AKRON, Ind. — Richard Norman will point his Farmall 560 diesel southwest toward Rantoul next week and drive the approximately 170 miles to Rantoul’s mammoth Half Century of Progress farm show in one day.
Piece of cake.
To Norman, traveling to farm shows on his tractor is about as easy as driving in a car. It just takes a little longer. But he likes the benefits.
“I enjoy seeing the country more that way,” said Norman, who tools along the mostly country roads at about 20 mph.
“It’s mainly seeing the different scenery. It’s a slower pace to see the country. There’s more time to look around. You see some antique machinery behind a barn. You look at the crops.”
One thing he has seen all over is fields that have not been planted because of the spring’s unusually heavy rains.
Norman said Wisconsin is the most scenic state to drive through.
“I just did (a tractor drive) last weekend,” Norman said. “They have the best scenery.”
It’s not like Ohio, he said, which is kind of boring scenery-wise, “because it’s so flat over there.”
He can’t think Illinois is much better, but that’s where he will be headed when the Half Century show is held Aug. 22-25 on the grounds of the Rantoul National Aviation Center.
While most owners of vintage farm equipment haul theirs on trailers, Norman, a 65-year-old retired farmer, has logged about 3,000 miles on the Farmall, which he never used for farming. (“We grew up with Massey-Harris and Massey-Ferguson,” he said.)
“It’s been to Wisconsin three times, Illinois twice. I’m headed to Wisconsin (this week) for another four-day drive.”
Norman has crossed the Macinac Bridge, which connects Michigan to its upper peninsula, three times as part of a tractor event.
“It’s a sight to see all the tractors in the staging area,” he said. “You have to join a Michigan tractor club for insurance purposes” to take part.
The farthest Norman has driven in one day is 187 miles.
He also regularly visits a farm equipment show that is part of the Covered Bridge Festival in Rockville, Ind.
A custom-made aluminum top keeps the sun off — and the rain, too, if it’s not pouring.
Norman’s 560, built is 1959, is named the Redneck Cruiser and features red, white and blue wheels, with flags honoring the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
“It came from a dairy farm,” he said. “I’ve been through the engine and done some work to it. It’s not a perfect paint job. I had a school teacher who paints tractors paint it in the summer of 2017.”
Norman is a big fan of diesel engines.
“The biggest thing about diesel is they brake better going downhill. They are also better on fuel economy,” Norman said. “They are a little bit noisier.”
Norman plans to get up early to begin the trip next Wednesday from his farm that lies about 100 miles north of Indianapolis. He figures the Rantoul trip will take about 10 hours. Norman will be on hand for the first day of the show the following day and has signed up to be part of the morning’s tractor drive.
It will be his first time back to the Rantoul show in six years. The last visit didn’t go particularly well on the day he was there. It rained all day, and visitors got to see virtually no work done in the fields.
“I remember (ag broadcaster) Max Armstrong’s 560 died in the parade, it was so wet,” Norman said.
The Half Century show, held every other year, celebrates farming’s past and draws thousands of people to Rantoul. More than 100 vintage tractors are expected to take part in the tractor drive to kick off the show.
The tractor drive, led by Armstrong, will leave the former Chanute Air Force Base grounds at 8 a.m. and return about 1 p.m. The route usually extends to the Royal area and will likely head by Kopmann Cemetery, where show co-founder Darius Harms is buried.
The ride generally features about every brand of tractor. Some riders come from as far away as Colorado to take part.
This will mark the ninth Half Century show, which is coordinated by the I&I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club.
Norman will head back to Indiana on Aug. 24.