‘It’s been a real joy’

The first tractor that Steve Axness ever took to the field on the family farm south of Des Lacs was a Farmall M that his father owned.

“I loved it. It was fun, and I enjoyed that I was a big shot, being able to be out on the tractor when I was 10 years old,” he said. “The purr of that four-cylinder engine was music to your ears.”

Axness, of Minot, continued to farm over the years while working other jobs. The “M” has been long gone but never quite forgotten. Axness considered finding another Farmall M and restoring it.

“But it was just a passing fantasy,” he said.

Then last fall, he discovered that Tom Nienow of Des Lacs had acquired an old Farmall M several years earlier.

“He was willing to sell it. I thought, ‘Well, here’s my opportunity,” Axness said.

The tractor was sitting only six miles away from the farm on which Axness grew up and in the same township, Rolling Green. Axness said he recalled having seen the tractor in the field when he was a kid.

“Never in my wildest imagination did I think that would be the one I would get,” he said.

The serial number indicated that the red Farmall was a 1945 model. It was purchased from Becker Implement Co. in Des Lacs by the Ingolfsland family of Rolling Green Township, who had owned it until Nienow acquired it.

According to (www.tractordata.com), the Farmall M was manufactured by International Harvester from 1939 to 1954. There were 270,140 tractors produced.

The tractor that Axness acquired hadn’t been used for some time, though, and it had been sitting outside in the elements. It needed a bit of work. However, Axness was pleased with the tractor’s general condition and body preservation.

Axness hired retired mechanic Don Wolff to provide the mechanical restoration, and Ron Klein of Sawyer provided the first paint job since the tractor left the factory. Axness has been involved in the details all along the way, with some assistance from his brother, Roger, of Des Lacs.

The restoration was completed Thursday night, and Axness and his family plan to celebrate during the North Dakota State Fair Parade Saturday.

Axness said his son-in-law, Chris Christianson, offered to drive the tractor in the parade. Also walking and wearing their specially made Farmall M T-shirts will be Axness and his wife, Tari, their daughter, Cari, and son, Cole, and his wife, Sarah, and three grandchildren.

“We have never done anything as a family before like this. We are just excited about it,” Axness said.

He said the process of restoring a tractor has brought surprises, rewards and new friends. He learned the most commonly missing items on an old tractor needing restoration are the battery box, fenders and power take-off shield.

He found a battery box and fenders for his M on a farm near Wellsburg and the PTO shield at A P Equipment in Valley City, where he stopped one Sunday afternoon after spotting old tractors in the lot while driving by. The company owner provided a wealth of information about restoring tractors as well as other parts that turned out to be needed for the M. Axness also did extensive parts hunting using the Internet.

“This has just been a fascinating thing,” Axness said of the restoration. “It’s been a real joy.”

He expects the State Fair parade will be just the first in a series of parades for his Farmall M. Axness, who said he never had been much for hobbies before, has one now.

“I have met a lot of interesting people that just love old tractors,” Axness said. “I met a lot of interesting people in this whole business and hope to meet many more.”

The State Fair Parade will be held Saturday, beginning at 9:15 a.m. A lineup of all of the entries can be found on page B-6 in today’s paper.