Writing gives me an opportunity to meet some very nice folks. David and Judy Hawkins are among them. We first met about six years ago to discuss their century farm.

We talked around their kitchen table, David was wealth of information not only on their farm’s history, but he was my ‘go to’ man when I needed information on rural schools later. He was proud of the education he had received in one and also the successes of his fellow students.

On their walls, I noticed a few John Deere items, but it wasn’t until he took me to one of many farm buildings that made me wonder if his blood ran green. He invited us to his tractor display later than year in July.

We didn’t go, that year or the next; but we went in 2012. A bittersweet time, as Mr. Hawkins had unexpectedly passed away the summer before. His wife and descendants exhibited the tractors in his memory.

The tractor collection will be out one more time on Saturday, August 24. This time the family will be auctioning off the tractors and implements. It will be at the farm – 10313 Nature Avenue, which is located between Orange City and Le Mars, Iowa.

His passion for old tractors began quite innocently. David’s father owned a 1929 John Deere Model D. that he purchased new. In the 1970’s the tractor became David’s. Rather than leave it outside to further destruct, he began tinkering on it.  

David Hawkins realized how this tractor and others of similar vintage had played a paramount role in accentuating agriculture to what is has become today; an important part of history could easily be lost. New technology kept replacing the old every year. What was top of the line a decade ago was now considered obsolete and outdated.

Tractor collections were relatively unheard of at that time, but he slowly began preserving farm relics from his era and previous generations of farming. He purchased tractors at farm sales, through ads in papers or attending auctions. Hawkins never used a computer.

His nose could just smell a tractor miles away. He preferred the back roads to the interstate system; planning family vacations around tractor hunts.

His goal was someday to own a Waterloo Boy. That never happened but he was thrilled to find 1925 John D that was actually located close by. It was extra special because it had the spoke flywheel. There were only 5846 Spoker D’s produced, and the last one was built on December 28, 1925.

If he bought one tractor of a series, he went on a quest to locate all the tractors of the series. He also looked for manuals that went with the tractors and machinery. He was just beginning to collect John Deere tools. The sale bill is quite interesting to read.

Sometimes the tractors were a puzzlement to Hawkins. He would work on them, ask questions and it may sit for a few years according to his grandson Alex Popken.  But he never gave up and eventually the tractor would run again. Then he would have the biggest smiles of success and perseverance. To him the repair was not work, maybe a challenge; but definitely not work.

Popken was often his grandfather’s assistant in restoring tractors. Alex and his wife Maria now live on the Hawkins century farm. They farm the land that has been in the family now since February 10, 1898.

That’s a long time; but a man’s life  in view of eternity is just a blink of the eye. For Mr. Hawkins his time on earth was just seventy-three years. Friends tell what a swell guy he was, an encourager to young and old, helpful and conservation minded.

I will agree with them. Those traits never go out of style or become obsolete.

Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]



Vintage John Deere tractors on display.

2 cylinder 103


2 cylinder 196