Big Red collectors have field day at club meeting

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comFebruary 22, 2013 

Dozens of farm equipment aficionados gawked at tractors and cotton pickers in Los Banos on Saturday.

About 35 members of the International Harvester Collectors talked club business and their brand of equipment, which is uniformly painted red.

"On the ranch we used to have Farmalls," said Ron Bertao, who works for the Delta-Mendota Water Authority and does some alfalfa farming in Dos Palos in his spare time.

"Dad would always trade them off for newer ones," the 62-year-old said about his time growing up. "After he passed away, then I started collecting."

Bertao brought his 1945 Farmall H tractor to display next to a row 1940s era Farmalls. He is the third owner of the red rig.

"It's been a working tractor since 1945," he said.

Brian Kimble, a truck driver from Manteca, brought a 1944 Farmall A and a horsedrawn sickle mower from 1929.

"You get parts from Pennsylvania, actually, for these things," Kimble said, adding that some Amish still use the apparatus.

Kimble, 52, said he grew up on a farm and was always around tractors.

Chapter 14 has about 240 members, according to treasurer Roger Lubiens. Many are from California, but others live in the Northwest and Southwest, and one resides in England.

"All of us grew up on farms," Lubiens said, adding that he splits time between Folsom and his farmland in North Dakota.

"For the most part, (the club) started here in the valley."

International Harvester, which started in 1830, also dipped its toes in the commercial and consumer pool with diesel trucks and the off-road vehicle Scout.

Three tractors from Chapter 14 members were part of the Rose Parade on New Year's Day. The club also maintains a foundation that funds tractor restoration for 4-H and FFA clubs.

Jim Hartman, 64, of Stratford, Texas, was already in the state for this month's World Ag Expo in Tulare and decided to meet fellow tractor fans in Los Banos. He owns 50 IH tractors, and one Minneapolis-Moline, from the 1940s to 1980s.

"I see people who like to golf. People like to go camping. People like to drink beer," Hartman said. "I like to collect tractors."

David Santos, 66, hosted the meeting and lunch on his Volta Road farm. He said International Harvester played a big role in Central Valley agriculture.

"Eighty-five percent of the San Joaquin Valley got paid with Farmall tractors," Santos said. "Paid for almost all the land with Farmall tractors and developed almost all the land here."

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

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