The Massey Harris People
No matter the age, the jive goes on between farm equipment aficionados. The spirited jargon even carries over to farm toy collectors. Fred Hendricks loves to spar with any willing opponent. And while his farm toy collection is a menagerie of nearly every equipment line, his sparing is rooted in a passion for Massey-Harris tractors and equipment.
Fred has always tried to find ways to connect with people … those he works with across the country and strangers he meets along the way. Business contacts stimulate “business” conversations, but building relationships happen when common interests move beyond the “necessary” part of life to the “extra-curricular.” Collecting toy tractors is Fred’s extra-curricular pastime.
Traveling the highways of our country for most of his adult life, Fred has built a network of friends who share the same love of agriculture, history and way of life; a unique segment of our population. While some have the ability to create with their hands (a skill Fred readily admits he lacks), Fred has become the troubadour who pens these accomplishments of others. In doing so, he has amassed unique specimens, limited editions and one-of-a-kind Massey-Harris People toy tractors and farm equipment; impressive to many and astounding to our local neighbors in urban suburbia. The thrill of the hunt, the pride of ownership and the staging of his collection keep Fred energized and active with a non-stop view of his “retirement years.”
Fred grew up on a combination crop-livestock farm in northwestern Ohio, just west of Bowling Green. The area is known for its prosperous farming. It is also known as the “Black Swamp,” due to the heavy clay soils that evolved when the glaciers receded.
While growing up, Fred showed some interest in farm machinery. He will be quick to admit, “I did not have mechanical inclinations. In fact, I would rather get splashed with manure from our dairy cattle than soil my clothes with grease.”
When Fred went off to the Ohio State University, any budding interest for machinery was soon squelched. His yearning for dairy cattle genetics became the preference over greasy encounters. Through his courses and work related experiences while attending college, he pursued a lifetime career in dairy cattle genetics. “I enjoyed the challenges offered through dairy cattle genetics. I also took pleasure in working with farmers in this industry. I pretty well divorced myself from any interest in farm machinery until later in life,” Fred noted.
Fred developed SunShower Acres shortly after he got married in 1976. Through SunShower, Fred provided consulting services for dairy farmers and sold related animal breeding products. Today, SunShower is best known for its contribution to the artificial insemination industry through a successful sire proving program. The company developed numerous Holstein bulls with several realizing heavy use around the world. SunShower is particularly well known for their development of Red Holstein bulls.
In the mid ’80s, Fred started taking interest in farm machinery as he traveled. The frequent visits to dairy farms would spike his curiosity in their machinery.
“For some reason I was intrigued by Claas forage equipment. I would stop at dealers when traveling and pick up a Claas toy harvester. I soon learned about Evers Toy Store in Iowa. When I first stopped at Evers, I was hooked on collecting,” Fred conceded. Through this experience, Fred’s interest in collecting really mushroomed. “I started watching for equipment we farmed with when I was growing up. Our principle machinery was Massey-Harris and New Idea. Our family worked back and forth with my uncle. Their two major lines were Oliver and Fox. Massey treasures became my real passion, though,” Fred recalled.
Masseys Versus Unique-Masseys
Fred describes his Massey caboodle as all inclusive. “The combined cache of Massey-Harris and Massey-Ferguson toy tractors, field equipment along with pedal tractors numbers nearly 200. The Massey-Harris sector comprises two-thirds of the cache, however,” Fred stated.
While the majority of Fred’s Massey-Harris hoard is similar to that of other Massey collectors, he takes great pride in his very unique custom pieces. “Many collectors cherish their old and rare pieces. I enjoy coming up with ideas for pieces never before made commercially as a Massey-Harris toy. I do not have the aptitude for building or customizing farm toys. My friend, Shawn Beauprez who lives here in Longmont, provides the skills to customize the matchless pieces for my collection,” Fred related.
The first piece that Shawn customized was a puller tractor, dubbed the “Massive Massey.” This unit started as a 1/16 scale die-cast Ertl Massey-Harris model 44 rowcrop tractor. Shawn made a mock-up V-8 engine with dual exhaust pipes, larger wheels and tires suitable for pulling along with rear wheel and mid-frame weights.
Shawn’s high quality custom work spurned more ideas for future Massey pieces. Fred commented, “Once I saw Shawn’s craftsmanship, I began thinking about more Massey tractors not produced commercially. Fortunately, Shawn bought into my desire to have unique toy Masseys. There are now 13 high quality tractors, all one-of-a-kind, resulting from Shawn’s custom work. He also customized a gravity wagon and a dealer styled transport truck with the signature Massey colors and logos.”
When asked if Fred has a favorite among those units customized by Shawn, he responded, “Shawn’s work is a favorite set among my total collection. Each one has unique features, but there is no real favorite. In 1954 Massey-Harris offered a Model 44 Special in the Cane or High-Crop configuration. The toy version in 1/16 scale, customized from a die-cast Ertl Massey-Harris model 44 standard is particularly nice.”
