WINAMAC, Ind. — Many families have heirlooms — those pieces of history passed down from generation to generation. Some pass along pocket watches, knives or wedding rings. But for the Parish family, those heirlooms come in the form of large farm machinery.
Antique tractors. Fords, to be exact.
It all started several decades ago on the Medaryville chicken farm where Alvin Parish, 73, was raised. One of seven children born to Eddie and Thelma Parish, Alvin grew up helping his father farm the family's 160 acres from the seat of several mid-century Ford tractors.
Years went by, and his father ended up selling away one of the family's tractors — a 1960 Workmaster. Alvin's son, Mark, 49, recalled how the tractor ended up setting in the woods for about 15 years before the family was finally able to get it back.
"We inquired about going out and asking about it," he said. "It was in the woods, and the owner wasn't doing anything with it. Dad had asked about it for a while, but time kept on. After a couple years, he was like, 'yeah, Alvin, if you want that tractor, just come and get it.'"
Father and son ended up eventually making that old tractor look brand new, but they didn't stop there.
"We saw another one, bought it and fixed it up," Mark said. "Then it was like, 'OK, now what are we going to work with?' So we located another tractor and fixed it up. And then it just became a disease."
The Parish family now has roughly 20 tractors they've fixed up through the years, several of which have been passed down from other family members. The oldest is a 1947 Ford 8N that was once farmed by Alvin's uncle, Linard. That tractor now belongs to one of Alvin's grandsons. His other grandsons have tractors too, Alvin said, as will his great-grandchildren one day.
Jake Berger, 26, Winamac, is one of Alvin's grandsons. While looking at his 4-month-old son, Beau, he said he can't wait for the day he can teach his young son all about the Parish family tradition.
Jake said he bought his first tractor when he was 14, and Mark and Alvin helped him fix it up. That tractor will one day be Beau's because "that's really how you keep traditions alive," he said — by giving them to the next generation.
"You listen to the stories that were passed down by what (Alvin) remembers growing up with them and what (Mark) remembers growing up with them, and I'll try to remember all these stories and tell them to Beau one day," Jake said. "We'll keep it going as long as possible."
And in the age of giant combines and fancy machinery, the Parishes like the fact that they are preserving pieces of American farming history.
"You have tractors now where you push a button, and it drives the tractor," Alvin said. "With these, there were no cabs, so you breathed in the dirt all day under the hot sun. If we don't protect this old stuff, it's gone forever, and we'll never see it again."
That sense of preservation is why Alvin said the Parishes also enjoy traveling and bringing their tractors along to antique shows, like last month's Northern Indiana Power From the Past festival in Winamac. The shows give the family an opportunity to show off their tractors to the general public, and gives them a chance to just be together doing something they love.
"It means something," Mark said, referring to having a family hobby. "It's something you don't see a lot of anymore. People often sell things because they don't want it, but we kind of went off in our own way, and it's such a neat feeling."
Jake agreed, but he still admitted there might come a day when the tradition does indeed end.
"It won't last forever," he said, "but we'll try to make it last as long as we can."
Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune
Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com