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Published January 07, 2011, 12:00 AM

Trio keep tractors rolling

Father, sons like restoring old machines
Blanchard, N.D. - For Harvey Kyllo and his sons Kevin and Steve, the tractor habit started 20 years ago with an old John Deere at an auction that didn’t run.

Blanchard, N.D. - For Harvey Kyllo and his sons Kevin and Steve, the tractor habit started 20 years ago with an old John Deere at an auction that didn’t run.

Kyllo bought it and it fixed it up with his sons. Then he bought another to go along with it, and fixed that one up, too. Soon, the three men had a full-blown hobby on their hands, working their way through whole product lines and winding up with a collection of immaculately restored machines that now numbers two dozen.

The Kyllos find the tractors at sales and auctions ranging from Minnesota to Montana. They’re all John Deere – “Is there another kind?” Harvey asks – and they were all manufactured in 1960 or earlier. They’ve been on display at parades and agriculture expos, including the Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo.

The restoration work takes place on the family farm near Blanchard. Harvey bought the farm in 1961, and his sons took over for him when he retired in the early 1990s. They’re all farmers by trade, but bring their own talents to the tractor pursuits. Steve, 46, has a talent for body work. Kevin, 52, does the painting, and Harvey, 81, has a way of getting the engines going again.

“If it got home and it didn’t run, he’d have it running by the next day,” Steve said.

As Kevin tells it, the restoration projects “gave us something to do in the winter” – all they need is a heated shed and a few weeks with little else to do. At one point, the three men estimate they were restoring three or four tractors a year.

Age and health have slowed them down in recent years. “We’ve all gotten older and more sensible,” Harvey said. He and his wife, Sylvia, moved to Mayville a few years ago. Steve jokes one of the reasons Harvey has slowed his pace is that “his wife took away the checkbook.” But Sylvia, for her part, says she’s always happy to see her husband and sons collaborate on a restoration project.

“They work so well together, and they do such good work,” she said. “I’m just proud of them.”

While Harvey and his sons aren’t tackling projects as aggressively as they once did, they’re not quite done. They’ve still got a handful of machines – the latest acquisition is a John Deere 435 – waiting to be restored.

“We’ve still got some here we can mess with,” Steve said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502

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