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40-Year Collection Of Garden Tractors
Arlen Fowler’s collection of yard and garden tractors nearly fills 3 good-sized farm buildings.
    “I started collecting when my kids were small back in the 1970’s,” says Fowler. “I was a mechanic and my first tractor was a Hiller that my daughters used to drive around the yard. My dad built a replica wagon to trail behind the Hiller and later I made some garden tilling equipment for it.” Fowler began acquiring more garden tractors when he was a dealer for Deere garden equipment. He says customers would trade in Case, Bohlens, Massey Ferguson and Panzers on the new Deere machines. Sometimes he’d sell the trade-ins, but mostly he’d keep them.
    Nearly 40 years after he started collecting, some of Fowler’s tractors are still regulars in nearby parades and special farm events. He started ‘parading’ when his own kids were young, and the tradition continued as his grandkids became old enough to drive and handle equipment safely. “It’s a great family event,” says Arlen. “At one parade we had nearly a dozen tractors lined up, all driven by our family.”
    Fowler’s collection now includes several Lawn Boy, Case, Deere, International, Panzer and Bohlens models. He has Deere models from 1964, one with an 8 hp engine and a 3-speed transmission. One of his Bohlens is on steel wheels and some of his machines have Maytag engines. Fowler ended up with a large group of Bohlens walk-behind tractors after an unusual occurance at a show. “I was displaying a couple walk-behind Bohlens garden tractors and a fellow stopped by and said he wanted to sell his,” Fowler says. “I asked him how many he had, and he said 4 of them. I told him I only had $11 in my pocket, but he took the money and I got the tractors.” Fowler also has a rare Gravely machine that was built in Europe, one of only 12 that are known to be around. One is in France, 2 are in Canada and 9 are in the U.S. He also owns a Kliver, made in Rockford, Ill., which was a fore runner of the zero turn mower.
    Fowler brings his full collection outside for an annual show at his 3½-acre farm attended by nearly 100 people, including neighbors, a small antique tractor club and senior members of their chuch. They serve a big potluck dinner and people enjoy a full afternoon and evening of ‘tractoring’. “I’ve collected and restored these tractors for years and really enjoy it,” Fowler says. “I’ll keep going as long as I can and then let the next generation take over.”
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Arlen Fowler, 5007 East Route 14, Crystal Lake, Ill. 60014 (ph 815 459-3320; arlenfowler@earthlink.net).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6