Louis Toavs’ expansive John Deere Collection:
Montanans mark the passing of Louis Toavs, long time wheat grower and John Deere tractor collector supreme! Louis had assembled a wonderful collection of John Deere tractors (plus many toys, scale model replicas, and implements), somewhere between 500 and 700 altogether, and his widow, daughter Lorna Jackson, and son-in law are carefully continuing to preserve it.
He farmed over 7,000 acres in wheat in his prime, and used nothing but John Deeres in his operation. He had several “tandem D’s” built. One of them he used for years and then parked out by his mailbox where one can still see it. The “tandem” concept, mating two tractors together to double the horsepower and traction with an articulated unit run by a single operator, was later copied by other grain growers and later became the plan used for the Wagner, Big Budd, and Steiger. Even the John Deere head office finally saw the light and bought out Wagner Manufacturing thus beginning to build large four-wheel-drive diesel-powered rubber-tired land tillers. Some of these today run up to 600 horsepower and can till 96 feet wide in one pass.
As reported by Missoula’s KPAX- TV, Louis had one of every Model D built from 1923 to 1953, and for each of several years he acquired several dozen model D’s. Louis had one of the rare “Depression D’s”, a 1932 model of which Deere made only 120. And he owned a 1953 D, known as a “Streeter”. The 1953 model D series consisted of only 96 tractors, called “Streeters” because they were built out in the open street in between two assembly buildings (taken over by the newer generation of 4 and 6 cylinder tractors begun in 1952). Some old grain farmers still wanted D’s so Deere took orders for 100 more even after they were discontinued in favor of the more powerful 3010 and 4010 models.
Louis also had several of the early experimental D’s, like Gene Belile’s steel-wheel D, displayed running the 19th century shingle mill off its belt pulley at last year’s Miracle of America Museum “Live History Days” (at Polson MT). Deere had sent ten of these “X” serial number tractors into Montana to test under extreme cold weather conditions in 1928. (Ten other “X” serial numbered D’s went to Texas for testing in extreme heat.)
Louis Toavs stood tall as a hardy northern high plains wheat grower who worked with nature and the weather and was successful in most everything he did. He acted independently, as he thought the Creator led him, and without any government assistance. So many of today’s “farmers” and “ranchers” who consider signing up for CRP and other subsidies that pay one to not grow wheat could sure take a page from Louis Toav’s book!
A story about Louis illustrates his tough-minded independent spirit. About 15 years ago, Louis went to the Wolf Point Chamber and offered to build them a huge building and bring maybe 100 of his tractors down and display them as an attraction so the town could include it in a museum center along “The High Line”, US hwy 2. He offered to pay for it, asking only that they provide an acre of land somewhere along the highway on which he’d have built and donated the building and probably loaned (at first and later donated) the JD tractors. But several years went by and he told close friends he got tired of waiting out the politics and personalities, so he built the big building up at his farm. That’s where Marquardt went with the KPAX-TV film crew and shot what we recently saw on “Under The Big Sky”.
Louis Toavs was 87. He was a hardy and hard-working man, loved by all who knew him. His family carries on in the same spirit. The Toavs farm is at Lustre MT, about 15 miles NNW of Wolf Point MT, and it “MapQuests“. A few years ago the family had not wanted a lot of visitors as Louis was having heart trouble but he still insisted on guiding visitors around. But maybe now his heirs see summer visitors as being worth trying for and will start an entrance fee or “by donation” program. Their big busy times are while planting wheat, haying, combining & binning wheat, and Sundays when they rest and go to church and later fellowship around.
Other Antique Tractor Collections in Montana:
While no one anywhere has ever collected John Deere tractors as methodically as Louis Toavs and his family did, other Montanans do maintain some outstanding farm tractor and implement collections. Notable among these are the Miracle of America Museum on US hwy 93 just south of Polson, Montana; the Barnes Steam and Power Show [Steam Traction archives 1 | 2, SmokStak forum] near Belgrade, Montana, where a “Harvest Days” weekend is held late each August; the Mehmke Steam Museum [contact info, purchase video] 10 miles east of Great Falls, Montana on US hwy 87; the “Steam Powered Logging Display” in the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Montana; Tom Walchuk’s personal collection on public view at Circle D Campground just north on Ronan, Montana on US hwy 93; and the large group of active collectors and restorerswho annually display at Columbia Falls, Montana [NW Montana Antique Power Ass’nthreshing bee etc; on sumo.tv 1 | 2].
