RANKIN, Ill. — Dean Blackford didn’t want to spend his retirement time sitting around, as he put it, twiddling his thumbs with nothing to do. He took up a hobby 15 years ago so he’d be ready for idle time when it came.
“I decided I’d get a collection going and have something to do when I retired,” he said.
The John Deere tractor enthusiast has since restored numerous tractors to their original glory and will bring his collection to this year’s Historic Farm Days. John Deere will be the featured brand this year at the July 13-16 show.
His first restoration was a John Deere H for his grandson, and the next project was a 530.
“Then I had this idea that I’d like to have the 10 Series. The first one I got was a 5010 and I restored it and got it in good shape,” Blackford said.
“My neighbor had a 4010 that his grandfather had and I wanted that one and I got it looking good. I got a 3010 that came from Gerald Roberts of Penfield.
“Then a guy from Eddyville in southern Illinois got in touch with me and wanted to know about a 1010 engine. I told him he’d just have to go to a wrecking yard. I never thought anything about it after that.
“He called me back in two or three weeks and said if I came down there he’d give it to me. I went down, got it and hauled it home. It sat here for a while. He was able to find an engine at a salvage yard in Indiana.”
Blackford was missing the 2010 and finally was able to purchase one to complete his 10 Series collection.
“I had a lot of problems with the 2010 I bought. My son saw one advertised and he knew I was having problem with the one I bought getting it to go right. So, he bought the one that was advertised. So, now I have the whole 10 Series collection,” he said.
Blackford then had a unique find to add to his collection.
“A buddy of mine had a 3010 gas industrial with a backhoe and a loader on it. The backhoe and the loader were wore out, so I took all of that off and now I have a 3010 gas industrial. It’s the only rare one that I have. It’s one of 190-some,” he said.
“Also, while poking around I found a 4020 that needed an engine and I happened to have one. So, I bought it and put an engine in it, and I got it all restored.
“There’s another project sitting out here, a 4020 gas, that needs to be rebuilt and all that. I found a combine that still ran, but it was worn out. I’m going to take the engine out of that combine and put it in the 4020 tractor. I’m 77 and I thought, oh, heck, I’ve got one more rebuild in me.”
He also restored a 4020 his son now has.
“One of my good friends, Frank Glenn of Farmer City, who passed away this past May, had said the elevator had a tractor at the John Deere dealer and it was going to cost so much to get it repaired that they would rather sell it,” Blackford said.
“Frank said it he needed the loader and the roll guard on it, and he said he’d sell me the rest of it pretty cheap. It was all tore apart in pieces. I brought it home and we just set it in the shed because Half Century of Progress was coming up and I didn’t have time to deal with it. So, that winter I fixed it and put it all back together.”
John Deeres were always an integral part of his family’s farm while growing up, and Blackford began working for Deere as a mechanic in the early 1960s just after the 10 Series was rolled out.
The 4010 was the primary attraction of the new 10 Series introduced by Deere in 1960. It was touted as the “new generation of power,” which consisted of four- and six-cylinder tractors to replace the two-cylinder tractors.
“Back in the critical years when the 4010s came out I started working for John Deere as a mechanic. I worked for Deere for few years and then I started farming,” Blackford said.
“The two-cylinder putt got me involved. I kind of liked that. That’s one of the reasons why I got involved in this hobby. I had a two-cylinder 70 and my kids were asking me what it sounded like. They said, ‘that’s not a six-cylinder.’ So, I thought I’d get it running for them. I got it running and still have it.”
Blackford is a strong believer in preserving agriculture’s past and its importance as an educational tool.
“There was a lot of hard work done back in those days. There are so many kids that don’t know anything about agriculture,” he said.
“One time at Historic Farm Days I had a friend of mine on the Gator with me and his daughters were in the back. I asked the girls where potatoes come from. They said the grocery store. I asked them where it came from before it got to the grocery store. They said a truck brings it in.
“So, I drove out to the potato patch at the show. I gave them a screwdriver and asked them to dig underneath some plants. They did and brought out a couple of potatoes and their eyes got big. I think more of that needs to go on these days.
“As farming progresses, there’s less and less youth on the farm. I was on the school board for a long time and kids have always had a special place in my heart and every time I get a chance I’d talk about the farm.
“My granddaughter is an ag teacher in Paxton. During FFA Week they have a petting zoo and I always take a tractor in there and any child that wants to can get up on the tractor. If they need help getting on it, a couple of high school kids help them get on the tractor. So, at least at that age they get to sit on a tractor.”