Tractors and Tears

9/8/2012 7:00 AM
By Jane W. Graham Virginia Correspondent

A Community’s Loss Drives Nostalgia-Filled Fundraiser



FLOYD, Va. — Tractor runs through the rural roads of southwest Virginia are bringing nostalgia, compassion and fellowship to participants and help to sick children and charitable organizations.

In August, the Sixth Floyd County Tractor Fun Run attracted 115 tractors, mostly antiques, to a 35-mile ride through the mountainous county which claims the Blue Ridge Parkway as one of its attractions. Another 128 folks registered to ride on the wagons pulled by the tractors.

Dale Thompson, one of the organizers of the run, said an estimated 300 people were fed at the West Farm, a stop about halfway along the route. Marvin and Minnie West, retired milk truck drivers and tractor collectors, are two of the original organizers of the run.

The first run was organized six years ago when the county lost three children within six months to terminal illnesses. The children and their families had fought the illnesses with persistence and bravery and the help of a unified and caring community.

Thompson said this run, as well as all the runs, was held in memory of those three children: Chance Harman, Joshua Cantrell and Kassidy Foster.

The event has raised $6,500 before expenses, he said. Profits will go to help Dillon Wood, a child suffering from leukemia, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“We just want to give back to families who have lost children or are fighting battles and let them know we are praying for them and thinking about them,” Thompson said.

Nearby, the Pulaski County Tractor Parade is set for Oct. 6. This 20-mile ride through the county is sponsored by a local farm, Thornspring Pastures, owned by Mike and Tina Jones, and The Patriot, a local weekly newspaper published by Mike Williams. It will begin and end at Thornspring Pastures. Lunch will be served.

The Pulaski ride will benefit the Joy Ranch Home for Children.

“It’s a way to pitch in and fill a need,” Jones said.

The events seem to be replacing the wagon trains held in the areas in the ’70s and ’80s as another generation seeks to hang onto the equipment on which they learned to farm. Thompson, Jones and Randy Warden, president of the New River Valley Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Association, agreed.

Thompson, who operates a garage in Floyd, recalled the satisfaction he got from restoring his uncle Harold Thompson’s antique tractor before his uncle died.

He said it was a Farmall H that had been in the family for more than 40 years and was the tractor he grew up learning to operate.

Jones said his family has an old John Deere that will probably be in the parade around the county. It has been used on the farm for years.

“Our big draw is it’s a kind of fellowship,” Jones said. “You get to hear the history of their tractors.”

Warden, a devotee of everything Farmall, is amazed at the popularity of that tractor, whose manufacturer has been out of business for 27 years. He had just returned from the 23rd Power Round-up, an all-International Harvester event, in DuQuion, Ill., where he estimated that 200,000 people attended the event from as far away as England and Germany.

Warden wondered if the upper management of International Harvester could have imagined the following their tractor would have so long after the company dissolved.

Asked why he collects the red tractors, Warden said, “It just gets in your blood. I’m trying to keep the life of the old International and others too alive.”

In addition to the charitable runs and parades, antique tractor owners enjoy getting together to compete in tractor pulls to capture the bragging rights for their particular favorite.

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