More Antique Tractor Information in Montana:
Some antique power shows and threshing bees that were listed in the “Montana Calendar” during the summer of 2002:
Tony O. 7/16/02
Our Memorial Day here will include special prayers of thanks at the grave of PFC Louis C. Charlo USMC, born in 1926 and KIA on Iwo Jima March 2nd, 1945. He was one of the 6 Marines who planted the first US flag on top on Mt. Suribachi, but then he got hit in the head by a Jap sniper bullet – dead at age 19.
Thanks to him and to 6,800+ other Marines who died on Iwo Jima (more than twice the number killed on that one small island than died on 9-11 at a time when America had barely 140 million people!), and to almost 500,000 US military personnel who died in WWII, 53,000 + more in Korea, 56,000 more in Viet Nam, we have the opportunity to prayerfully preserve freedom and liberty, and execute justice on satanic killers like the old man of the mountain [i.e. Osama Bin Laden - taken from an extensive sitrep by Dr. Gary North, not included here].
PFC Charlo is buried just SE of the St. Ignatius Mission, in the Catholic Cemetery. His gravesite has been mowed and trimmed, and is now ready for flags and flowers. The American Legion Post Honor Guard will do Colors and fire a salute in memorial to all the Vets there with Marine Charlo. Yes, there were two flag raisings on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi, and the upcoming movie Iwo Jima will recount the landings and the first flag raising of which Charlo was a huge part. If you’d like to read about this event, see
Some research may show that Dineh (Navajo) were not the only codetalkers (Windtalkers) baffling the Japanese in the Pacific – both PFC Charlo and PFC James Michels (apparently misspelled as Michaels) were Flathead Indians and Salish is another language that would have totally fooled the Japanese radiomen. Salish and Kootenai were not even written until 1985, when the Cultural Committee here agreed upon a 46 letter alphabet and the Yah Yahs began to record their Coyote Stories and history in a written form for the first time. (Jesuit Fathers had attempted a Salish language Bible back in 1894 and it was pretty good but no Japanese had ever seen it.)
Tony O. 5/26/02
Thomas C. Molesworth and Gustave Stickley both used the Morris Chair # 332 general design for their “easy” chairs. Most of them are just as sturdy and comfortable and as attractive as when built 70 years ago!William Morris was founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement during the 1880′s. He once said, ” Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” He crusaded against cheap and shoddy mass-produced furniture and decorative accessories then being crammed into middle-class English homes in a frenzy of excess. In particular Morris urged English Victorians to rid themselves of the ugly, the useless, and the uncomfortable – in favor of simple and honest furnishings. Molesworth’s adaptation of natural wood, burls, fine leather, and weavings, and Cowboy and Indian objects into his interior designs is an outstanding extension of William Morris’ decorative principle.
While appreciating what Thomas Molesworth created here, I also have learned that using the Morris Rule can restore order to my home and help simplify my life. I’ve been a collector – of clutter! My unread magazine piles date back to 1979. I keep broken tools and appliances and try to fix them all during winter months but the boxes of parts and basket cases grows each year. In Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach (ISBN 0-446-51913-8, 1995, Warner Books, Time-Warner, Inc. NYC, NY) I found a workable plan; do one room each month and recycle what doesn’t fit, isn’t useful, won’t be beautiful here, or is personal clutter. For those with this book, see May 16! But we’ll keep the Molesworth chairs! The same principle applies in our gardens; we feed the beneficial and beautiful plants and trees, while weeding out invaders, unproductives, and uglies. Weeds, like clutter indoors, seem to go to seed and multiply. We don’t need to destroy a garden to rid it of weeds, or burn a house to rid it of clutter or even of mice. We just pull out the weeds before they can bloom or cast seeds. We recycle clutter to new homes or the yard sale and we catch the mouse before it can multiply. Then we have a nicer garden, a more comfortable home, and can enjoy life as our Creator intended we do.
