Antique tractor owner is world record setter
By Linda Moody
WEST MANCHESTER — Bob Finkbine, an antique tractor owner, took part in a world record-setting event, and had to miss part of the Great Darke County Fair week.
After weighing his options, he chose to attend the Guinness World Record For a Parade of Classic Tractors at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island, Nev., on Aug. 25. So, he and wife Sandy headed West in their pick-up truck, taking along his 1977 John Deere 400.
“It’s only a once-in-a-lifetime thing to be part of the Guinness Book of World Records,” he said. “A tractor had to be a 1982 or older to be considered an antique tractor. Ours qualified.”
Finkbine has three tractors he could have selected to be in the parade, but chose the 1977 model. His others are a 1949 John Deere M and a 1972 John Deere 4020.
“We started with the smallest so we wouldn’t have to take a trailer,” he said. “We could put it in the back of the truck.”
The Finkbines arrived on a Thursday, had to pre-register the tractor on Friday, and the parade was Saturday. They and other tractor owners from all around the country (37 states represented) drove thousands of miles to attend the event.
They were challenged by a Saturday morning storm.
“It was so dry out there and had no rain in two months and Saturday morning in it was pouring
rain straight down,” Bob said.
Contest officials asked the farmers if they wanted to delay the parade a day,and it was agreed the parade would go on as planned.
“What’s a little rain? It was muddy mess but it quit raining for the parade,” he said. “Weather is not an issue for farmers.”
Finkbine went on, “It was an awesome undertaking to put everything together. There was a 36o-acre field set aside to park trucks and tractors when we registered. One man said there were so many tractors, we couldn’t fit on the track and had to go at least 2 1/2 hours to be considered a parade. They had a pattern figured out where we would run six-wide across for three laps, then someone else could come on the track.”
There were actually a total of 1,140 but some had to be towed off the track because they were no longer driveable and unable to make the 2 1/2-mile trip, while some didn’t show up.
Finkbine, who indicated most of the drivers were men, wore his patriotic shirt and decorated his tractor with American flags.
“I’m very blessed to live in this country,” he said.
Yes, those participants that day set a new Guinness record, which is now 964 tractors/drivers. The previous record was set by Germany two years ago with 745 tractors, according to Finkbine.
Finkbine learned about the contest by reading an announcement in the bi-monthly RFD-TV magazine.
“Sandy contacted them by email in June,” he recalled. “We had to send the serial number to verify our tractor was 30 years or older, and then they had sent us back a confirmation. The deadline was July 1.”
Finkbine and other drivers received this message in the mail: “I can share with you how moved I was at the driver meeting that morning,” said Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of RFD-TV, which sponsored the event. “Looking out and seeing all the smiling faces under those RURAL TV caps was a sight that I will never forget. When you raised your hands with the number #1 sign said, ‘on with the parade,’ it was a visual that will be etched in my mind forever. I have never felt such pride in all my days at RFD-TV. That was very special.”
The Finkbines are high school sweethearts, having graduated from Tallawanda High School in Oxford; he in 1959 and she in 1960.
“We got married in 1960 and moved to Dayton where I ended up with a job at NCR,” Bob said. “We had decided on a farm in the Wilmington area, but Wilson Bunger, north of Butler Township said, ‘You got to come to God’s country, and we moved here in 1965. All of our kids graduated from Arcanum, and Sandy taught reading to first-graders at Arcanum Elementary.”
They are the parents of Teresa Woodin, elementary principal at Tallawanda Elementary, married to Michael and the mother of two sons; Rob, who works on the pipeline but lives in the New Madison area with wife, former Amy Summers, and the father of two children; and Joe, married to the former April Fairclough, is a father to six children and is principal at Tri-County North.
The whole family farmed 1,200 acres at one time. Bob and Sandy, who have 50 acres now and raise Black Angus cattle, used to raise pigs and have a cow/calf herd.
Bob was a Darke County Beef Club adviser for 27 years and stopped doing that in 1991. He is a member of the Darke County Power of the Past, shows his tractors at the Arcanum Old Fashion Days and participates in the Chris Haas Memorial Tractor Drive and Show in Bath, Ind.
Sandy enjoyed her time in Nebraska.
“It was something,” she said. “Farmers have such a brotherhood anyway. They never meet a stranger. And, to see that many men talk and talk.”
Because the Finkbines got there early enough, she got to sit on the front row.
“I couldn’t leave the grandstand. It was packed,” she said. “I was there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You never knew when they were coming back around again.”
Finkbine doesn’t know exactly how he got into antique tractors but knows he just likes redoing them.
“I enjoy puttering around with them,” said Finkbine, who has had more than 30 tractors in the past 50 years. “It’s a challenge taking something apart and making something out of it.”
He goes to the tractor pulls at the Great Darke County Fair, the nationals at London and goes to Preble County.
“I love to watch them,” he said. “And I watch them every Tuesday night on RFD-TV.”
He worked for NCR for 12 years, was laid off in 1973 and farmed full-time until 1985, when he went to work part-time for Emery Air Freight out of Dayton Airport, retiring in 2002.
The Finkbines drove 860 miles to Nebraska in two days. On their way back, they went to the new John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Ill., and even stopped by the Finkbine Golf Course at the University of Iowa, which a relative back three or four generations back established.
“I love genealogy and had read about the golf course,” said Sandy.
“It was a unique thing to visit,” Bob added.
On a sad note, the Finkbines learned after they returned home that the husband of a lady who sat beside Sandy all day in the Grandstand, died the next morning when one of the tractors he brought upset and killed him while loading it.
“Charley [Deweese] brought five tractors, did not have enough drivers but got people to drive them,” Bob said.
“His wife told me that they were over-the-road truck drivers and that would probably quit doing that in two years,” Sandy recalled her say. “He also told her that this would probably be his last parade.”