CANTON, Ohio (AP) – The tractors in the collection of Dave Huggins of Canton Township aren’t just pieces of lawn and farm equipment. They’re like parts of his family.
Using his collection as a gauge, Huggins has a massive family – more than 100 small yard and larger agricultural models, which he purchased so he and his sons could work on them together.
“I wanted something, a hobby, so they could learn mechanics,” said Huggins, with a smile. “It’s worked out.”
Both of his sons, Greg and Mike, as well as six grandchildren – Jakob, John, Brandon, Walker, Kylie and Hannah – have enthusiastically become involved in the hobby. Huggins’ wife, Karen, also goes to shows with the family.
“Usually, collecting tractors is the kind of thing that skips a generation,” said John Tabellion, president of the Stark Antique Power Association, a group of collectors and tractor pull enthusiasts that Huggins led for more than a decade. “With Dave, his kids were involved and now I think his grandkids are even more interested.”
The 62-year-old Huggins learned the mechanical knowledge he is passing on from his father, Jack Huggins, who lived in Bethlehem Township until his death in 2004.
“We were close,” said Huggins, who said that his father’s 1965 McCormick Farmall 706 tractor now is a part of his collection.
“I didn’t want it to leave the family, so after he died I bought it from the estate, and we repainted it,” said Huggins, who noted that he annually gives out Stark Antique Power Association tractor-pulling trophies in his dad’s name. “He liked antique tractors, so I thought it would be appropriate.”
The majority of the Power Association’s 200 members are “pulling” members, joining the group so they can enter the tractor pull events that it organizes. Less than two dozen of the members collect the machines. The number is dwindling.
“You’ve got to have the know-how to work on them. You’ve got to be willing to spend the time and money to restore them,” explained Tabellion, who collects and maintains John Deere tractors. “You can buy something already done, but you’ll have to invest more.”
Although he owns “six or eight” full-sized farm tractors, Huggins and his family collect mostly machines of the lawn and garden variety. They’re less expensive, easier to work on, and take less space to store in the structure behind his workshop.
Retired from driving trucks for Superior Dairy, Huggins also repairs yard tractors in the shop behind his home.
“I service them and get them ready for the summer,” said Huggins, “so I have extra money to purchase my own.”
The first tractor he bought – the machine with which his collection started – was a David Bradley 725 Suburban, which he obtained from one of his father’s neighbors.
“We got a lot of the rest of them because they knew I restored them and didn’t sell them,” said Huggins, who explained that garden tractor owners are sort of close to the machines on which they’ve spent so much peaceful backyard time. “They were happy because they knew they were going to a collector.”
Most of the tractors in his collection are David Bradley or Allis-Chalmers, said Huggins. Other family members own several of the tractors, including his son, Mike, who is 39 now and has been working on old tractors since he was a teenager.
While the senior Huggins enjoys completing a tractor project, “seeing a tractor come to life,” the younger Huggins enjoys the restoration process. “I like looking for parts – the hunt of it all,” he said. “I’ve always liked working on stuff.”
Each tractor that is purchased is researched long before it is restored. Much of that historical work lately has been the job of Huggins’ 14-year-old grandson, Jakob, who is the son of Greg Huggins.
“We’ll go online. It usually only takes 10 or 15 minutes. We’ll type in the brand, and the model number and the year and find out everything we can about it.”
Jakob, who owns two Allis-Chalmers tractors, also helps his grandfather work on all of the tractors the family restores.
“When we restore one, we take it all apart and clean it, sand it down, prime it and paint it,” said Jakob. “If it’s got engine problems, we repair it. They all run.”
Jakob generally helps prepare the tractors to be driven in parades – the family has both Army and Air Force tractors for that duty – or sets up displays at tractor shows.
“We go to about seven or eight shows a year and we go as a family,” said Mike Huggins. “Usually dad will pick out a show and we all say, ‘OK, let’s go.'”
But, while Dave Huggins enjoys the interaction with other collectors, the most enjoyment of collecting tractors seems to be derived at his home, while working on them in the workshop and while operating them outside.
“I like the fact that we can actually use them,” said Jakob Huggins. “We mow with them, till the garden, plow snow, pull the wagon around and clean up the yard.”
Dave Huggins said that most of the tractors are used on an alternating basis, so none gets too much use. Then they are cleaned up and placed back in storage. Well, a couple of tractors parked near the door to the storage building stay a little dirty.
“These are the kids’ ‘wreck’ tractors,” Huggins said with a laugh. “They buzz around in the back real fast and see who can get the muddiest.”
One tractor, however, stays pretty much pristine. Huggins’ father’s Farmall occupies a place of honor in the collection. In a sense, it is the collection’s patriarch.
“I had a couple of plaques made and I take it out to display it at the fair,” said Huggins.
The plaques recall his father – “This tractor was redone in Dad’s memory” – and restate the reason that Huggins took up his hobby. That reason is not lost to those who view the machine.
“One year I didn’t take it, and people asked ‘Where’s your Dad’s tractor?’ I’ve made sure I’ve taken it ever since.”