Buying Tractors
in Small Indiana Towns

Gnaw Bone


I bought the Super M in the Fall of 1995 in Gnaw Bone, Indiana while moving to Ohio from Arizona.  I'd been living in suburban Tucson for the past six years, during which time my long-dormant farming roots began to reassert themselves.  I'd subscribed to a couple of tractor magazines, begun collecting tractor books, got a license plate that said "M FARML," started going to farm shows, etc.  I dreamed about buying a tractor, but I had no place to keep one and I knew the Air Force would move me before too long.

Sure enough the time came to move, and I was assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.  Dayton is just a bit down the road from the rented farm where I lived as a very young child, and where I became fascinated with the farmer's great big tractors (two-cylinder John Deeres), and only a few hours' drive from the little farm where my dad and stepmother still live--so I was delighted.  (Eleven years earlier, Ohio was the last place I wanted to be assigned, but time has a way of changing those kinds of things).

After driving for three long days on the interstate with a car full of stuff, I decided to get off and drive some smaller roads as I neared Ohio.

So I was cruising along a two-lane highway, enjoying the beautiful summer afternoon and the farm scenery along the way, when I passed through the town of Gnaw Bone, Indiana.  At the edge of town was a little gas station/convenience store/used tractor dealership, with about 20 or 30 old tractors sitting outside.  I of course immediately pulled in and proceeded to spend an hour or two looking over and discussing all these tractors with the owner of the place.  One in particular caught my eye, a greasy and dirty but otherwise straight old Super M Farmall, the tractor of my dad's dreams when he was a kid on his F-20.

I darn near bought it on the spot, but unfortunately suffered from an acute attack of common sense and decided that perhaps I should actually arrive in the state I was moving to, maybe even find a place to live, before spending a couple thousand dollars on a 42-year-old farm tractor.  So I regretfully left, but kept the guy's card.

A month later, with a house deal waiting to close, I ran across the card again and decided the time had come.  My dad agreed to let me keep a tractor at his place since I would be living in the suburbs again, so my future tractor had a home.  I knew I wanted that Super M, but thought that I should at least look at some tractors that were closer to my dad's farm rather than go buy the first one I'd seen, which happened to be 350 miles away.  So I went to auctions and dealers and answered ads in the farming papers, and looked at nine other Farmall Ms and Super Ms.  Not a one of them matched up to my memory of that one in Indiana, so I called the guy up and arranged to come take another look.

It was all over but the singing by that point, but I managed to make a show of fiddling with the clutch and the brakes and the steering and the tires and the temp gauge and such, just to show I wasn't a total sucker, then paid the guy what he wanted and arranged delivery to my dad's place.  (I later wondered if driving up in a car with license plates that read "M FARML" might not have been the best way to set myself up as a tough bargainer, but what the heck).

A few years later--having cleaned the tractor up, tinkered with it, hauled manure and raked hay with it, used it to give the kids slow rides around the house--I surprised myself by selling it when I discovered yet another machine that I just had to have:  A narrow-front John Deere 3020, for sale in Modoc, Indiana.

The 3020 came from Modoc, Indiana, in January 1999, at another point in my life when my practical need for a farm tractor was rather small:  The Air Force was just about to move me once again, this time to a one-year assignment in northern Greenland.  I had no prior intention whatsoever of buying a tractor just then--but as with the Super M, an opportunity presented itself that I couldn't pass up. 

I'd quietly been developing a case of New Generation Fever, but hadn't realized its seriousness.  Just a month or so earlier I'd purchased a new book called John Deere New Generation Tractors, since I'd long thought the 3010/3020 and 4010/4020 were just about the most beautiful tractors ever built and knew that one was in my distant future. 

Then the Antique Tractor Internet Service had a holiday auction, and I bid on operator's manuals for a 3020 and a 4010, just for the fun of reading them. 

I didn't end up with the manuals, so I fired off an internet order and bought some toy New Generation tractors:  A 1/64th scale 2510 for my desk at work, and a 1/16th scale 4010 for my desk at home.  (And to complement the Precision Classic 1/16th scale 4020 that sits in its box up in a closet until I figure out how to display it without letting it get dusty or demolished by the kids). 

All seemed well, until at lunch one day I noticed one of those for-sale magazines covering trucks and heavy equipment.  I thumbed through it absent-mindedly, looking at photos of excavators and trucks and the occasional old farm tractor, until I ran across an ad for this immaculate-looking 3020.  (Off in the distance somewhere, a large woman started singing...). 

The tractor was for sale in Modoc, Indiana, a small town a bit northwest of Richmond, which looked like an easy drive from Dayton.  So I headed over for a look, liked the seller and liked the tractor, and knew I had to have it.  On a very wintry January day a week or so later, checkbook in hand, I headed back to Modoc and closed the deal.  Freezing cold, powdery horizontal snow whipping over the flat Indiana farmland, my six-year-old son and three-year-old daughter bouncing around on snowdrifts, and me thinking "What a great life." 

My 12 months in Greenland came and went, but that machine and the people and life it'll keep me in touch with are permanent.  I love these old machines, and I love the fact that I found them in little Indiana towns--the kind of places my dad lived as a young man, building the love of soil and equipment and history that he'd one day pass on to me. 

I regret having to sell the Super M to make room in the barn and checkbook for the 3020, but I had done most of the things I wanted to with it.  I imagine at some point I'll buy another M or Super M, as well as a John Deere 60, Cockshutt 30, Oliver 77 and a batch of other fine old row-crops, but for now I can and should fill my tractor need with just one machine--and the 3020 will do a fine job as that one. 

So I'll go up and work with it as often as I can, and once in a while get to do some real jobs like raking hay or running the brush hog.  The kids are seven and four now, and both are very interested in it and all things farm-related, which I encourage every chance I get.  One of these years I'll be able to settle down and live in one permanent spot, and then it'll be time to find a little farm of my own.  For the time being, trips to my dad's place do pretty well--and every time I look at an Indiana map, I remind myself how lucky I was to happen across these old machines for sale there.

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Thanks for visiting!  E-mail me at if you have any comments.  I'm always glad to talk tractors and such. --Dean Vinson

Copyright notice:  Unless noted otherwise, I wrote all the text and took all the photos.  Feel free to make any personal use of them, but do not make any commercial or public use of them without my specific okay.