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Tractors tour areas inundated by 1993 flood

Patriotism was on parade Saturday during the annual Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society Vintage Tractor Drive along the Missouri River commemorating the flood of 1993. This Massey Ferguson 50 entry featured a U.S. flag on the front of the tractor and a bench mounted on the rear with a patriotic canopy.

Patriotism was on parade Saturday during the annual Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society Vintage Tractor Drive along the Missouri River commemorating the flood of 1993. This Massey Ferguson 50 entry featured a U.S. flag on the front of the tractor and a bench mounted on the rear with a patriotic canopy. Photo by Don Norfleet.

A total of 63 old tractors rumbled through the back roads of Callaway County along the Missouri River Saturday during the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society’s eighth annual Vintage Tractor Drive.

The old tractors gathered at the New Bloomfield Lions Club Park where participants ate breakfast before traveling Callaway County back roads to the Tebbetts Community Center for cookies and refreshments.

The trip continued west along the Missouri River toward the former Cedar City area. Along the way, tractor drivers noticed flags had been erected at various points.

Rodney Garnett, the lead tractor driver, told the group he had placed the flags for the event to indicate the depth of flood waters during the record flood of 1993 that inundated wide areas around the Missouri River.

“I checked with local land owners to determine the height of the water at various points along the river,” Garnett said.

Garnett is a former Callaway County commissioner and John Deere implement dealer.

After stopping at the Tebbetts Community Center for refreshments, the group traveled along the Missouri River to Cedar City for a pork steak lunch and then headed back to New Bloomfield for home-made ice cream in the afternoon.

During lunch at Cedar City, the group viewed a video of the 1993 Missouri River Flood.

The entire round trip through southern Callaway County from New Bloomfield to Tebbetts, Cedar City and back to New Bloomfield covered a distance of 43.2 miles.

To avoid possible traffic congestion, the caravan of old tractors stayed off heavily-traveled routes as much as possible.

Barb Huddleston, Callaway County Historical Society curator, said Saturday’s event was an excellent opportunity for friends and tractor enthusiasts to spend some time together.

This year the tractor drive commemorated the 20th anniversary of record flooding on the Missouri River. The route taken covered much of the devastated area along the river.

Huddleston said the former Cedar City area in Callaway County was populated originally by French fur trappers and other frontiersmen. It also was a stop for steamboat traffic along the river in the 1800s.

Cedar City was wiped out in the 1993 flood. Most of the small town was bulldozed and vacated. The area of the former Cedar City is now part of Jefferson City.

Huddleston said the driver and owner of the oldest vintage tractor in the event was Kenneth L. Martin of New Bloomfield. He drove a 1939 Farmall H tractor.

“The first Farmall H tractor was made in 1939,” Martin said, “This tractor is a 1939 model with the identification marked on the side.”

Martin, who works at Harbison Walker Refractories in Fulton, collects antique tractors.

“I have eight old tractors — four John Deere and four International Harvester Farmall tractors,” Martin said.

Most of the old tractors participating in Saturday’s event were restored and repainted.

Bench seats with canopies or umbrellas were mounted on the rear of some of the tractors to allow passengers to ride along in comfort in the sweltering 90-degree heat on Saturday.

Other tractors towed trailers with seats for passengers to enjoy the leisurely 43-mile trip through the Callaway County countryside along the Missouri River.

But some families, including the Thompson family of New Bloomfield, shared the trip by each driving their own tractor.

At age 77, Norman Thompson was one of the oldest drivers participating in the event. He drove a Farmall H tractor.

Thompson and his family farm about 1,000 acres of bottomland along the Missouri River. They raise corn, soybeans and wheat.

His daughter Dana drove a Farmall B, his son David drove a Farmall MD diesel, and his nephew Steve Thompson drove a Farmall 806 diesel.

Dana Thompson was one of two women who drove tractors in the event. The other was Debbie Bruns, who drove a 1958 Oliver tractor.

Huddleston said tractor drivers from around Missouri participated in Saturday’s event. Most of them transported tractors to the event on truck beds.

The vintage tractor driver who traveled the longest distance was Brian Bruns of Jackson in Southeast Missouri. He drove a 1944 Farmall H tractor.

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