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Detroit Lakes man's tractor draws looks at Rollag

Ardean Anderson talks about his 1938 WC Allis-Chalmers tractor on Saturday at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag. (David Samson / The Forum)

Ardean Anderson was trying all morning and afternoon Saturday to install the solenoid on his Allis-Chalmers tractor so he could start it without having to hot-wire it, but he just couldn't get it done - and not because he didn't know how.

"It's had so much attention; I can't stop talking about it," he said. "It's been fun. I've had the most fun ever in my life."

Among the sea of orange Allis-Chalmers tractors at this year's Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Anderson's 1938 WC model sticks out like a horse in a herd of cattle.

Mother Nature has stripped most of the paint off the metal, and the patches of orange that do remain are faded.

But the tractor holds sentimental value for Anderson, and the Detroit Lakes man intends to keep it in its original albeit weathered condition.

Anderson's father, who died in 1995, bought the tractor for him in 1969, when Anderson was just 10 years old. His father paid about $100 for it, he said.

Anderson overhauled the tractor for a high school project, but he drove it only sparingly after that.

The tractor sat idle for 20 years until he fired up the engine two weeks ago to see if it still ran.

When it did, he decided to enter it in this year's Allis-Chalmers expo at Rollag, which he helped organize.

But first he needed some front tires, which he found in a pair of 16-inch Harley Davidson motorcycle tires at the local landfill. Now, along with a fuel filter from a snowmobile and a Coke can for an exhaust cap, the tires are among the tractor's few unoriginal parts.

"It's about as stock as stock can get," he said.

The rustic look drew a steady stream of spectators Saturday afternoon, including Danny Hoeper of Argyle, who has attended the reunion every year since 1994.

"Interesting," Hoeper said, adding he once owned a 1937 WC but sold it.

"It was in a little better shape," he chuckled.

Anderson, a mechanic for the Becker County Highway Department, said he's not ashamed to leave the tractor unpainted.

"Because how many more are left this way?" he said.

Anderson hopes to drive the relic in the reunion's parade Monday. If he can't get it running reliably, he'll pull it behind his bigger Allis-Chalmers 190XT, a 1966 model.

After the reunion, he plans to use the WC to rake hay on his mother's farm north of Detroit Lakes, where he owns 30 acres and raises horses.

Despite the attention the tractor receives, Anderson said no one has ever offered to buy it from him.

"Once you tell them the story (behind it), they won't even ask," he said.