I hope and pray that the guys in Homeland Security will learn this lesson. There are a few human weeds out there too but Americans don’t need more inconveniences or a hasty descent into a police state. Just pull a few weeds, recycle a few aliens back where they came from, and mark a few objects Return To Sender. This all starts with each one of us. Know and love your neighbors! Simple Abundance increases as we do and terrorism loses from then on. Thomas Molesworth’s fine furnishing were all 100% Made in America. My best John Deere tractor was made in 1935, 100% Made in America, and it started and ran yesterday as well as the day it left Moline 67 years ago. I tend to trust what’s Made in America! While I appreciate diversity too, my friends and neighbors are American; strangers I observe quietly before forming an opinion about them. My County Sheriff is my highest elected Peace Officer – every county in America has one. Do you know yours, met him (or her)? Are you signed up for Search and Rescue? Will you gladly serve on a Coronor’s Inquest or Grand Jury if called upon? Does your ‘hood have a Neighborhood Watch and are you participating?
“Clearing Out What Isn’t Useful or Beautiful,” and restoring order requires doing the right thing in the right way. Simple Abundance helps point the way just as 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13 teach also. Sometimes we’re tempted to do the right thing but in the wrong way. Our forebears were more careful doing their work and Thomas Molesworth exemplifies Americans using discernment, discriminating in favor of the useful and the beautiful, doing the right thing in the right way.
Tony O. 5/20/02
|Winter is a slow time at MMI, almost one of hibernation like that of the great bears nearby. Most of our John Deere collection is put away in sheds and barns, except for two JD 40 Crawlers with # 62 angle dozer blades, a 620 Wide Front with 3 point hitch and rear blade, and a 1010 RUS with rear blade. These are kept ready for snow plowing duties.We used to use our JD 50 Wide Front with loader for snow removal. Back then it was all we had, and some winters we had 20-30 inch snowfalls. The last 4 winters have been “light”, with below average precipitation, more wind, and even some tree damage.Not all our John Deeres fit into sheds and barns, so the snow plows stay close to our welding shop, covered with tarps, easily plugged in so circulating tank heaters and battery chargers keep them (hopefully) ready to use. The ranch lane is a half mile long to the mailbox and a school bus route, which Lake County keeps well plowed. With arrival of Spring, the 1010 RUS and 620 with ditching plows will convert from snowplows to irrigation ditch pulling.
One of our 40Cs is an “ag cat”, though it has no 3 point hitch. We use it for serious irrigation ditching. The other 40C is a “logging cat”, equipped with # 61 frame and # 62 angle blade, plus a heavy duty steel pipe and grating ROPS cage, and a Gearmatic winchdrum for log skidding. We found this crawler “dead, stuck, disassembled, and being parted out” about 4 miles north of the ranch. Now it runs again, the left final drive is repaired, and it only needs annual maintenance and tuneups. We do not “log” trees; these crawlers stand by for possible summer fire-break duties.
Snowpack is important to Montanans and this ranch is no exception. We might receive 12-16 inches total precip. in a good year, so we depend on flood irrigation water via the Flathead Irrigation Project, and a “free water” Secretarial Right that goes with one of our “80′s”, Adaline Allard’s Flathead Indian Allotment # 771. We flood irrigate, augmenting rainfall to get crops of native grass hay and green pastures.
Cattle on the ranch drop manure so we have several tools for pasture renovating, including simple flexible harrow “drags” weighted by old tires or window sash weights. Dragging spreads out the cattle droppings, levels off any prairie dog hills, and opens the root zone via the harrow tines to moisture, rubs out clubmoss and any weed seedlings, and makes irrigation easier. In past years we’ve winter-fed livestock on the hay meadows so the hayseeds and manure return as much to the soil as we take out.
Some years, given enough moisture, we’ll pull around the chisel plow with twisted tine points, hooking the flexidrag behind that. This invigorates and renovates hay meadows and pastures to the max. But in dry weather this can harm the grasses and legumes we’re trying to nourish, though it surely is effective on any “weedy” spots.
We also have a JD # 666 four bottom moldboard trailer plow, and a KBL disk harrow but do not use these in our ranch program, keeping them only for “custom farming” if and when neighbors get behind and call for help. We keep a JD 820D and 830D with duals, both with pony engine starting and factory cabs for heavy custom farming work.
And we have a self-propelled swather, two JD # 5 sickle bar mowers, two “Pea Rollers” that bolt onto the mowers and leave the cut hay in a windrow, a JD 14T hay baler, a JD side delivery rake, 4 hay wagons, and a JD bale elevator. We can direct cut, crimp, and windrow hay with the windrower on one pass. Or, in case of humid haying weather, or rain, we can mow and turn windrows before baling.
