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Back Roads: A man who's happy with less

Todd Eggler loads bales of hay onto an elevator that took them into the hay mow.

OSLO — Todd Eggler stood tall while steering his 1943 tractor west down the gravel Dodge County road, his long beard and dust from tractor and hay wagon blown north by hot summer wind.

A shirtless anachronism, he looked more like a 19th-century farmer behind a team of horses. He also looked content, a man at peace, just him, the sun, the wind and the old tractor.

"I was having a good time," he said after getting to his home northwest of Oslo. "It's relaxing to me; you are out of the hustle and bustle of the corporate world."

At his job running the service center for McNeilus in Dodge Center, where they fix cement mixers and garbage trucks, "we stay pretty busy;" it's kind of hectic, he said.

On his 15 acres, he's relaxed. He steps back from things modern.


He has the H Farmall tractor that "has been in the family longer than me," said Eggler, 50. It's only 27 or 28 horsepower, but it's enough for him. Why buy one with computer, air-conditioning, GPS, stereo? You can't feel the sun on your chest or the wind blowing your beard in one of those.

"Why make payments on something you don't need?" he asked.

He likes the old square hay bales because they're for his Percherons, Bobbi and Jesse.

"It's easier to control how much I feed my horses, less waste that way," he said.

He owns North Oslo Percherons and uses the horses to pull out logs from lands people don't want scarred by heavy logging skidders. When he drives them to a job, his trailer is pulled by a pickup sporting a 1950 GMC cab.

His car has 220,000 miles.

Eggler has no need for metal fence posts. He buys tamarack logs, strips the bark and drives them in. They last a long time.

As for the beard, he served 30 years in the Marine Reserves, retiring two years ago. "I haven't been clean shaven since the day I retired," he said.


He said he grew up in the Zumbro Falls area on a family farm of 175 acres. They milked 60 cows. His family had three tractors — the Farmall and two John Deeres, both old even back then. He still has that Farmall with the patched seat.

He brought that frugal attitude with him to the 15 acres near Oslo.

He doesn't raise all his hay but helps a friend work some land and gets the bales in return. That's the old way, help each other when they need help.

In today's farming, you often don't have a lot of neighbors close to you, Eggler said. He can see but one other house from his land. Many farms are going corporate. "There are still a few family farms, and even they are getting bigger," he said.

That's not for him, but he doesn't complain. "We get along; we work together," he said. They go their way; he goes his.

After he talked for a while, he went back to where he parked his tractor and hay wagon next to the barn — an old one, of course, with gaps in aging boards.

Still bare-chested, Eggler loaded bale after bale onto an elevator that carried the hay into the mow.

He looked content.


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