Mantua, Ohio – A legend in the tractor-pulling community, Don McCarthy, will climb aboard his 1957 John Deere 620 for the last time July 19 during the classics pull at the Mantua Ox Roast. The trouble is, half an hour after the pull is over, Don won’t remember whether he won or lost.
Both Don and his wife of more than half a century, Barbara, have Alzheimer’s disease. And while Don’s physical health remains good and his memory still comes and goes, Barb is now mentally and physically debilitated, with little time left to her, according to her doctors. The McCarthys’ son, David, recently moved from his home in Virginia to help care for his parents.
Kept one tractor. To pay medical bills and living expenses, Don and his family have sold virtually all of their farm equipment and about half of their 200 acres. They will soon sell the remainder. One of the last pieces of equipment to go was Don’s John Deere 620, which the family kept for its sentimental value.
In the end, however, they offered the tractor to their longtime friend and Nelson Township neighbor Jim Turos, who collects tractors.
Successful puller. “That tractor and Don pulled all over, from Aliquippa, Pa., to Greene Township and at every county fair you could name,” Turos said recently. “I remember watching him pull in Mantua when I was only 7.”
McCarthy pulled – usually successfully – at meets from the 1950s until well into the 1990s. McCarthy himself sometimes remembers those days, too.
“Most couldn’t even get up close to me,” he said proudly as he posed for pictures with his old tractor in front of the Turos farm. “The secret was to make sure they worked good.”
At the time the 640 changed owners, however, it was not working at all, it wouldn’t run and its tires were shot. And for awhile it sat in one corner of Turos’ barn. But after Jim had received a couple of offers to sell it – one from a John Deere dealer – Turos said he got to thinking.
“That was not my intent in taking the tractor,” Turos said. “This was Don’s only hobby, and this tractor meant a lot to him.”
One more pull. It was then that Turos came up with the idea of fixing up the 640 so that McCarthy could have one more pull.
“Don was a legend in his day, so everyone pitched in to help,” Turos said, including Don Craver, Mike Paul of Valley Tires, Ox Roast officials and auctioneer Darryl McGuire. As soon as McCarthy completes his pull on at the Mantua Ox Roast July 19, his tractor will be driven back onto the track and auctioned off by McGuire, who is waiving his fee. The proceeds will then go to Don and Barb.
Background. The McCarthys were born within two months of each other, 72 years ago, in Newton Falls. They married in 1949 and in 1963 bought a farm in Nelson Township, where they have lived ever since, raising three sons and a daughter.
They began with dairy cows, some years milking up to 120 head. In the late 1960s, Don opened McCarthy Implement on Brosius Road and later operated M & S Ag Supply. Meanwhile, the McCarthys shifted from dairy to grain, with nearly 1,000 acres under cultivation in the late 1970s.
For many years, Don served as a 4-H adviser, helping hundreds of area youngsters, including Turos. When zoning became the law of Nelson Township, McCarthy served on its first zoning board.
He continued farming until two years ago, when the onset of Alzheimer’s ended his career.
He will say good-bye to his tractor and his favorite sport during the Classic Tractor Pull at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 19, at the St. Joseph’s Ox Roast in Mantua.
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