Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 4, 2012

A collector’s aspiration

Bailey’s childhood dream of collecting tractors becomes reality

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Years ago when he was a boy, one of Gary Bailey’s neighbors had a fascinating tractor. His neighbor declared that it was just a sort of tractor to have, so when Gary was old enough to start looking, he decided it was time to get a tractor of his own. And then it was time to find some more of them.

Now 31, Bailey plans to be among the tractor enthusiasts displaying their machines this weekend at the 2012 Mercer County Fair.

Basically, there are two categories of antique tractor: lawn and garden tractors, and then the regular farm tractors. He still remembers his neighbor’s old International Harvester Cub Cadet tractor and how it brought him into the tractor hobby. He remembers the interest that one machine inspired.

“I was just enamored and amazed at how it looked and how he would brag that if a person was going to get a garden tractor, it was the garden tractor to have,” Bailey recalled.

Bailey had to wait for adulthood before he could begin his own quest for a tractor that was just the one to own.

“It was sometime after getting married and getting to a point in life when I could devote a little bit of time to actually finding one,” he said. “The search actually went on for six months of trying to find a local one, and I found my first one in Peterstown. It was a 1962 Cub Cadet original — that was actually the second year they made them, since 1962 was the first year.”

Finding that first tractor made him decide there was room in his life for a few more. It was a moment in a collector’s life when he decides on what he wants to seek.

“Basically, after getting that, I got bit by the bug and that caught on. The Cub Cadets in this area are pretty hard to find. I’ve actually made to separate trips to New York to get one. I found one on Craigslist, another one on a Cub Cadet forum,” he said.

Bailey quickly learned that he was not the only person who had a love for antique tractors of all types. The quest for Cub Cadet tractors has introduced him to people from Vermont, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and other states. Many of the tractors end up in Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina.

“I’ve made some good friends off the forums,” Bailey said.

Bailey is now trying his hand at restoring a tractor. He has displayed parts of his collection, and won Best in Show during the garden tractor display at the 2011 Mercer County Fair. Now he is thinking of finding bigger items, and just like collectors of cars and motorcycles, he knows what type of vehicle he wants to find.

“I want to move up to find a regular tractor, an old farm tractor,” Bailey said. “I want to stay with the International brand. It’s like Ford and Chevy. You have your International fans and you have your John Deere fans.”

But he still enjoys seeing any of the other brands, too.

“I’ve got great respect for any of the brands, but I guess I’ve grown up being an International Harvester fan,” he said. “Actually, last fall I purchased a 1949 Farmall cub. I’m in the process of restoring it right now.”

People restoring any kind of vehicle often have trouble finding parts if they are working on a vintage machine that has been out of production for years, but that’s no problem with a Farmall Cub, Bailey said.

“They are very, very plentiful. There’s a lot of stuff for them, and there’s no shortage (of parts),” he said.

Variations of the Farmall Cub were produced from 1947 to 1979. They were designed and marketed for small farms with approximately 10 acres of land or less; in fact, they were the smallest farm tractors International produced. Now the real challenge of getting the tractor restored is finding the time to do it, Bailey said. Having two very active young sons, 2 and a half-year-old Wyatt and 7-year-old Owen keeps him busy, but they share their father’s love of tractors and other heavy machinery, too.

Anyone going to the Mercer County Fair at PikeView High School this weekend can expect to see some antique lawn and garden tractors up to some larger antique farm tractors. There will also be some “hit and miss” engines that were often used from the 1920s to the 1940s. Farmers and other workers used the engines — some steam powered, others fueled by kerosene — to operate corn thrashers and other equipment.

Many collectors have a wish list of items they would like to find. Bailey’s wish list is more garage space for his collection.

“I need more garage space so I can expand my wish list,” he said. “I have six garden tractors and the one farm tractor. They’re spread out between my garage and my parents’ garage.”

As far as tractors go, Bailey’s biggest wish is for a Farmall 560. It has the sleek lines associated with cars made during the 1960s. He will have some of his collection at the county fair this week; one thing he looks forward to is the way the tractors bring back memories.

“On one of my tractors I have a scythe bar,” he said. “It’s a great feeling when people see it and say, ‘Wow, I haven’t seen one of those in 40 years’ or ‘We used to have one of those.’”

While many older cars are preserved, a lot of older tractors are lost. Seeing one that brings back memories makes the experience special.

“Even the ladies say they remember mowing the yard or having a neighbor who mowed their yard with a Cub Cadet. It’s just a nice feeling to hear them say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that’s still around.’”

— Contact Greg Jordan at