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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Going, going, green - Hawkins tractor auction is a sale and a salute

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bruce Brock, at the microphone, and several helpers auction off one of more than 100 John Deere tractors at the David Hawkins Estate auction Saturday north of Le Mars. People from several states and Canada traveled to the auction to browse and buy some John Deere green. To purchase this photo and see more from the event, log on to www.lemarssentinel.com.
Arriving at the David Hawkins farm north of Le Mars, it was clear something big was going on.

Parked cars and trucks with empty trailers lined the gravel road for more than one mile leading up to the farm.

Then, cresting the hill, a field of green came into view.

Jim Gorczynski and his 12-year-old son, Garrett, of Le Mars, peruse the rows of tractors at the Hawkins auction Saturday. The John Deere models for sale ranged from 1929 to 1970. To purchase this photo and see more, visit www.lemarssentinel.com.
John Deere green to be exact.

The family of Judy and the late David Hawkins held an auction Saturday of the more than 100 tractors David had collected through the decades.

"This is the craziest auction you'll ever come across," said Pat Kelling, of Granville, a long-time friend of the Hawkins.

That sentiment hummed in the air Saturday.

"I've never been to a sale this big," said Gerald Westhoff, who lives 7 miles from the Hawkins' place.

Long rows of green and yellow glinted in the sun, from a 1929 tractor to a 1970 model -- some still functioning -- as well as riding lawn mowers, field equipment, and even John Deere bikes.

"This is a historic collection. There's probably not another one like this in the U.S.," said John Lucken, of Akron.

Lucken was among those at the auction intending to buy. He was eyeing a 1958 John Deere to use in his orchard.

"I need a smaller tractor to mow and do other work," he explained.

For some people, the auction was a history lesson. Jim Gorczynski, a farmer from Le Mars, brought his son, Garrett, 12, to take a look around.

"Some of these my grandpa used to have, and some he still does," Jim said.

For some, this was a John Deere fan fest.

"I just love green," said Dave Bortscheller, of rural Remsen.

Others came to the sale with no intention to buy but with a little bit of a glint in their eye.

"My dad is looking to buy one, but I wouldn't be opposed to buying one if the price was right," said Brandon Ehret, of Lake Park.

Despite saying he wasn't planning to buy today, Ehret admitted to hauling an empty trailer to the sale, just in case.

"I could fit three on there if I needed to, but I don't think I'll need to," he said, grinning.

Auctioneer Bruce Brock, of Le Mars, kept the massive sale moving, rattling off the sale of each tractor in one or two minutes.

There were bidders on each one.

A John Deere lawnmower sold for about $400 while some of the full-size models sold for several thousand.

Piece by piece, Hawkins' lifetime collection -- representing hours of hunting, buying, refurbishing and display -- was assigned new homes.

David Hawkins began the collection decades ago with his father's 1929 model "D" John Deere.

He and his brother Richard began amassing tractors from there -- including one John Deere A and B tractor from every year they were made, from 1934 and 1935 to 1952.

Hawkins held annual tractor displays open to the public for more than 25 years at his farm east of Struble.

His three children and many of his grandchildren helped set up for the show each year.

This weekend, they gathered to help host the auction.

"It's a bittersweet feeling," said Hawkins' granddaughter Brittany Klein, of Des Moines, watching people crowd around a 1950s John Deere.

In her whole life, she's never seen the big cattle barn on Hawkins' farm empty.

Usually it was packed with classic green and yellow from wall to wall.

"It's eerie," she said.

In the days leading up to the auction, Klein had moments where she imagined other people loading one of her grandpa's tractors onto a trailer and driving away down the road.

Thinking about that, she said, was hard.

Auction day was a little tough, too.

"Hearing the tractors start up and run is the worst," she said. "In some ways this is the final farewell."

Klein said she didn't plan to buy one of her grandpa's tractors because she'd have no place to put it, although her husband said they could just park one in the driveway.

"But I have my bid number just in case," she said.

Today, Klein works at John Deere Financial, in Des Moines.

"I can't get away from John Deere," she said, grinning. "We'll always be green and yellow."

The sweet part of auction day was seeing people's excitement about buying the John Deeres, Klein said.

"I know the people buying them love them just as much as Grandpa did and they'll take care of them," she said.

Klein looked around, surrounded by her grandfather's tractors one last time.

"Obviously Grandpa is smiling because he sees himself in so many people today," she said. "I see a lot of my grandpa here."

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