I think that I've mentioned before that my mother grew up in Moline, Illinois, world headquarters of John Deere. In fact when we bought our first tractor, I looked and looked for a used John Deere in our price range, but there were none to be found. When I told my mom that we had bought at '63 Massey Ferguson she called me a traitor. Ever since I've been trying to rectify the situation.
Last week we returned to Moline for my dear grandmother's funeral, she lived a very long and happy life, so while we were all very sad to finally lose her, we also gathered to celebrate a life well lived. She was 98! While we were there seeing extended family members, some of whom are retired farmers, and all of whom know someone who spent their lives working at the John Deere headquarters, I decided I should ask for their help. It's not easy apparently to find an old John Deere vineyard tractor, you see in the midwest they didn't really have a need for narrow tractors. They call them orchard tractors here and everyone said that I would have a hard time finding one, these models have become popular for hobbyists who like to restore them and then drive them once a year in the harvest parade. But that's not what I want at all, I don't want one that has been restored to perfection, I want one that I can use!
As with most things, I may have set out on this quest a bit naively, of course it won't be easy to find an old tractor, let alone ship it to France, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to try! The idea was that I would plant the seed in the heads of my family members that live in the area, and that one day while they're driving around in the country, or talking to a neighbor, they might come across my dream tractor. I didn't intend to find one on this trip, nor do I really have the money to buy one right now, I just thought it would be fun to explore the idea.
So first we went to the John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline where they have some old tractors and some huge brand new ones too. We chatted with the folks there, and they even gave us a John Deere pin to put on our jackets! Then I started chatting with the couple that owns the coffee shop where we drank our delicious cappucinos every morning. Turns out they both worked at Deere and once they retired they decided to open an espresso shop, they make some of the best coffee I've had in a long time. Bonnie and Jim Vonderheide spent 6 months traveling to various places to learn how to make the very best coffee drinks around, and boy did they succeed. Before that though, Jim ran the Deere plant in Madrid in the 70s, the one that made vineyard and orchard tractors! Small world in Moline. They were very interested in my quest and kept my card so that they could contact me if they ever came across one!
My best bet though I believe will be my Uncle Jay Grafton. (Jay is on the right) Well, he's not really my uncle, he's my Mom's cousin, but we always called him Uncle Jay. Jay was a farmer, I figured he must be able to help. Well, he wasn't so sure, thought that I would never find one, but I kept pressing, asking him to just keep thinking about it. Then one of his neighbor's stopped by, Jim Bane, Jim restores old buggies and then takes his horses out and rides them in parades. Jim liked the idea and thought he might know the right people to ask.
In the end I'm not sure I'll ever end up with my vintage John Deere, but it sure was a fun topic of conversation during our visit. I bet you some day I'll have one! If you're ever in Moline, make sure you drop by Bonnie and Jim's for the best coffee you've had in a long, long time.
Dead Poet's Espresso, Ltd.
Bonnie & Jim Vonderheide
1525 - 3rd Ave A
Moline, IL 61265