Some might say our equipment is “old” fashioned. It surely is old; most of it was built back in Iowa from 1935 to 1960. But none of these John Deere 2 cylinder tractors burn more than 10 gallons of fuel per day, all but the 1010 can have their hand clutches completely rebuilt in less than 2 hours by any of us with simple hand tools and without “splitting” the tractors in half, and top governed engine speed is only 1000 RPMs so burning out a bearing or blowing gaskets seldom happens.
Preserving good old well-built John Deere tractors fits in well with our Molesworth Lodge preservation. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? If it does the job, why replace it? If it makes the heart happy, why be tempted by the newest gadget advertised? So we aren’t and we don’t! (Oh yes, we also have a Farmall B, the swather is an International Harvester # 201 built up in Canada, and our oldest John Deere is a 1935 D which pulls a Worthington “Fairways” reel type gang mower around our lawns. We host visiting mechanics for 2 week summer tours of duty, and hope one will someday retire here and putter on our collection and volunteer at nearby Miracle of America Museum which has John Deeres, Farmalls, Fords, Fordsons, Cases, several large steam engines by Case, Frick, and Porter, an American, a Silver King, a Sheppard Diesel, and many rare and unusual implements for them. More photos coming in our July update.)
Tony O. 1/30/02
Someday soon, what if all America’s farms and ranches are subdivided and developed? Where would the fruit and vegetables come from? The pork and chicken, the milk and cheese and ice cream, the soymilk and yogurt, the tofu, the salads and the stirfrieds? The Quarter-Pounders, the footlong Subways, and the French fried potatoes and onion rings? The shakes and frappes and smoothies and McFlurries? Well, guess what! No farms and ranches, eventually no food! One year after another, America’s farms and ranches are being sold off, subdivided, built on, paved over, curbed up, and “improved”. A Million acres per year! Recall Carley Simon’s song “… pave it over and make it a parking lot”? Somehow, this has got to stop. Or be sensibly controlled. Via clustered housing, open space equal to developments permitted, and conservation easements on Class I and II farm and ranch lands. In the west, the arable and irrigated lands absolutely must be perpetually protected. I came to the Flathead Reservation 30 years ago thinking Tribal goals and purposes offered an umbrella of protection against the rain of development I’d watched start to fall on rural Pennsylvania’s country sides in the 1960′s. For a time, it did. But, already, even in “ranch country” I can no longer see all the night stars for the multitude of “area lights” left burning all night. With increased Tribal member populations, even the Reservation’s lands are coming under development pressures!
The recent precedent here [links: 1, 2] finds Ktunaxa Community Development Corporation (KCDC) sponsored by US Department of Agriculture, and assisted by Fannie Mae Foundation, Montana Conservation Corps, and The First Nations Development Institute developing land parcels near Elmo (10 single family homes) and Pablo, Montana (28 single family homes). OOPS! Taxpayer support to pave it over and make it a parking lot! (See Char-Koosta News, 9 August 2001, page 5, article by Jennifer Greene.) Admirably, many of these are “sweat equity” homes, for first-time home owners, who had been struggling to cope with the high rent and substandard housing typically found around much of Western America, especially in “The Empty Quarter” and Aboriginal Native (Indian) Reservations. (See the Nine Nations Of North America by Joel Garreau.) And these are planned “clusters”, close to amenities like schools, stores, and Tribal Community and Cultural Centers. But it indicates our Mission Valley is no longer protected by that Tribal umbrella or attitude. How long before the Mission Valley’s remaining dairy farms are converted from agricultural open space to subdivisions with “area lights” burning all night? How long before the Valley’s last seed potato farmer “retires”, holds that final auction, and those lands fall to the bulldozer and backhoe? It isn’t only more people needing homes (“demand push”), it’s also increasing land taxes, fuel costs, and machinery repair and replacement costs, and a terrible decrease in irrigation waters that are burdening farm and ranch owner-operators (increasing “propensity to develop”) and foretell doom to the green open space beauty we have known here. Within the next ten years, one can see the handwriting on the wall!
