Bud Meyer: 74 tractors strong

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Before Bud Meyer of Stendal earned his driver's license or owned a car, he drove a Farmall B tractor, to and from school. Meyer purchased his first Farmall B, pictured above, when he was 8 years old. Now Meyer, right, continues to collect Farmall tractors and with help from his grandson Owen Kinker of Stendal, 15, restored many of the antique tractors.

By OLIVIA INGLE
oingle@dcherald.com

STENDAL — Erich “Bud” Meyer peered out across the yard at his Stendal farm, eyeing his pride and joy — 74 antique tractors he’s been collecting since he was 8 years old.

“I wouldn’t trade any one of them for something new,” the 74-year-old farmer said Friday. He’s used all of them — except one that is his son-in-law’s, one that belongs to his neighbor and one that belongs to his grandson, Owen Kinker — on his 150-acre farm just off Old Road 64 in Stendal. The model years range from 1939 to 1979 and he’s restored every one of them.

“There’s no trailer queens,” Bud says. “I ain’t afraid to use mine. That’s what they’re for. They got dirt on the tires, dust, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Maybe his most prized one is the first one he bought when he was 8. It’s a 1946 International Harvester Farmall B that he bought in 1951 from Jerry Blesch in Holland for $348, which he says “was a whole lot of money” back then.

It’s red, like most of Bud’s tractors. “Red, because that’s what dad had,” Bud says. Forty of Bud’s machines are Farmalls because he can then interchange parts more easily. Each machine cost him anywhere from $65 to thousands of dollars, Bud says.

Meyer's nephew Kent Butke of Huntingburg photographed the tractors for Meyer. "I was out here 3 years ago and I think he's added to the collection," Butke said. The last time Meyer showed all of his tractors was August 1, 2014.

Back to that Farmall B. Bud would drive that tractor to school and he also remembers one day when he drove it through town with his dad, Erich. Bud must have been 8 or 9 years old. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Linda Leingang in her backyard. Now, Bud knew Linda. They had grown up together. But that day, something was different. Maybe it was that red tractor he was on. Maybe not. He told his dad, “One of these days, I’m going to take her out.”

He did take her out. Bud and Linda married in 1966.

Bud helped on the farm growing up, but a tragic accident secured his fate as a farmer at age 15.

It was 1959. Bud was cutting timber with his dad, using a two-man saw.

“We were cutting a dead tree, it fell and broke and threw back on us,” Bud says. His dad was killed.

Ever since, Bud’s been a farmer. He harvests corn, beans and has 20 head of beef cattle. He’s also always worked as a mechanic and retired from Old Ben Coal Company in 2003.

He became a mechanic because he “couldn’t afford something new, so he had to fix it.”

Bud and Linda have two kids, Dana (Meyer) Hopf and Melody (Meyer) Kinker. They have five grandkids.

Linda passed away from cancer in 1994 and Bud has since remarried. He and Sherry Coleman married in 2000.

Sherry jokes that she didn’t know much about tractors before meeting Bud. “I knew there were red ones and green ones,” she says.

It took two days to move 74 antique tractors out onto Meyer's lawn.

Bud’s known as the tractor guy. If he’s not working on the farm, he can more than likely be found in his workshop — which sits on his property — tinkering with an old tractor. Spare parts and tools hang everywhere. Drawers are labeled for various things. When asked if he knows where everything is, Bud replies, “Of course, I do.”

Displayed among his tools, are two photographs of him and his now 15-year-old grandson, Owen Kinker, standing in front of a red tractor. Owen, a sophomore at Southridge High School, has taken a liking to the family business — the farm’s been in the family since 1895 — and also grandpa and the man’s tractors.

Owen has become Bud’s right-hand man.

The last time Meyer showed all of his tractors was August 1, 2014.

He helped Bud last week pull the tractors out of the three barns they’re housed in. The duo washed them and then arranged them in the yard.

Bud held an open house over the weekend for people to come take a look. People had been asking him about them. The last time he had them all out was three years ago; there were 61 of them then. Owen helped then, too.

About 30 people had already been out to the farm by Friday afternoon to see the tractors, and Bud said it was a steady stream of people up until about 7 p.m. Sunday. He and Owen were there to show off the machines and answer any questions.

Bud and Owen restored three of them together.

The 15-year-old even drove one of them — a 1951 Farmall C — to school for Drive Your Tractor to School Day and despite Owen worrying that it was too old and no one would like it, the antique tractor was a hit.

Bud laughed when recalling another memory of Owen and the tractors.

Owen was about 13 and was discing a corn field when suddenly the tractor’s disc wouldn’t raise. The youngster thought he had broke it, so Bud told him to take the tractor back up to the house.

When Bud returned to the house, Owen was nowhere to be found, but there was a note from the teen in Bud’s office chair. Owen had resigned. There was also an envelope of money for Bud to use to fix the machine.

“I told him, ‘You’re not resigning that easy,’” Bud says. “We can fix it.”

Over the years, Bud has driven his tractors in the Strassenfest parade and in Pike County’s tractor parade. He recently drove one — pulling his Stendal High School Class of 1961 classmates in a wagon — in the Stendal Sesquicentennial parade.

Along with collecting and restoring Farmall tractors, Meyer also collects parts which he uses to repair the old tractors. "A lot of people would call this all 'junk'," Meyer said inside his workshop. "But for me, it's all spare parts." 

People often call him about old tractors needing some TLC or about machines he can use for salvage. “If there’s an old red tractor burned up somewhere, he’ll get a phone call like an animal rescue, “ says Dr. Steve Hopf, Bud’s son-in-law. “He saves them.”

If he can’t save the entire tractor, the machine is used for scrap or parts. If he can save it, it joins his prized collection.

Bud doesn’t repair tractors for just anybody — only for his family and his own collection. He likes to do what he wants with his time.

“I’m retired,” he says. “I’ve got six Saturdays a week. If I want to work on one, I can. If not, I don’t have to.”

He also knows that if he sold all his tractors today, he could probably get triple the amount he bought them for. But, there are no plans for that.

“All of these tractors have my fingerprints on them somewhere,” he says.




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