SOLOMON — When Chapman resident Ken Wood had farm equipment on his more than 500 acres of land destroyed by an EF-4 tornado on May 25, he never thought he’d be able to use any of it again.

He decided to donate the damaged equipment to Abilene Machine, 407 Old Highway 40, which sells new and used after-market tractors and combine parts and other farm equipment, and where he’d been a longtime customer.

“I’ve seen them take a lot of damaged equipment and parts that I thought were beyond repair and make it work again,” he said.

Among the damaged items were a combine, headers and a 1953 McCormick Super H Farmall tractor. The tractor had been purchased brand new by Wood’s father, Raymond Wood.

“It was tough seeing him give that to us, knowing that it meant so much to him,” said Kenny Roelofsen, online sales manager at Abilene Machine.

So Roelofsen and others decided to see if they couldn’t just get that old tractor working again for Wood.

“He has been a customer of ours for a number of years and we thought it was a good thing to show our appreciation for him by rebuilding the tractor and giving it back to him,” he said. “It was his dad’s tractor and we believe in preserving history and wanted to do something good for him.”

Turns out they were able to do just that.

On Thursday afternoon, during a Kansas Association of Wheat Growers policy meeting at Abilene Machine, Wood was presented his tractor.

“It’s better than it ever was,” Wood said, after fixing his eyes on the shiny red tractor. “I’m afraid to actually use it, it looks so good.”

Tractor basically rebuilt

The tractor was rebuilt by recent Salina Area Technical College diesel technology graduate Andy Henry, who now works full time on his family farm in Nemaha County.

Henry said he had to take out the old parts, put in new parts, weld up old parts, overhaul the engine and more.

“I basically had to rebuild the entire thing,” he said. “It was fun. I was raised on a farm, and I know old, sentimental tractors mean a lot to people. We still have a couple of my grandfather’s tractors on our family farm.”

Henry said it took him about five months, from September to February, to finish the job.

The tractor was painted by Norris Peterson, of Abilene Machine. Peterson said that took him about a week and a half.

‘Couldn’t be replaced’

All parts were purchased by Abilene Machine, which put about 300 hours and $12,000 toward the project, Roelofsen said.

“It was well worth it. How this thing ended up … it’s beautiful. It’s really a night and day difference,” Roelofsen said. “To be able to restore something that we hope will continue to be passed down in his family for years to come means makes this thing worth it.”

Wood said, “I didn’t think that thing was fixable after the way it looked.”

“Last fall, Randy called me and said he was going to try to fix it up and give it back to me since it was my dad’s and he knew how much it meant to me,” he said. “I’ve seen them work on old equipment and make it like new and I was kind of hoping they did that with the tractor, anyway, so I could buy it back from them.”

Wood intends to enter his new toy in the Chapman annual Labor Day Celebration, which features a show and parade, “for years to come,” he said.

“People think when you lose stuff in a disaster like that, it’s OK as long as no one was killed,” he said. “They believe things can be replaced, but this was really sentimental to me and couldn’t be replaced. This shows the kind of heart the people at Abilene Machine have and I am very grateful for that.” 

Eric is a reporter with the Salina Journal

— Reporter Eric Wiley can be reached at 822-1407 or by email at ewiley@salina.com.