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Mokane man enjoys restoring tractors, showing them off

Friday, August 1, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

MOKANE — "Lookers welcome."

Those were Mokane resident Harold Lehman's parting words after giving a tour of the collection of antique tractors that line his driveway.

Lehman restored the tractors — 15 in total — to working order, and he has two more awaiting his attention.

"I've retired from farming, and I got tired of having nothing to do," Lehman said of the hobby he started in 2009. "I thought I'd buy one tractor and restore it. I ended up with 17."

His collection includes machines from John Deere, Farmall, Massey-Harris and Minneapolis-Moline with model years ranging from 1939 to the late 1950s.

"My oldest is a '39 John Deer H, I've got a '45 Farmall, several '47s, I've got three John Deere 420 Series — a standard, a W and a T," Lehman said as he walked down the line pointing out which tractor is which. "I never used John Deere until I started restoring."

Pointing to a Farmall, he said, "I had one of those while I was farming, and that Massey-Harris down there we used longer than anything.

"On the end is a Farmall B International — I used it for cutting corn, mowing and raking hay, mowing the yard."

Of his restored antiques, Lehman said his favorite is a 1953 John Deer 50 he got two years ago at a tractor sale in Jefferson City.

"I don't really know why, I just kind of liked the 50 series," Lehman said. "I think they're a better-looking tractor."

More recently, Lehman has been working on a 1929 Model A Ford Roadster "that took me away from the tractors." Lehman said if he ever gets his Model A "into the shape I want," though, his next project likely will be an old Case tractor that has been sitting in his workshop for the past two years.

Lehman said he has traveled all over the state picking up tractors at farm and tractor auctions, and he spends anywhere from six months to a year working on one.

He said his favorite part is always the end result.

"I guess (I like) the prestige of doing it, seeing how good I can make it look," Lehman said.

Every spring, Lehman pulls his tractors out to line the driveway so passersby can enjoy his work, but he also likes showing off his work at area parades and events like the Mokane World's Fair, the Kingdom of Callaway County Fair and the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society's annual Callaway Vintage Tractor Drive.

Lehman, his brother-in-law, Jim Buffington, and other friends and family typically will drive several of his machines in those events.

Lehman said he particularly looks forward to the tractor drive each year.

"I like just being with all the rest of the farmers and restorers," he said. "I look forward to driving in the parade of it and getting in with some of the other men — I usually get acquainted with people I haven't yet."

The 2014 Callaway Vintage Tractor Drive starts from the big red barn at Shryocks Callaway Farms at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 23.

Registration is $35 per tractor until Aug. 22 or $45 per tractor on the day of the drive. Registration forms are available from the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society, 513 Court St. in Fulton, or online at kchsoc.org.

The historical society is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the third Saturday of the month.

For more information on the tractor drive, call 642-0570.


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