Tractor serves five generations

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CHRISMAN – It is unusual for a piece of farm equipment to last on one farm for five generations.

A 1940 John Deere Model B row crop tractor was purchased from H. E. Bollar, a John Deere dealer in Chrisman, by Fred Hoult. He and his son, Robert J. Hoult, operated the tractor for many years before Robert Hoult’s son, Jim, got a taste of running the two-cylinder machine. It was small enough to be handy pulling a small plow or drag type disc, but mostly used as a planter tractor, mowing hay, hauling wagons or running a corn hiker.

When the B’s bigger brothers were added to the farm, it was a little more efficient and handier than using a bigger tractor to do small jobs. Jim Hoult’s son, Jason, operated it when he came along a few years later even if he didn’t work full-time on the farm. This year Jason’s six-year-old son, Andrew has driven the tractor on the farm.

The story of the tractor from being brought home to the Hoult farm until it will eventually be owned by Andrew at his home in Plymouth, Minn., is interesting and almost didn’t happen.

Hoult’s tractor largely parallels the history of the John Deere agency in Chrisman. The Chrisman dealership was started in 1936 By D. W. Tucker and Forest Adams. It originally was in what became the Chevy Garage until it was moved to the building where Radke John Deere was for several years. It included owner-managers A. T. Ellison, Max Newlin, Keg Robison and then Coffey and Radke before Dennis Radke finally closed the business. It appears the tractor of the Hoult family had a longer life than the agency.

Jim Hoult was the person who kept the tractor in running operation and saw a legacy preserved. Hoult did not just farm, he also worked at other jobs including the E. I. Lilly plant, which he retired from after 34 years. He was always interested in the sound and workings of John Deere’s unique two-cylinder tractors.

Before he started with the project of getting the tractor in good working condition for his grandson, he worked on many two-cylinder repairs for other farmers and himself. He claims he is not a restorer of old tractors as much as he concentrates on making old machinery useful again.

When Hoult buys a new project, he gets it fixed up and uses it himself until someone sees the value and buys it from him.

This John Deere B that he loves so well was actually sold when he didn’t have complete control of it. Hoult wanted the tractor back and finally tracked down its new owner, even though it took a few years.

It returned to the family farm and the former role of doing odd jobs, but for some reason it was put in an old building and almost forgotten. Hoult made sure the engine on the tractor still turned over by putting five gallons of hydraulic oil in the crankcase.

Finally in the winter of 2017, he started the project of bringing the old two-lunger girl back to a useful life. He was slowed down a bit when he had eye problems, but he doggedly kept working using his knowledge and mechanical ability to complete the job except for painting. Because of his eye problems he cannot paint using a professional spray outfit, but the tractor is ready and waiting.

His grandson has already driven the almost completed project and is looking forward to taking the tractor home as soon as the final step of putting color on the old girl is finished. This is now a family tradition for the Hoult family, and it is fitting the putt putts will continue until who knows when.

Although the tractor will not be on the Hoult farm near Chrisman any more, five generations of this family have actually operated the old familiar 1940 John Deere B at its farm home.