Monday, May 24, 2010

Uncle Nap’s Tractors - By Bill Durand

A museum should be fun, interesting, informative and historical; maybe even reflecting some tone of the local area. Therefore, the inclusion of tractors, which did so much to forward the living standards in the Town of Scott, seems appropriate for the SEL/AMSOIL museum.

The 50's and unusually high farm income resulted in fields filled with exciting new tractors of name brands and colors (red for Farmall, green for John Deere, orange for Allis-Chalmers). Each was built with power to spare, electric starters and even headlights! A starting crank with the occasional arm breaking kick-back had now become non-existent. Then pioneer farmer Napoleon Durand singled himself out by buying two new tractors in one year; two new, bright yellow, gold and red Minneapolis Molines in one year! Can you imagine that?

After raising ten children to adulthood on his 120 acre farm, with no tractor of any type, he could now put his two “mile-high” stallions out to pasture and enjoy the comfort of leather covered coil-spring seats. Talk about class! With my obvious love of big power of any type, brand or color, he couldn't help but notice my keen interest in his big new tractors.

Our old and faithful Farmall F-20 was worn out after years of personal and loan use to several area farmers, plus powering our sawmill and planer for hundreds of thousands of board feet of lumber. It was in need of major repair but for lack of funds, it was put aside and left to rust. Knowing our need for a tractor, Uncle Nap did not leave me go wanting; he made sure I knew I could use either of his new tractors at any time, no strings attached. At age twelve, I thought that was a really big deal and now at age 71, I still feel indebted to him for trusting me with all that horse power.

Thus, in our SEL/AMSOIL museum tractor collection, I have asked Nap's grandson, Jim Peck and his wife Carol, to completely restore a fantasy version of one of Nap's nifty yellow-gold and red Minneapolis Molines. They have done a splendid top to bottom restoration and like Nap's stallions, this Durand edition will never again see a plow. It proudly wears a sign “Look But Don’t Touch”.

After leaving Scott for the military and serving in Europe, we lost our two-year old son due to “croup”, laryngo-trachea bronchitis. Burial of our infant son at our local church in Scott Township occurred the same week as Nap's farm auction sale, which I attended. Nap was an always-up-front proud and positive people person. This was really obvious at his sale as he publicly met and greeted old time friends of a lifetime with much nervous laughter and back slapping. This appeared to be his one big day of a lifetime as he enjoyed more than one auction cooked hot dog and many cups of hot coffee.

I thought nothing of him slipping away unnoticed from the crowd into his then closed down milk house. Having to leave his auction early, I felt I would go and say goodbye. There, out of sight of the crowd, Nap was leaning against a wall and crying his heart out like a child. His whole body shook. What an emotional outburst as he internally reflected and tried to cope with the abrupt ending of several decades of powerful memories...the depression, the large family and farm, wars, debts and droughts among others. My walking into the milk house at that moment resulted in a long and sad farewell, which is burned into my memory and I will never forget.

Well, the big Minneapolis Moline tractor sold. Lewis Durand, one of his brothers was the proud high bidder. When he drove the tractor home, Nap's faithful old dog, "Tippy" followed him. For several days "Tippy" stayed by the tractor's side until Uncle Lewis could again reacquaint "Tippy" with his real home. He drove the old dog back to Nap's home several times.

Some may say, “Why have tractors in an AMSOIL museum?” If only tractors could talk! How they tilled acres and acres of soil at the command of their proud owners, no back talk. Just another refueling and a fresh rain to give them a wash job, and on they went to help build America into a world super power...from the ground up!

Serving a full 20 year globe trotting career in the USAF, I have been trained to acknowledge the power and might of supersonic jets and their butt-kicking after burners, moving tons of aerodynamic steel from runway to out-of-sight in less than one minute. A minute later, I'm re-minded that without America‟s farm tractors and all their economic con-tributions to our American society and way of life, helping to build the United States into a premiere world power, these same mighty jets might be still parked on the runway!

For me, my cherished memories of Nap Durand and his will-ingness to trust a twelve year old boy (who couldn't reach the pedals) to use his beautiful Minneapolis Moline tractors as though I owned them, will live on forever in our SEL/AMSOIL Museum.
SEL/AMSOIL Museum exhibits collections, memorabilia, and life histories of its members. The 6240 square feet of exhibits is located on 320 acres On Rooney Lake in Scott Township, WI.  Any SEL/AMSOIL member can be an exhibitor,

Not a member yet? Then Call SEL Founder Bill Durand for details! 800-416-7109 or click on the link below to request a free AMSOIL Catalog. AMSOIL Means Opportunity!

SEL/AMSOILNow AMSOIL’S largest Six Star Organization