By Steve Huffman
In its heyday, the Oliver tractor that was plucked Wednesday from the woods outside Spencer was surely a showpiece.
It had a snazzy green-and-white paint job and a spiffy blue seat.
It must have been the envy of a bevy of farmers.
Unfortunately, the tractor’s heyday came and went decades ago. The creation that was loaded on a flatbed trailer and carted to Dan Nicholas Park Wednesday appeared to be held together as much by rust as bolts.
“It’s got a few trees growing up through it,” said Jerry Mills, one of the maintenance workers from Dan Nicholas who inspected the old tractor.
He used a Bobcat to pluck it from the woods and move it to the trailer.
“It might even have a little poison ivy, too,” Mills decided upon a closer inspection.
Not to worry, employees of Dan Nicholas said the tractor was exactly what they were looking for.
“I’m trying to create the nostalgia of a barnyard,” said Don Bringle, director of the Rowan County Parks & Recreation Department.
“This will be perfect.”
The tractors ó in addition to the Oliver Super 55, there was also an aged Allis-Chalmers involved ó were donated to Dan Nicholas by Jewel and Marie Stallings.
The Stallings said they read a Post article a few weeks ago where Dan Nicholas employees were looking for an old tractor and a horse-drawn wagon to place outside the soon-to-open petting barn.
Jewel Stallings said his tractors had been sitting for a long while, doing little but collecting rust. So he opted to give them to the county.
“I talked to my wife and we decided we’d donate them for the children,” Jewel said. “They wouldn’t have gotten them if it hadn’t been for a worthy cause.”
“As far as selling, we would not sell,” she said.
The Stallings had owned the tractors about 10 years. The couple lives off Old Mocksville Road, but own 8 acres of land off Surratt Drive, just outside Spencer.
That’s where the tractors were located.
Jewel said he’d bought the Oliver for bush hogging the property and the Allis-Chalmers for pulling small trees.
But he said the cost of maintaining the contraptions made it impossible to keep them running. Parts for the Oliver, for example, which hadn’t been manufactured since the early 1960s, had to be special-ordered from California.
And so, the tractors hadn’t been used in about seven years.
But their sitting idle coincided perfectly with the creation of the wish list by Dan Nicholas Park employees.
The T.M. Stanback Petting Barn is to be dedicated next week. The former petting barn was destroyed in a March 2006 fire.
The new petting barn has been more than a year in the making.
Bringle said the structure is almost finished, with plenty of barnyard animals ready to call it home. He said an old tractor or two and a horse-drawn wagon would make the setting complete.
“We’re trying to create a rustic situation,” Bringle said as he gazed upon the aged Oliver being loaded onto a trailer.
“How much more rustic can you get?”
Exactly how old the tractors are is anybody’s guess.
Rene Benware, who married the Stallings’ granddaughter, Ginger, said he thought the Oliver dated to the late 1940s.
He said he thought the Allis-Chalmers was manufactured in the early 1950s.
Bringle said the tractors will be cleaned and their flat tires replaced. But he said the contraptions will be displayed ó at least initially ó largely as they were donated.
“Kids can’t climb on ’em,” Bringle said. “It’s a static display. They’re more for looks.”
He wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a later restoration. “That might be a good winter project,” Bringle said.
Bringle and other Dan Nicholas employees ó Mills, George Small and Jim Byrd ó involved in Wednesday’s tractor moves said the work went smoother than anticipated.
“So far so good!” Bringle shouted as the Oliver was rolled onto its flatbed.
Then Bringle stepped back to admire the work of Mills, Small and Byrd.
“He got that thing out of there easier than I thought he would,” Bringle said of Mills, who was pulling the Oliver from the woods with the aid of a Bobcat.
Bringle said Barbara Earnhardt, who lives in the eastern part of Rowan County, has donated a horse-drawn trailer that will be fetched back to Dan Nicholas Friday.
The dedication of the petting barn at Dan Nicholas will be June 15. Its first full day open to the public is June 16.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Steve Huffman