News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 6, 2014

Farmyard games

Converted Model Ts, Ford tractors battle over barrels, tennis balls

TERRE HAUTE — Susan Ooley-Viray’s love of tractors started as a Christmas gift about five years ago from her husband, John.

“He gave me a toy tractor with an owner’s manual. When I finally saw the real thing, it was all in pieces, all over the place — just parts in a garage — and it wasn’t painted,” Ooley-Viray said, chuckling about her 1953 McCormick Farmall Super C.

“The funny thing is I didn’t even know I wanted one until I got one. I just love it. It is so much fun, and I’m a city girl, wasn’t even raised on a farm,” she said.

Her husband, who said he is “a 1957 model by birth,” and a friend restored the tractor for Susan.

Ooley-Viray put her tractor-driving skills to the test in a barrel race on Sunday afternoon at the Antique Tractor Games during the Vigo County Fair at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds. She had already driven the tractor to the fairgrounds from her Vigo County home in Youngstown.

Other tractor games include a blindfold race, where the driver is blindfolded and a second person rides on the tractor to tell the driver where to go. Another is musical tractors, “which is like musical chairs. We drive around a barrel with tennis balls on it, one less than the number of tractors. Someone jumps off your tractor and hopefully gets a tennis ball,” Ooley-Viray said.

One other race is the power puff Lemans, in which the tractor is started with a hand crank by her husband, then Ooley-Viray races to get on the tractor and go though a course.

Her tractor has 14 horsepower, with electric and hand-crank starters. Ooley-Viray said she and her husband also take the tractor annually to the Sullivan County Fair for similar a competition.

Antique tractors have also long held a fascination to Bob Meyers of Terre Haute.

Meyers has restored a 1947 McCormick Farmall M. He bought the tractor in 1999 “from a widow in Greencastle. I wanted something that I could put my Detroit Diesel engine into” and the engine transformation fits perfectly.

The diesel engine starts immediately with a compression starter and has about 40 horsepower, Meyers said. The original tractor had a gasoline engine.

Meyers, now retired, previously worked for an International Harvester dealership in Terre Haute in the 1950s, among several other jobs. Yet it was at the tractor dealership that his love of tractors was sparked.

“It has always been a liking to me. It is quite a hobby. You just get the bug,” Meyers said. “It is my pastime.”

Ted Hunt, of Prairie Creek, caught that antique tractor bug in January, when he purchased a 1924 Model T “that was converted for farming with a kit that cost less than $100 from Montgomery Ward,” he said. Hunt has worked on restoring the vehicle since the start of this year, finishing just in time for a Fourth of July parade and to be displayed at the Vigo County Fair.

“It had one bottom-mounted plow originally, but we can’t find the plow. But that’s what the lifting mechanism on it is for,” he said of the vehicle that had been in a garage on a farm.

“Back in the Depression days, farmers could not afford cars and tractors both, so they made kits so they could cut [the car] down and plow with them,” Hunt said.

Hunt dropped in a different 20-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, removed steel spikes from the rear wheels and put rubber on the metal wheels to make it drivable on roads.

When Hunt, now 59, married his wife, Mary, he was given a 1948 8-N Ford tractor from his father-in-law as a wedding gift. “It was a house-warming gift. We used to show quarter horses, so we have a lot of pasture,” Hunt said. “And I like to keep things mowed up and neat, so that was my mowing tractor.”

Now, Hunt plans to restore that tractor “cosmetically. … I want to make it look like it came off the showroom floor — that’s the idea.”

The Vigo County Fair continues through Saturday at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds, 1 mile south of Interstate 70 on U.S. 41.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard. greninger@tribstar.com.

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