By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Jerome Cafferty started farming outside of Waverly in the summer of 1957, with an old Huber 18-36.
“It is either a 1926 or ‘27 model, probably ‘26. It’s just about as old as I am, give or take a few,” Jerome said.
He only paid $150 for that tractor, and paid Harry Engel $15 to get it home with his bull hauler.
“I plowed a lot of miles with that tractor,” Jerome said.
He had an ordinary farm, milking 18 to 20 head of dairy cattle, and raising hogs and chickens, he said.
Although Jerome still owns that old tractor, it will not be on the auction with the other tractors he and his son, Matthew have worked to restore over the years, he said.
There will be 14 restored tractors that still run auctioned off, and four non-running tractors, Matthew said.
The auction will take place Saturday, May 28 at 10 a.m. at the Wright County Fairgrounds in Howard Lake.
Jerome’s hobby of buying and working with old tractors and engines started in the 1970s, when he had two Case steam engines he would show at various threshing and steam engine shows.
He brought his steam engines to Winsted, Albany, Heatwole, and Silver Lake for a few years, he said.
Jerome even hosted his own steam shows on his farm in 1973, ‘74, and ‘75. His brother-in-law, Edward Boehlke helped him with the show, he said.
Soon, Jerome started buying more tractors at auctions to restore.
“He’d go to an auction, and it seemed like he always had to come home with something,” said Jerome’s son, Matthew.
The two became a team. “Matt does the major overhaul, and I do bits and pieces,” Jerome said.
“I’ve always tinkered with stuff anyways even from a kid, on up,” said Matthew.
In the mid-1980s, Jerome moved to his “retirement ranch” just outside of Howard Lake, with a shed big enough to continue his hobby of finding old, rare tractors to restore.
“I’ve covered many states, going to auctions in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Canada, and Nebraska,” Jerome said.
He even bought some rare, antique tractors from over the ocean, off of Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia, although he did that over the phone a couple of years ago.
He bought two Cockshutt 20 Blackhawk tractors and a standard Cockshutt off the island.
The Cockshutt 20 Blackhawks were only made for about five months and are very rare, Jerome said.
He also proudly noted it only took Matthew a few weeks to complete the restoration on the first one.
Matthew’s favorite restoration project was a Twin City 12-20 he began in about 1988.
“It only took me three years to do,” Matthew said. “For a long time it sat in the corner in bits and pieces. My wife said I would never get it done.”
Although it took three years, Matthew eventually completed the restoration. “I started it about the time I got married, which is probably why it sat there for awhile,” he said.
“There were a lot of parts missing (on that tractor), but it turned out pretty nice,” Jerome said. “There aren’t many of them birds around; they’re pretty rare.”
Jerome was able to show off his Case 75 steam engine at Case’s 150th anniversary celebration at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag in 1992.
Because the steam engine, also known as a “Montana special” or “Montana plow driver,” is so big, with 36-inch, extra-wide wheels, Case hauled the steam engine to Rollag for Jerome, Matthew said.
Now, after more than 25 years of working together restoring tractors, Jerome and Matthew have decided to slow down.
“We’re running out of room in the shed,” Matthew said, “and it takes a lot of time to keep the tractors up and running.”
Jerome will be keeping the Huber 18-36 he bought back in the summer of 1957, as well as the tractors he has given to his grandchildren over the years.
“They like to drive and look at the tractors. It might even make farmers out of them,” Jerome said with a smile.
Matthew admits they will probably continue to buy and sell tractors that need restoring, but wants to level it out a bit.
“We’ll just do it over the wintertime, basically,” he said.
“I won’t travel quite so much,” Jerome said. “That was the nice thing about this, I got to get around the world, and got to meet a lot of really nice people.”
Which is apparently true of many tractor enthusiasts, as Jerome has been receiving calls from all over asking about the tractors to be sold on the auction.
“I’ve gotten calls form Ohio, Connecticut, Canada, New York, Colorado, and a lot of different places. If they want them, they don’t mind traveling for them,” Jerome said. “There’s a lot of interest; it’s unbelievable.”