Farm Horizons, September 2000

How to find that one-of-a-kind tractor: luck

By Jane Otto

As far as Jerome Cafferty knows, he has the only 1931 Huber Modern Farmer 30 in the country, probably the world.

Coming across something that rare is not a matter of hours of research, but, as any collector would know, is a matter of luck.

And as luck would have it, the Modern Farmer 30 would find its way to Cafferty via New York and Oklahoma.

A farmer in Syracuse, N.Y., purchased the Huber brand new. When he retired from farming, the machine just sat.

Allen Laclaire, who worked for a chemical company in Syracuse, refurbished old machinery in the off-season. He got wind of this farmer and the Huber, but the fellow was not willing to sell the tractor.

After he died, his wife, seeing no reason to keep it, sold it to Laclaire. After he brought the Modern Farmer up to snuff, Laclaire advertised in a few trade magazines looking for a buyer.

More than 2,000 miles southwest of Syracuse in Spiro, Okla., a fellow by the name of Huber ran a grocery store. He always wanted a Huber tractor to sit in front of his store.

"Just for a showpiece," said Cafferty.

Huber had a good friend, Mark Allen, who owned a couple of saddle shops in Spiro. Leafing through some trade magazines, he saw the ad for the Huber.

Allen immediately called LaClaire in Syracuse and bought the tractor without even seeing it. So, for $3,500 and another $800 to ship it, Allen had a Huber for his friend's store.

However, his friend wasn't too interested in a showpiece at that price. Allen kept the Huber and drove it occasionally in local parades.

About three years later, a good friend of Cafferty's, Bob Lindquist of Winthrop, had difficulty sleeping one night. He spent the wee hours of the morning perusing old trade magazines. He came across Laclaire's ad for the Huber and was well aware of what a find this was.

Later that morning, he called Cafferty with the news. Cafferty called Laclaire only to discover that the tractor was sold some time ago.

Laclaire told Cafferty that Allen was so anxious to buy that he doubted that Allen would ever sell it. Laclaire gave Cafferty Allen's number in Oklahoma.

Cafferty initially gave up on ever having a Modern Farmer, but then decided "What the heck? What's a phone call?"

To Cafferty's surprise and delight, Allen was more than willing to sell. Allen told Cafferty the tractor could be his for the original sale price of $3,500 plus the shipping of $800. It was arranged that they would meet in Kansas City, Mo.

Just a short while later, Allen called Cafferty and told him he was very busy.

"There's a horse behind every house here," he told Cafferty.

Allen said his hired man would drive the tractor to Kansas City and that Cafferty could have the Huber for $3,500 foregoing the shipping charge. Allen either didn't realize he possessed possibly the only Modern Farmer in existence, or he didn't care.

Cafferty and his son, Matt, drove to Kansas City during Easter week. As luck would have it, they stayed in the same motel, and in the very next room, as Allen's hired man.

The threesome had breakfast together the next morning and went their separate ways.

The grocery store owner in Spiro, Okla., never had his Huber showpiece, but Cafferty had a one-of-a-kind tractor.

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