July 2006
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Earl Snodgrass recently participated in the Pike County Young Farmers Antique Tractor Show at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama in Troy. The show ended with a parade around the museum grounds.

Earl Snodgrass is attached to tractors

by Jaine Treadwell

Farming and preaching are a lot alike.

At least that’s what Earl Snodgrass thinks and he should know. He has more than 60 total years in the combined professions.

Snodgrass grew up on a farm in southwest Missouri where the land was rather harsh on farmers. His family moved to Illinois and then back to the Show Me state, but this time to the northeast where farming wasn’t quite so hard on those who tilled the soil.

 
  Most collectors have been given the gift of gab when it comes to their passion. Earl Snodgrass, left, can talk long and hard when it comes to Massey Harris tractors. And, there are always those around who are eager to listen. Other than his tractors, he said the folks at the local Farmers Co-op are a farmer’s best friends.
When Snodgrass was only 18 years old, he started farming on his own. He farmed corn and soybeans with a 1948 Massey Harris tractor that belonged to his dad. Three years later his dad sold the tractor to him. "I had my own tractor and that was a mighty good feeling," Snodgrass said.

He worked 80 acres that he bought and another 180 acres that he rented. The 21-year-old knew he had his neck stuck out but he was willing to take the risk. Farming was in his blood.

"When farming gets in your blood there’s no use in trying to get it out because you can’t," Snodgrass said with a smile.

The young farmer loved working the land. He and his Massey Harris spent many days, from sunup until sundown and sometimes beyond, kicking up dust. It can get rather lonely out in the hot, dusty fields, just a man and his tractor.

"You get attached to a tractor because you depend on it so much," Snodgrass said. "I guess all farmers form some kind of attachment to the tractors they run."

Snodgrass’s farming operation grew to 380 acres and then to 600. From 1950 until 1973, he farmed and never really gave much thought to doing anything else. He was doing what he loved and what he felt in his heart was what God wanted him to do.

But God had other plans for Snodgrass. He called him to the ministry.

"When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, God impressed upon me to go into the gospel ministry. It was on my mind so much that it actually haunted me. I knew God wanted me to preach so I surrendered to Him."

Once he surrendered to God’s will for him, Snodgrass quickly developed the same passion for the ministry that he had for farming. Preaching God’s word got in his blood and he knew it was there to stay.

After attending Bible college in Florida, Snodgrass began his ministry and was called to churches in South Alabama, including Brantley, Chestnut Grove, Pleasant Hill and Ebenezer. There was no doubt that he was doing what God wanted him to do.

 
One man’s trash can become another man’s treasure if he has a passion for the past. Earl Snodgrass of Brundidge can take an old broken down tractor and put it back together so that it runs like new and looks even better than the day when it rolled off the assembly line.  
But, the old adage is absolutely right on target in the case of Snodgrass. He was out of the country but the country wasn’t out of him. "In 1989, I got interested in collecting toy tractors," Snodgrass said. "I was fascinated by them. I guess because they reminded me of the many years that I farmed. Like I said, you can’t get farming out of your blood."

As his collection grew, so did his interest in tractors. For some reason, he couldn’t shake the memory of those days he and his Massey Harris kicked up dust in the corn and soybean fields of Missouri.

"About 10 years ago, I just went out and bought me a Massey Harris tractor," he said. "It’s like the old 1948 that I had — or it is now."

When Snodgrass came dragging the Massey Harris home, it was not much to look at and was hard to even get it in gear. He undertook a major restoration project.

"When I was farming back in Missouri, I farmed in the spring, summer and fall and, in the winter, I worked for a tractor company painting tractors. So, I had experience in that area."

But in the area of tractor mechanics, Snodgrass had a lot to learn. He learned from books. He picked up tips and hints from others who restored tractors and from mechanics who were willing to share their knowledge. But mainly he learned from the greatest teacher of all… experience.

"A lot of my learning was trial and error," he said, smiling. "But these antique tractors are rather simple machines and it’s not hard to learn how one is put together."

When Snodgrass completed the restoration project and stepped back and looked at his handiwork, he knew right then and there that he was hooked.

He was into big boy collecting -antique tractor collecting.

"I went out and got another tractor - another Massey Harris - and my interest just blossomed."

Snodgrass has restored five Massey Harris tractors. His favorite is the 101 Super, but then he is rather proud of all of them.

At his hobby shop in Brundidge, Snodgrass has five other Massey Harris tractors that he plans to restore. Anyone who walks into his hobby shop would think that Snodgrass is facing an impossible task.

"Well, the tractors do look like a pile of junk, don’t they," he said, as he surveyed tractors that were in bits and pieces. "But the first thing you’ve got to do is get the engine running. You don’t want to restore something that won’t run. Once you get it running, you know that you’re going to have a fine tractor once the restoration is completed."

Snodgrass traveled to the Midwest to find most of the antique tractors in his collection.

"The Massey Harris tractors were popular in that part of the country so they are easier to find out there," he said. "Sometimes you run up on one that will run. Sometimes not. That one over there wasn’t running but it soon will be."

The most interesting phase of a restoration project is looking for the needed parts.

"I enjoy looking for the parts because I get to call around and talk to people that are as interested in restoring antique tractors as I am," he said. "That’s the fun part, sharing information."

Snodgrass recently restored a tractor that had been dismantled and left to the elements for 10 years. That was a real challenge and he loved every nut and bolt of the process.

"I take a lot of pride in my antique tractor collection," he said. "I like to show my tractors and I really enjoy being in parades with them. I look forward to the Peanut Butter Festival Parade in Brundidge each year because people look for the tractors and really enjoy them. I like being a part of that."

Snodgrass shied away from the question as to the value of a restored antique tractor, one that is show-worthy.

"I’ve heard people say it’s whatever two fools will agree on," he said, laughing.

So far Snodgrass hasn’t agreed with anyone on the price of one of his Massey Harris tractors.

"I’m not in the selling business," he said. "I’m an antique tractor collector. It’s in my blood."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.