Orange still reigns on this farm
LYLE — Amie Klouse looked out over the rows of Allis Chalmers tractors in her front yard, and smiled. "He does this," she said, "and he plays the concertina."
A pick-up truck speeding down Mower County Road 22 slowed as the driver eyed the 29 tractors against the green grass and blue sky. Brian Klouse’s hobby is not easily missed, and for most farmers, it represents a lot more than just a colorful scene.
"Does he ever sell any of them," a visitor asked. "Not that I know of," said Amie, his wife. "I think he loves them too much."
They married last summer, she explains. "It’s something you learn to love."
When Brian arrived, dusty from his job of laying concrete, he took over the answers.
Building a collection
It has taken him about five years to build his collection. There are others, still in storage and in need of work, not ready for display. He is always on the lookout for Allis Chalmers tractors, and he buys "both kinds, in good and bad condition."
Walking down the rows for a close-up look, the older models sport new paint, (there’s only one color) which gives them the look of being newer than the other models. Allis Chalmers stopped making tractors in 1985. The older models carry the telltale signs of the work that they still do, in fields of corn and soybeans.
Brian talks about them in terms of their numbers, a D17 a D21, a 1944B, a 200, a 210. That D21, by the way, was the first AC model to break the 100 horsepower barrier, according to the website of the Living History Farm of York, Neb. The "D21" was produced between 1963 and '65.
A 1937 WC is his oldest tractor and his latest is a 1983 model.
"I do as much of the mechanical work as I can, but not machining," Brian said. As for parts, they are available but can be expensive. Parts dealers are spread across the country and then there are other collectors who help each other out. He uses a salvage yard in Durand, Wis., and a parts store in Spring Valley. Brian’s only complaint is the rising cost of tires. "On the big tractors, a tire can cost $500 to $1,000," he said.
Brian’s greatest find was his great grandfather Anton’s tractor. "We were pouring concrete south of Austin," he recalled, "and I saw it in the shed."
"We bought it three or four years ago," he added, laughing at his own story. "Grandpa had sold it for $250 years and years ago, and I had to pay $2,000 to get it back."
Why did he bring his 29 best tractors out of storage and line them up in front of the house?
Well, Thursday was family-picture night, and Allis Chalmers tractors are a family tradition.
As for the concertina, he thanks his grandparents for that, too. "They told me they’d buy me one if I learned to play it," he said. He did and he still plays.