Farm & Ranch Living

An Unforgetta­ble Ford

They restored a favorite tractor in time for its 50th anniversar­y with the family.

- RICK LABONTE OSSINEKE, MICHIGAN

My most treasured tractor is our family’s 1954 Ford NAA. My paternal grandparen­ts, George and Hazel, bought it new in 1954; at 10 years old, my dad, Richard, was the first to drive it. The NAA was the “big tractor” on the farm. As Grandma Hazel once put it, even after they got larger tractors, “this one did most of the work.”

In 1971, at just 53 years of age, my grandpa passed away. By the following spring, this was the only one of his tractors that hadn’t been sold. In 1977, my father bought it, and even though Dad was no longer farming, he and my mom, Donna, put the Ford to good use in her garden. They also used it to haul firewood, plow snow and rescue our cars from snowdrifts.

Dad taught his younger sisters, several brothers-inlaw, nieces, nephews, kids and grandkids how to drive tractor with this one. To date, four generation­s of my family have operated it and the fifth has ridden on it.

Over the years, my dad and I grew more interested in buying and fixing old tractors, and the NAA pull-started each and every derelict we picked up. In 1993, I gave it a much-needed engine rebuild, new clutch and wiring harness. For Dad’s 60th birthday I began a more thorough restoratio­n, finishing in time for the Ford’s 50th anniversar­y with our family.

Though I had done a number of restoratio­ns before (there were a couple of John Deeres we’d fixed up real nice) the NAA was pretty beat-up, so I enlisted help from a friend who does bodywork. He offered to supervise my work and did the final paint job—minus the Ford emblems, which his wife took care of.

When we’re not taking it out for shows and parades, the Ford is stored in Dad’s garage. Interestin­gly, that’s less than a quarter-mile from George and Hazel’s farm where the tractor was first delivered.

In my Grandma Hazel’s final years, her Alzheimer’s disease had advanced to the point that she no longer recognized her younger grandchild­ren or sons-in-law. But at my dad’s birthday party in 2007, two years before she passed away, we observed Grandma quietly leaning on her walker and looking at the NAA.

As Dad and I approached, she noticed us and said, “That’s the tractor George and I farmed with!” Some things, I guess, you just never forget.

 ??  ?? Above: Rick’s dad, Richard, plows his brother-in-law’s drive in 1978. Right: Richard drives the restored NAA to meet up with his tractor club at a nearby festival.
Above: Rick’s dad, Richard, plows his brother-in-law’s drive in 1978. Right: Richard drives the restored NAA to meet up with his tractor club at a nearby festival.

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