Fred has a sizeable array of scratch-built Masseys. The builders of these 1/16 scale units include: Rodney Cover, of Pennsylvania (deceased), Randy Ihnen of Minnesota, Terry Rouch of Indiana, Paul Stephan of Wisconsin and Teeswater Toys of Canada. “A gem among these is the 1/16 scale horse-drawn Massey-Harris No. 8 manure spreader. This one-of-a-kind spreader exhibits the pristine quality customary for Terry Rouch who scratch-built the spreader,” Fred related.
Pedal Tractor Scene
A few years ago Fred got the bug to collect limited edition pedal tractors. The interest in these beauties, created another challenge. “Very few Massey pedal tractors have been produced commercially. As with my toy tractors, I was determined to have a more interesting Massey pedal tractor collection. Tom Magnuson of Verona, Wis., worked with me in customizing the Massey-Harris model 44 pedal tractor made by Scale Models. Once Tom customized the tractor, Shawn Beauprez added the accent touches. I now have seven custom versions of that Scale Models Massey pedal tractor,” Fred shared.
The sterling attraction among Fred’s pedal tractor treasures is the self-propelled Massey-Harris two-row corn picker. This superbly scratch-built picker is very near pedal tractor scale. Tom Brunner from Verona, Wisconsin crafted this piece from scratch. Not only does his creative workmanship exhibit complete detail, it actually operates. The working parts include, snapping rolls, gathering chains and elevator. “I had written a story on Tom’s creative masterpieces a few years ago for Toy Farmer. Through this association, Tom agreed to build the Massey picker for me. The picker has been displayed at a local Yesteryear Farm Show. Believe me, it attracted a great deal of attention,” Fred reflected.
The Massey-Harris People
Fred displayed the corn picker and a number of his Massey pedal tractors at a recent Yesteryear Farm Show in Longmont, Colorado. He came up with the banner, “The Massey-Harris People,” to accompany the display. I asked him where that expression came from. He responded, “I remember people using the idiom when I was growing up. You might have asked a friend or neighbor, ‘Where do you go for Massey parts and service?’ The response would go something like this: ‘Maurer Implements out north of town, on the Dixie Highway; you know, the Massey-Harris People.’ The two banners, SunShower Acres and The Massey-Harris People, derived from that notion.”
“I never knew if that expression was a colloquialism or just a family reference. And then just the other day, I read about a business in Austin, Texas that sold books. The store is called “The BookPeople.” Apparently the expression has broader use than I first thought,” Fred indicated.
Collection Hobby Meanderings
The farm toy hobby typically takes on varying twists and turns for most collectors. Fred found that to be true during the course of his collecting. He started with 1/64 scale models due to limited space and costs. Through his consulting work, Fred became acquainted with Dan Smith of Roaring Springs, Pa., an avid farm toy collector. Not only was Dan’s collection well displayed, he aspired to highly detailed, scratch-built models. Dan Smith’s assembly motivated Fred to seek out more unique pieces for his collection. He soon began collecting the precision or high detail pieces. This interest logically meant larger scale toys. In turn, the larger scale required more display area. And now, Fred’s custom and scratch-built pieces have taken priority with still more display area needed. We have learned to adjust and find ways to make everything fit.
What advice would you provide others who are just starting, having had 25 plus years of experience?
Fred suggested, “I gained a great deal of understanding in what was offered by starting small and modest. As I learned more about the hobby and the people involved, I began networking. Talk to others and ask questions about your interests. People in this hobby are very open and willing to help. Through my connections, I learned about builders who could make the unique pieces to enhance my trove. If my collection is ever dispersed, others may not appreciate or desire what I have assembled. I gain fulfillment in amassing a distinctive array of farm toys, though.”
Farm Toy Hobby Future
Fred has written numerous stories about other collectors over the past several years. This experience has provided insight regarding the dynamics of the hobby.
Through the following, Fred shares his perspective:
“Through my writing, I have met incredibly gifted people. In most cases these are ordinary people with extraordinary talent. They have been pacesetters. They develop remarkable ideas ahead of the manufacturers’ production curve. And more importantly, they are humble people who are stimulating to write about. With this endeavor, it has been exciting to share the passion others have for their collection or creative skills.”
“The manufacturing of farm toys constantly evolves. With this evolution, the toys are far more appealing to the collector. The manufacturers make a sincere effort to satisfy the most discrete hobbyist. The good people engaged in the production of farm toys are creative and dynamic. And further, they are enthusiastic about the farm toy hobby.”
“When I attend farm toy shows it is thrilling to see young people tagging along with dad. Shows that cater to the young collectors are shows that will survive. Likewise, publications that cover youth activities have a promising future. The buying days of older collectors are limited while the future hinges on the youth. The farm toy collecting hobby holds a great future.”
If you would like to contact Fred, you may do so at: Fred Hendricks, 4505 Holmes Center Road, Bucyrus, Ohio, 44820-8911; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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