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Published November 14 2013

A John Deere man: ND farmer wants collection of about 35 John Deere tractors to continue growing

SHELDON, N.D. - Ray Bartholomay is a John Deere man.

A “street sign” on his driveway reads “John Deere Road.” Another sign states “John Deere Parking.” He has John Deere rugs in his home and John Deere towels in his kitchen.

The 82-year-old semi-retired farmer from Sheldon owns 35 or so John Deeres (plus one Ford).

Bartholomay didn’t set out to become a tractor collector. He’s a farmer, and farmers need tractors.

“As a kid gets bigger, he needed a tractor to drive so I bought him a tractor.” said Bartholomay.

Bartholomay had five sons and one daughter.

“I guess they got two or three (tractors),” Bartholomay said with a laugh.

He thinks his oldest tractor dates from 1934. He has diesel-powered as well as gasoline-powered machines.

Bartholomay has traveled to various places with his tractors, including Fingal, Alice and Lisbon in North Dakota, and Rollag, Minn. And, each year, along with the help of family and friends, he takes a good number of his tractors to the Fourth of July parade in McLeod.

“They leave here at 10 in the morning, and we don’t get back until 8 at night,” said Elaine Warner, a friend of Bartholomay who has helped drive in the caravan.

Family and friends swarm in, and the caravan is decorated with U.S. flags.

“I think there were 75, 80 of us last year,” said Warner, who called it a “patriotic day.”

Not everyone in the caravan is on a tractor. Some use other means of travel for the trek to McLeod, such as four-wheelers.

Bartholomay, whose farm serves as the hub for the family’s farming operation, would like to see his collection grow.

“I’m still looking for a (John Deere) 330,” he said. “That’s the smallest one made in the 30 series.”

After he finds and pays for it, he said, “then I’ll look for another one.”

Bartholomay has a soft spot for his tractors and has no plans to sell them.

His favorite is his 820 because of all the work he did with “that guy,” as he called it.

“He did the work for me,” Bartholomay said.

And, while he’s not sure what will become of them when he’s gone, he says he’ll never sell his tractors,

“It would hurt pretty much to see a tractor loaded up on a trailer leaving the farm,” he said.