When The Flathead Indian Irrigation Project first accepted swaps of Tribal Allotment “Secretarial Water Rights” for “project irrigation water” about 1920, the annual quotas were 24 inches per acre per year. The past 4 years, project quotas have only permitted irrigators an average of 8 inches of water per acre per summer. One cannot grow a profitable native grass hay crop, an alfalfa crop, or seed potatoes with only 8″ of water! All some lands are growing is weeds! So, water issues alone can cause development pressures. How much time remains for outside conservators to buy up Mission Valley development rights, purchase conservation easements, and influence agricultural lands preservation via voluntary means rather than by Marxist-Fascist style community planning? How soon before Mission Valley residents start to think about “Linking Landscapes”, set aside “at-risk” and “high-priority” trails and corridors, and require “4 for 1″ (four acres permanently protected for each acre developed)? Can we also protect the watersheds, wetlands, and critical wildlife corridors?
Molesworth Montana Institute protects 45 acres of cedar and fir forest with 1/2 mile of Upper Post Creek running through. It’s Grizzly Bear spring and fall habitat, but tax assessors and collectors appraised it as “marketable timber”. The 105 acres of irrigated pasture around the Old Lodge is open space, with a nearly perfect and unspoiled view of the Mission Mountain Range. The ranch’s eastern fence is less than 1/2 mile from the Mission Mountain Wilderness where the big bears winter over in hibernation! The ranch’s Allard “Ditch” dates from 1894 and we now call it Allard Creek because more trout spawn in it than in Post Creek itself, simply because it has better spawning beds. Our 1/2 mile section of Post Creek is the only stretch where livestock is fenced out and cannot get near the Creek. Water quality and flora / fauna tests show our stretch cleans up the creek, which degrades again below us. (See Fred Finley’s Water-Bio 2000 Report on Post Creek.) Pileated Woodpeckers are frequently seen here, and their square and rectangular feeding holes are visible in some of our old growth cedars. I’ve raised wild turkeys here. But cover the valley floor here with homes, dogs, and children?
What chance have farmers and ranchers, really? The few left are an “endangered species” and the lands they graze and steward are being changed to other uses. And after they all quit and sell out to developers, what chance will Nature’s endangered species have either? Cut all the trees, sell all the sod, mine all the topsoils, subdivide down into “40′s” and then “20′s” and finally “5′s” and “homesites”, and what will we see then? Eventually what will we have to pay for just a little bag of food? I sincerely hope that the interested viewer will move to our “Links” page and check out the Conservation Easement groups hyper-text linked there. And that any viewer interested in dropping a pebble into the conservation / preservation pond and seeing the ripples move outward will come back and contact us for more information. Once our valley’s farms and ranches are broken up and subdivided they will be gone forever! Maybe thistles & other weeds can grow through the asphalt in parking lots. But that’s all!
Tony O. 2/12/02
Maybe “Hawk Valley” would be a better name for this valley? Yesterday, in a 12 mile circular trip, we saw hawks every quarter mile. Having forgotten our Peterson’s Guide, we were calling out, “tree limb hawk”, “crossbar hawk”, “fence post hawk”, “power poletop hawk”, and “guywire hawk”. Later, we pulled Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide To The Rocky Montana Birds, and realized we’d seen several pairs of Red Tailed Hawks, and several pairs of Kestrels, (probably holding here in hopes of an Indian Summer), several early Goshhawks and Cooper’s Hawks, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Rough Shouldered Hawk, a lone Osprey near Post Creek, a lone early Golden or immature Bald Eagle just 300 yards further upstream, a Great Horned Owl in a Cedar tree further yet upstream, and one hunting falcon, possibly a Peregrine since several pairs have been around most of the summer. This has been an end-of-drought Autumn. The pastures and hillsides have been grazed very short, so voles and grasshoppers are easily visible to these hawk-eyed birds of prey. It was a gray morning with heavy, low ceiling of clouds at about 4,500′ and these birds had perched to digest their early morning meals. The summer hawks have remained a little longer, while the migrating winter buteos, harriers, and eagles are starting to gather here also, temporarily overlapping. We enjoy Spring and Fall waterfowl migrations here also; large numbers and variety of species. But what a Hawk day we had, considering there was zero wind, no sun, and no thermals; and we were not at a lookout, but slowly traveling through Mission Valley.
Tony O. 10/26/01