable if he needs to use one.
He explained that garden tractors are made for exactly what their name says. They are about the size of a riding lawn mower and can be useful to home gardeners.
Over the years, some tractor brands have merged while others like John Deere and Case IH have dominated the market.
Minuth told one unique story of how Case acquired the Colt garden tractor brand in the 1960s.
“There were two brothers who invented the hydrostatic drive — that was in 1962,” he said. “All the tractors up til then were gear driven; you had to push the clutch and shift the gears. Well, Case was looking to get into the garden tractor line, so they bought that company and they bought the patent. So Colt made the first ones in 1963 and they stopped in 1966, and the first Case’s came out in 1966.”
Minuth has the first model Colt made.
“There’s only three of those tractors that are around today, and it took me seven years to restore it,” he said.
The key to restoration, Minuth explained, is getting the original paint color and parts for the tractor. Getting them back into tip-top shape is a labor of love, as many of the old parts are hard to find like the antique tractors themselves.
Minuth said there are Facebook groups for tractor lovers to peruse while some tractors are found just on the side of the road.
Minuth recalls passing up a collectors’ dream tractor simply because he didn’t know how rare it was.
“Case made a prototype in ‘64, and there was one 8 miles from me that I could have bought for $300, but I did not know what it was,” Minuth said. “It was one of the first ones made. It was No. 3.”
Ironically, that tractor was at Saturday’s tractor show. It is now owned by 17-year-old Dalton Kranz. His late uncle bought it at an auction and sold it to him for $200.
“I rode it, I took it muddin’ and played with it — nobody knew what it was at the time. Then we got a phone call that it was worth something, so we took it to a guy in Wisconsin and he gave us the paperwork on it,” Dalton said. “Coming to find out, it had been in my family ever since it was built.”
A cousin of his mom had originally owned it, he said.
Although he doesn’t farm, Dalton comes from a family of farmers in Clifty. Dalton said he has always liked working on cars, so he and his dad worked together to restore the tractor and a family friend painted it the original color.
“It took about seven or eight months,” he said of the restoration process, noting that Minuth was helpful to him and his dad. “He’s been a family friend ever since. He’s a big reason we’ve been a part of this show from the very beginning. I take off from school every year to come and support it.”
That was a common theme throughout the event: friends of a friend coming together to show their wares.
Across the field, Ronald Brown, his wife, their grandchildren and their great-grand dad had traveled from Greenbrier, Tennessee, to attend the show.
Three-year-old Bryson Brown laughed and squealed as he turned the wheel of his “Pop” Ronald’s 1938 Farmall F-20N. It was one of five tractors Ronald owns, and his dad John Brown owns 16.
“We used to farm, but this is something we do to keep the passion alive,” Ronald said, noting that he plans to pass them down to Bryson one day. “I want people to see where today’s modern-day farming came from. When they see one of the big new ones, I hope they learn how those came about — how they went from a horse and mule to this (tractor) to now air conditioned and GPS.”