The 1948 International H tractor sitting at the entrance to the Zinnia Garden at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard carries a long family history.
It was purchased some time between 1948 and 1950, according to the tractor’s previous owner Dan Beckwith. He said his father brought the tractor home and it’s been in the family ever since.
Beckwith’s father and uncle raised everything from grain to livestock, including pigs and chickens.
Beckwith himself even tried to get involved in the farming, although he was a little too young to get behind the wheel of the tractor.
“The story goes that my mom heard the tractor running and she went out and saw me and my sister,” Beckwith, a former Dodge County judge, said. “I had a can of gas and I was telling my mom that we were going to go get gas for the field.”
He was 4 years old at the time. Beckwith said his mother had no idea how he was even able to get the tractor running, let alone how to turn the machine off.
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Those memories remained with Beckwith throughout his life. The same goes for the tractor. Beckwith said the tractor had been used often up until the last five to 10 years.
Recently, the tractor has been collecting dust in Beckwith’s shed. It only came out for an emergency appearance for a community parade after volunteer firemen were called out to respond to a fire.
“I just started off with the tractor through the neighborhood and all the neighborhood kids were on their bikes and walking along with their family,” Beckwith said.
Beckwith said it was great to see other kids around the tractor, enjoying it the same way he did growing up. Rather than putting the tractor back in the shed, Beckwith said it was time to find a better solution.
Vala’s seemed like the perfect place for the tractor to be put on display. Beckwith said he reached out to the pumpkin patch’s owner, Tim Vala, to see if he was interested.
“[Vala] was enthusiastic about it as well,” Beckwith said. “The whole idea was, rather than just having it in storage, it might as well be something that can be enjoyed by kids and families.”
Vala also has a strong connection to International H tractors. Just like Beckwith, he remembers the International H his grandfather owned. Since then, Vala said he has always wanted to own an International H tractor for himself.
“It kind of had a special meaning to me, too,” Vala said. “I think back and I have a picture of me on his International H when I was probably 5 years old. It’s pretty cool.”
Vala said there have been some occasions where people have donated items to the pumpkin patch for display, but it’s rare.
“It’s really cool to have the history because a lot of it is disappearing,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity to show some of the old tractors and old equipment off that you normally wouldn’t see in most places.”
Beckwith said he and his family travel to the pumpkin patch around once or twice a year, so the location seemed like a perfect place to showcase their family history.
“I’ve always enjoyed it and the kids have always enjoyed it,” he said. “... Why not have the tractor on display and be able to have a tribute of history of our family.”
Beckwith said the tractor has significant importance to him and his family, but it will now provide excitement to many others moving forward.
He said letting go of the tractor was somewhat bittersweet, but he will remember the memories more than the object itself.
“The fact of the matter is that things are things,” he said. “We can tie those things to memories.”