William “Bill” Weldy drove the oldest tractor of the Tractor Tour, a 1938 F14 Farmal. Weldy turned 91 years old the day before the Tractor Tour. He predates his 81 year old tractor by a decade. (DHI Media/Rebecca Violet)
William “Bill” Weldy drove the oldest tractor of the Tractor Tour, a 1938 F14 Farmal. Weldy turned 91 years old the day before the Tractor Tour. He predates his 81 year old tractor by a decade. (DHI Media/Rebecca Violet)
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DELPHOS - Can your 11-year-old drive a tractor?

Owen Heckler and Caden Hays can — and not just any tractors. Both participated in the Jon Amundson Crossroads of America Memorial Antique Tractor Tour this past Saturday.

This year’s event saw 26 tractors and 46 people participate with the ages of both spanning generations. The oldest tractor of the event, a 1938 F14 Farmal, was driven by William “Bill” Weldy, who turned 91 the day before.

The tour began at Kennedy-Kuhn Agricultural Service in Van Wert and took the scenic country routes to Toolco Inc. for a tour, the Delphos Stadium Park for lunch and eventually the Delphos Canal Museum.

The Tractor Tour was begun by its namesake, Jon Amundson, about 12 years ago along with a group of fellow antique tractor enthusiasts.

More details on the event were provided by Troy Amundson who is the son of Jon Amundson.

“My father and some of his friends, they enjoyed the hobby of antique tractors,” he commented on the Tractor Tour’s beginning, “So they got together once a year to ride their tractors around different areas in the county just for fun.”

Unfortunately, it would only be a matter of time before the event would undergo a significant name change.

“My father passed away in about 2012,” Amundson revealed, “The Van Wert County Historical Society was kind enough to name the event after my father.”

The Van Wert County Historical Society Museum stores three of Jon Amundson’s antique tractors; a John Deere D 1938, a John Deere AR and a John Deere model 40. The last of the three Troy Amundson had the pleasure of driving in this year’s Tractor Tour.

“My father was a big fan of John Deere’s,” Amundson admitted about his father’s collection. “Anybody that knew him knew he was a John Deere guy.”

Amundson himself was decked out in green John Deere attire which he also acknowledged.

“It seems to run in families in my opinion. I think it would be heresy if I were to wear any color other than green today.”

Family continues to have an impact on the younger generations. One of the 11 year olds, Caden Hays, revealed that his grandfather’s dairy farm gave him inspiration to start driving tractors. Hays was about 7 or 8 when he first drove a tractor.

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, his cousin and the other 11-year-old driver of the tour, Owen Heckler, began driving tractors around age 8 or 9. The two both admitted they liked to do everything together.

Amundson also couldn’t over emphasize the importance of family in an event like this.

“I was always busy with work and family and I never had the opportunity to participate while my father was living,” Amundson explained. “About five years ago was the first opportunity I had to come out and participate in the Tractor Tour. Most of it is because I made a point of, because of his passing, to com out and be involved; using that as an opportunity to remember my father, his hobbies and what he really enjoyed.”

This family tradition expands beyond Amundson himself as he detailed.

“In years past, my father’s brothers, my uncles, were able to come out and be involved,” he discussed. “They weren’t able to join us this year. For most of the years my sisters were able to come out. I’ve had nieces, nephews and of course my own children that have participated in different years. Because of everybody’s schedules not everybody can make it every year, but yes, we’ve had a lot of people come out and use this event to remember my dad and what a great guy and what a funny guy he was.”

Despite the sentimentality of the Tractor Tour, it is not a closed family event. Rather, potential participants need only answer a simple question.

“Well, its often a joke between me, my father’s friends, and himself that they would often ask the question as soon as they found out that another person was interested in antique tractors,” Amundson laughed. “They would often ask the question “Well, is it green or red?” That’s what they would ask, but everybody knew that they were asking if it was John Deere or Farmal or International.”

Despite being raised in a loyally John Deere family, Amundson emphasized that the Tractor Tour is open to red tractors as well.

“Of course there’s always a rivalry,” Amundson commented on his father and friends, “but at the end of the day they all enjoy the hobby and each other’s company; coming out today and doing things like this.”

Those sentiments were echoed by the two youngest drivers, Hays and Heckler, whose favorite tractors are the John Deere 2010 and John Deere 4020, respectively.

“We get to do a lot of things other kids don’t do, and it’s pretty fun too,” Heckler declared.