YOU can’t imagine this collection unless you’ve seen it, but try for a minute.
You’re at Chuck Plott’s farm in Southington, Ohio, out back in a 60-by-150 building that, from the outside, just looks like part of his meat processing business and retail store.
Step inside and be amazed.
Right in front of you, angled one after the other down the center of the building are five Ferguson Model 40s. Each the color of butter, their wheels slippery black, they gleam under the fluorescent lights and you think for a moment you must be in a showroom, not at a farm.
Notice the others, the Fergusons, the Massey-Fergusons, the Ford-Fergusons, all backed into their spots with their 1950s bulbous headlights staring at you, each so perfectly polished that you wonder if their last coat of paint is even dry.
Then you begin noticing the rest.
The 12-foot pallets stretching the length of the building, each shelf stair-stepped so you can see layer-upon-layer of Plott’s collection.
The wire racks almost reaching the building’s opposite end, filled with promotional information from Ferguson, John Deere and New Holland, each sitting under thick protective plastic with strips of high-wattage track lighting overhead.
The ancient sewing machines, cream separators, carpenters’ boxes, husking picks, hog hooks, cider presses, ice skates.
This is supposed to be a collection of Ferguson tractors and equipment, but you quietly think that Chuck Plott must’ve got carried away.
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The first thing that hits you, after you get over the sheer amount of stuff in here, is the perfection.
Everything is scrubbed and painted and dusted and scrubbed again and organized.
The wrenches nailed to the walls make patterns like a kaleidoscope, the axes fan out in a perfect circle. An old mug collection suspends from the pitched ceiling, each hook a perfect foot from the next. Hydraulic lines hang on another wall, yellowed tags dangling from each with the original part numbers.
These may all be antiques, but the grime and grit of age are scrubbed away. And that rare piece not restored, well, you can bet it was done that way on purpose. Plott probably wanted you to see the stark difference between the dingy, disassembled Ford Ferguson 9N versus the gleaming gray brilliance of his other Ford Ferguson 9Ns.
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Something else jumps out at you during this cursory glance.
There’s a parts store here … and a mechanics’ shop.
Looking closer, you see the wooden cash register, the old phone, the adding machine, the ancient Ferguson dealer signs. And you think … it’s been decades since “Ferguson” stood alone in the name Massey-Ferguson.
Then it’s clear. Even the parts and mechanics’ shops are restored.
Aisles and shelves filled with soiled boxes of screws and fittings and equipment parts. Faded catalogues with the technical descriptions, tins filled with hydraulic oil. Go into any AutoZone, step up to the counter and imagine how it might’ve looked 50 years ago before things got fancy, and that’s what you see here at Chuck Plott’s.
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That’s by no means the complete tour.
It’s just the beginning of what Plott has put together in the last 25 years at his farm.
He didn’t necessarily mean for all this to happen.
In fact, when his father died in 1970, Plott had such little interest in it that he sold his father’s equipment dealership. Instead, Plott focused on his burgeoning meat processing operation.
His past caught up with him 10 years later. At a show in Kirtland, Ohio, Plott was looking for antique collectors who wouldn’t mind bringing their tractors to his farm for a customer appreciation day.
Instead, he came home with a case of “antique-itis.”
By the time he was ready to restore his first tractor, he had five more waiting their turns.
The disease, as he calls it, had taken over.
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By 2000, Plott knew there would be no cure and he wasn’t interested in finding one. He’d continued amassing antiques and filling his toolsheds and barn and a semitrailer back home, and he’d even started going to tractor shows himself.
It was at one of these shows in Dover, Ohio, where Plott first heard the name Emil White. A mechanic who worked for White introduced himself to Plott and told his boss’ story.
White was 86, living in Uniopolis, Ohio, and had been a Ferguson dealer. His wife was dead, his family gone, and no one wanted the business he’d spent his lifetime creating. He figured he’d end up digging a pit and burying it all.
Plott first thought of his father – was this how he’d felt too? – and then took off for western Ohio.
He bought everything – even the mismatched parts, the tiny boxes of screws, and the “White Tractor Sales” sign.
Plott took it home in load after load and re-created White’s parts and mechanics’ shops.
In 2002, White visited Plott. Leaning on his cane, White walked down the aisles and fumbled through the bins. It was all there.
Afterward, he stopped at the cash register, his cash register, and cried.
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Word of Plott’s spot spread quickly and nowadays he’s hosting tractor clubs, antique buffs, church meetings and Christmas parties. He’s getting calls for group tours, individual tours and even hosting the national Ferguson collectors’ club.
And the more people who come here, the faster his collection grows.
Many Sunday mornings he’s greeted with cardboard boxes outside the door, filled with antiques. People go to Saturday auctions and pick up things they think Plott might like, then leave them anonymously.
Plott still keeps an eye on the auctions, though. But these days he can’t show up at the sales himself because the auctioneers have him figured out, Plott says; they know he’s not going to leave without what he came there for, so they drive the price up on purpose.
Plott’s on to them now, so he sends his “bird dogs” instead.
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This isn’t a museum. Plott is adamant about that. But it sure seems like one.
And Plott is the ultimate tour guide.
He pops one mint in his mouth and one in his pocket before he begins. Once he starts, there’s no stopping him; he could say it all even if he was blindfolded.
You might be overwhelmed if you were on your own, not knowing where to look first. But Plott slows you down, points out the most unique items, shows you how they work, makes jokes at the precise moments, and at the end asks what you enjoyed the most.
That, of course, would have to be the tractors.
“Did you really restore all of them yourself?” you wonder.
“I get some help here and there,” he would answer. “When I get done with the yellow paint and put on that red decal, the last emblem, I step back and then I just want to go hug it. Then I decide who to do next.”
It’s all part of the disease, he’d tell you.
“You know it’s really too late when you’re going 70 mph down the interstate and 2,000 feet off into the woods, you spot an exhaust pipe.”
And you stop for it.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A chance to see the collection