Friends enjoy antique tractor ride across Nebraska plains
Four hundred and fifty miles. That’s the distance John Meier and Kenny Wild of Waterloo traveled to get from one side of Nebraska to the other.
And they did so using Meier’s restored John Deere Model 520 tractor.
Meier is a founding member of the Gateway Two-Cylinder Tractor Club, which is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of antique tractors and implements.
The Nebraska Antique Farming Association’s fifth annual Tractor Relay Across Nebraska took place June 4-12, and Meier and Wild both enjoyed their first year participating in the event.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Meier said.
Wild agreed with the sentiment.
“The food and hospitality were perfect.”
The two friends said they shared so many good times and jokes that choosing a highlight of the trip seems impossible.
“There was no dull moment,” Wild said. “I can’t pick just one thing out.”
The trip began June 4 in Beatrice, located about 90 minutes from the southeastern border of the state, and ended at Scotts Bluff National Monument near the northwestern border. A standard day of travel began at 8 a.m. and took up about eight hours of the day. To get the tractor to Nebraska, Wild and Meier needed to transport it on a trailer.
“I’ve been through Nebraska before, but not like this,” Meier said. “We took all dirt roads and side roads.”
In addition, Meier and Wild traded off between driving the trailer and tractor in order to haul the trailer up to the end of the trip, where they would begin their journey back to Illinois.
Whoever drove the trailer would sometimes miss the tractor stops because they could only travel on the main roads.
“He was going to go by himself, but then I said, ‘Hey, you need someone to come with you,” Wild said. “Otherwise, he would’ve had to go from one end to the other and then back again just to get the trailer.”
As they sat in the Republic-Times office reminiscing on their trip, Meier recounted tales such as seeing an 11-year-old girl with a pet raccoon and stopping in a restaurant with a massive collection of cookie jars.
They even stopped in a town right outside of Hyannis — their sixth destination on the trip – that Wild said didn’t consist of much more than a post office and a cattle barn.
“That was about the only place we couldn’t sleep,” Meier said. “There were so many cows and the wind was blowing just the right way.”
“The aroma from the cows was overpowering,” Wild clarified.
Another interesting part of the trip involved the people they rode alongside. Meier mentioned a couple that went by the names of Ma and Pa Kettle, who lugged “everything but the kitchen sink” on a trailer attached to their tractor.
“They blew out a tire on the first day,” Meier said “Well, they happened to have a spare tire with them, but it was a smaller one. They drove the rest of the way with a 12-inch tire on one side and 15-inch tire on the other. It was a bit lopsided.”
Without Meier’s daughter, who lives in Omaha, Meier said he never would have known about the opportunity.
“My daughter told me about it, and she said to call someone who then told me to call somebody else, who then relayed me to Donelle,” he said.
Wild and Meier both enjoyed different parts of the trip, but the newly instated NAFA members boasted a wonderful experience in the Cornhusker State.
The relay is one NAFA event that brings together men and women interested in antique farming equipment and tractors.
For information on participating in next year’s relay, contact Donelle Moormeier at 402-429-2480 or Howard Raymond at 308-650-1527, or visit the website at antiquefarming.org.
For more information on Meier’s Gateway Two-Cylinder Tractor Club, call 314-608-4212.