LUCKY LITTLE OLIVER
A few inches saved a beloved family tractor from a devastating tornado.
IN 1943, WHEN OUR Oliver 70 tractor rolled off the assembly line, there was no telling what kind of life it would lead. My grandfather Emil Ebinger was renting a 120-acre grain and livestock farm near Washington, Illinois, and he used the Oliver 70 to raise corn, oats and hay.
By 1957, my grandfather had saved enough money to purchase a farm in Dahlgren, Illinois. He trucked the Oliver south to Wayne County, where he used it to grind cattle feed, spray fencerows and haul baled hay. In the fall, it sported a two-row mounted picker.
My grandfather’s health deteriorated, and he reluctantly scheduled a machinery auction in 1970.
The Oliver was listed on the sale bill, but when sale day came, my grandfather couldn’t bear to part with it. After the sale, he handed the keys to his grandson, my brother, Randall Bally.
Randy hauled the Oliver back north to his grain farm in Woodford County, where it was a chore tractor. Several years later, Randy parked it between two grain trucks in his old converted livestock barn. It sat there quietly, almost forgotten, until November 17, 2013.
On that Sunday, much of Washington, Illinois, blew away in an EF-4 tornado. The funnel cloud continued northeast across rural Woodford County, in a direct path to Randy’s farm.
After the tornado, the old livestock barn was lying in a big heap, but amazingly, most of the farm machinery was still sitting where Randy had parked it. The huge barn rafters had come down directly on the two trucks parked on either side of the
Oliver. They missed the tractor’s fenders and hood by inches; only its exhaust pipe was damaged by falling debris.
During cleanup, my brother gave the Oliver to his nephew, my son, Keith, who tore apart the engine, ground the valves and replaced the rings. He found a new seat and new rear tires, and then he had the tractor professionally painted.
The Oliver won’t be asked to work anymore.
And if things go as planned, ownership will someday be transferred to Keith’s nephew, Gregory, Emil’s great-great grandson—the fifth generation to own the lucky little Oliver.
Joy Bally Gradert’s son Keith completely restored the 1943 Oliver 70. The Oliver 70 before renovation