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By Vince Luecke
Ed Guillaume bought his grandpa’s International Super M tractor in 1963. He still has a copy of the auction bill. And he still has the tractor.
The 1952 tractor has passed through five generations of Guillaume’s, from his grandfather, also named Ed, to his father, Hubert, to him and now to his son, Chad, and grandson, Cody.
To farmers, tractors are, well, special, more than tools for tilling the soil, but iron horses that sow and reap. They are the farmer’s partner day-in and day-out. Tough, leather-skinned farmers who rarely show much emotion sometimes talk about the International, Allis Chalmers or Ford tractor in the barnyard as they might an old sweetheart. It’s that close of a bond.
“They’re beauties and this one certainly is,” said Ed, who showed off his Super M one mild evening on his family farm between Branchville and Oriole.
His grandfather and namesake bought the tractor new from Jesse Dauby’s store in Tell City and when Hubert retired, it went up for sale, along with plows, cultivators and Hereford cattle on the farm.
Ed remembers raising his hand on the tractor during that fall auction and said Charlie Etienne of the St. Marks-Gatchel area was bidding against him. Ed ended up with the high bid and Etienne later told him he was glad the International tractor would be staying with the family.
It’s been with the Guillaumes every since, repainted to its original Farmall red sheen and runs like the day it rolled off an Illinois assembly line.
The tractor has years of service on its engine and while the paint is fresh, the rest of the tractor is original.
International Harvester used letters for different models and the M and H series were among the most powerful row-crop tractors built at the time. They are immensely popular with collectors, as are tractors of other makes, and Perry County has a large and active tractor association.
Even in the 1960s the tractor was one of the biggest around in Perry County. Rated at nearly 50 horsepower, “it was the hoss of the ridge,” Ed said. By then most farmers had tractors of various sizes but the era of mules and draft horses had not completely passed. Ed recalls that it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that farm families such as his parted with their last mules and relied solely on tractors to farm.
Times have changed. Huge tractors with far more horsepower help farmers plant hundreds of acres in a day.
But older ones steeped in history and family pride remain prized possessions.
The Guillaumes have other tractors and like to restore them. Ed’s shop is an assembly – sometimes disassembly – room of tractor parts. Other tractors, some rebuilt and restored, fill bays.
His family knew Ed was so proud of the five-generation tractor, they made a display with mounted photos of the tractor at different times of the year with family.
One has his grandchildren climbing all over it.
After posing with a photo of the Super M, Ed’s son and grandson drive it away with young Cody behind the sturdy wheel, his small frame barely compressing the spring under the seat. the motor humming steadily, Like some Western movie, the sun is setting and father and son fade away, their silhouettes cast in the orange glow of a Perry County farm at day’s end.