LARAMIE, Wyo. — As travelers drive down Snowy Range Road in Laramie, they are greeted by a wooden farmer wearing a Santa hat and a white beard waving at people from a holiday-themed 1941 model H John Deere tractor.
Constructed of two-by-fours and dressed in coveralls, the farmer is set atop Rudolph the Red-Nosed John Deere. The festive decoration is complete with a taxidermist’s deer-head mold sporting a reflective red nose mounted to the front.
“Of course, we get a lot of traffic and people are saying, ‘We have been by your house,'” said Lynn Hiatt, who restores tractors with her husband, Dale. “We used to put the tractor . in the parades, but it is too hard on those old tractors to go out in the cold, so we decided to try this.”
Sitting next to Lynn Hiatt while sipping coffee, Dale Hiatt said the couple started restoring tractors after they retired from the livestock business.
“We had always been in the livestock business, and in ’93, we decided we were tired of horses,” Dale Hiatt said. “We saw an ad for a tractor pull in Colorado Springs, (Colorado), so we decided it would be fun and went down. That started the whole thing.”
While they attended their first show in Colorado, the couple started participating in shows in Torrington by 1994, Lynn Hiatt said.
“We enjoy (restoring tractors),” she said. “We have had a lot of fun and have met wonderful people. Everywhere you go for tractors there are the same kind of people as we are, so we have a common interest.”
Each one of the 85 tractors they have restored requires several months to complete, Dale Hiatt said.
“We’ve torn them down, till there wasn’t anything left but the transmission,” he said. “The sheet metal gets sandblasted and any moving parts are taken down to the metal with a wire brush, and then, we just start putting them back.”
While the couple used to travel to find tractors to restore, nowadays, the tractors are coming to them, Dale Hiatt said. A few years ago, a Torrington banker called about a farmer selling two tractors that were in the family for generations, Dale Hiatt said.
But the farmer didn’t want to sell them separately.
On the way home, (from buying the tractors) I told Lynn that as long as we own them, they will never go anywhere,” Dale Hiatt said. “We were able to take it back to Torrington to a show, and (the farmer) got to see it and drive it.”
Lynn Hiatt said they have participated in shows across the nation including Kansas, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
“One year, we got Best of Show with one of our tractors,” she said. “The other years, we always won the Most Unique.”
Although the Hiatts sell some restored tractors, others, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed John Deere, are used for cutting grass at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site and allowing children a chance to drive them during the Albany County fair, she said.
“Anytime when there is a kid driving a tractor, (Rudolph the Red-Nosed John Deer) is the tractor that goes,” Lynn said. “We go to the Wyoming Territorial (Prison State Historic Site), and we go to the family night for 4H during the (Albany) County fair. The (1941 model H John Deere) is set up so the kids can drive it, and we just ride alongside them.”
Information from: Laramie Boomerang, http://www.laramieboomerang.com