WILLMAR, Minn. — Handling the threadbare ledger with care, Charlie Haug points to the handwritten script documenting where his great-grandfather sold a brand new 1961 John Deere 4010 tractor from his Haug Implement business to a Raymond farmer named Harland Hauser.
Three years ago Charlie and his grandfather went back to the Hauser farm, purchased the tractor and brought it back home to Haug Implement and began a long renovation project.
This year, Charlie, who is 16 and a junior in the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg School District, finished the project and won FFA grand champion awards for his efforts at the Kandiyohi County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair.
“That’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, that’s for sure,” he said of winning the top awards for the FFA ag mechanics division.
Getting the tractor to its current shiny green state involved searching for many replacement parts at scrap yards. “More parts than I want to know,” said Charlie. And it consumed “more hours than I want to know.”
The end result was well worth it, said Charlie, the fifth-generation Haug to work in the 101-year-old family-owned implement business that started in Pennock, moved to Kerkhoven and has been located in Willmar since 1971.
The family has re-purchased and renovated other tractors originally sold by the business, including a 1929 GP John Deere that has steel wheels. That tractor was put on a float for parades celebrating the company’s 100th anniversary.
Knowing that the 4010 was still owned by the Hauser family, the Haugs had been interested in buying the tractor back to return it to the Haug fleet.
“We were lucky enough that Charlie had the interest to restore it,” said Paal Haug, Charlie’s dad. “It’s been kind of a family project and it’s been a whole lot of fun.”
Charlie was just 13 years old when he and his grandfather, Butch Haug, went to the Hauser farm to look at the tractor.
“It was in pretty rough shape, but I could see it had potential,” said Charlie.
“There was not a lot of paint left on it and no seat left and it hadn’t ran for 10-15 years,” he said. “Everything just looked pretty shot about it.”
He and his grandpa loaded up the tractor that day and brought it back to the shop in Willmar.
“He was pretty excited that we would have a project we could do together,” Charlie said of his grandfather.
Within a couple days of buying the tractor, Charlie got the sheet metal cleaned up, replaced the fuel and batteries and tried to fire it up. “I started it up just to see if she would run, and she did.”
Knowing that he had a good piece of equipment to work with, Charlie removed parts in earnest and replaced them with new and salvaged pieces.
“As I started getting into it I knew what I needed,” he said.
After he got everything in working order, he separated the rear-end of the tractor from the front end and refurbished the clutch and power take off, rebuilt the engine and put in pistons, rods and bearings.
The project involved untold hours of time that brought Charlie, his dad and grandpa together.
“A lot of time,” Charlie said. “After school. After work. Early mornings. Whenever I could I tried to work on it, and that’s hard to do with our life.”
They got the tractor in perfect working order, but he said it was still “kind of ugly” with the old, faded and chipped paint.
Charlie said he used it for about a year raking hay on the family farm, FFA plowing competitions and tractor pulls before giving it the beauty treatment.
In April of this year Charlie took off the sheet metal hood and fenders and started sand-blasting it and preparing it for painting.
The sheet metal was sent to a professional painter but Charlie, with help from his father and grandfather, painted the rest of the tractor in John Deere green.
When the final pieces were put back on Charlie said he “didn’t even recognize” the tractor.
“I was so excited. That was a cool day,” he said. “It just didn’t look anything like it did before.”
And what did his grandpa say when he saw the old tractor that looked like the brand new model that was sold from the implement lot 58 years ago?
“Well, he told me, ‘it looks pretty nice, Charlie.’ That’s about all he said, but I could see he was pretty excited.”
Standing beside his tractor, which is stored at Haug Implement, Charlie said the three years he invested in the project was “all worth it.”