PLAINVIEW, Minn. — Some farmers grow crops, others raise cattle or swine.
But Steve Flies' farm just north of Plainview, Minn., was famous for its growing collection of vintage tractors.
"We didn't golf or fish much," Flies said, referring to the nine brothers and one sister in his family. "We all collected tractors."
In fact, up until Oct. 17, Flies had 80 tractors on his 150-acre former dairy farm. But Flies put his collection up for auction — a virtual auction handled by Aumann Vintage Power out of Nokomis, Ill. — and today, there are just five left.
"I was a little sad, and it's hard to see them loaded up and leave," Flies said. "But it's time to move on."
Last week, Flies helped out as Roger Van Horn of Dalton, Minn., loaded up two International Harvester tractors — one a 1956 model, the other a 1955 — on a trailer to be taken north.
"One of them is going to be used for our raffle tractor for our threshing show," Van Horn said. "One is for me to play with."
Van Horn said he was amazed at the quality and good shape of the tractors in Flies' collection, and he'd been watching out for a good International model when he spotted the auction.
"I got carried away and got my own, which I need like I need a hole in my head," he laughed.
In fact, Flies said he only kept five tractors because his grandchildren pleaded with him to save a few for them. A pink Farmall remains, a favorite of his granddaughter. Each has their own favorite, as does Flies, though his was sold to a collector in Canada.
"This is a muscle tractor," Flies said, describing his own favorite, a 1970s-era Massey-Ferguson 1150, one of the first tractors with a V8 engine. "We call it 'The Beast.'"
While some tractor collectors focus on John Deere or International, Flies said he was always equal opportunity when it cames to tractors.
"We're colorblind," he said. "We've got Allis (Chalmers), Ford, International, John Deere, Minneapolis-Moline."
Best of all, all his tractors still run, he said. While this impressed the auction house, which is used to towing tractors out of barns to sell them, it meant hours of work each year keeping those machines growling.
"Spring to fall, I was working on tractors," he said. "Now, we'd like to travel a little."
No matter where he goes, he could probably visit one of his former tractors. A John Deere 530 was sold to a buyer in Australia. He sold plows to someone in Belgium.
"They're going everywhere," he said. "From New York to Oregon, from Texas to Canada. One person in Canada bought seven of them."
Sounds like a kindred spirit: A person who loves a good tractor.