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Part of an occasional series of features on special things prized by our readers. Call us at 547-3424 to submit an idea for a future story.
By Donnie Epple
On April 30, 1919, on Avery Ridge, a boy was born and named Floyd William Epple. Mom told us the older folks said, “That little boy (our dad) had to plow before he was old enough to walk.” She also said while she was growing up, she heard stories about this boy over on Avery Ridge plowing with a team of mules, and he had to reach up to hold the handles of the plow.
One of Dad’s favorite childhood stories was when he was supposed to spend the day getting in hay. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t get the team to dig in and pull the wagon; they would just lean into it and balk.
Grandpa got home and began giving Dad a hard time about goofin’ off. Dad told him he’d worn himself out but couldn’t get the horses to pull. Grandpa went over and reached in under the hames and pulled out bundles of cockleburs.
There came a day when Dad would buy his own horses and, according to the manual, 37 of ‘em, neatly arranged in what the John Deere Co. dubbed the “60.” I contacted the company with the serial number, and they said it was a late 1954 or early 1955 and that was the best they could do.
The “60” made its debut on the farm before there was a bathroom in the house. It was the major upgrade in tractor power on the farm. The plow, disc and other heavy pulls were reserved for the John Deere 60.
Dad’s work uniforms were bib overalls and a straw hat. He scratched out a living on the farm, at times taking a terrible drubbing.
Sometimes the “60” would work the same ground twice in the spring after the backwater claimed the first planting in the bottoms. Then there was too hot or too dry or too wet, but sometimes it was “just right enough” to keep him believing. It was long odds, but in the end, he had his wife, nine kids, and 180 acres that were his.
I don’t think the “60” was so much a dream, but as he aged, a trusted tool that had become his pride and joy. And why not, as the saying goes, the “60” was as dependable as death and taxes.
Did he ever have any “what might have beens?”
I can’t say. I don’t recall hearing any. But if he did, they would have been simple and inexpensive … probably something he’d never done more than something he’d never had.
He had the “60” till he passed away in 1996, and fortunately it wasn’t auctioned off. My youngest brother had purchased it from the estate. Five of the nine children were sons. All five of us had put in our portion of hours on the “60.” Together we decided last summer it was time to restore it.
I am thankful it is still around and I am in charge of its care. A lot of memories I thought had been stolen are retrieved again when I climb onto that yellow seat and listen for the “pop-pop”… a soothing sound from an era gone by.
And with the awkward eloquence of a country boy, if our dad could see the “60” now, you’d have to break his jaw to erase the smile from his face.