A Ride for Russel


Sometimes something is just so right that you just have to be a part of it. That was the way it was with the tractor drive in honor of our friend Russel Miner.  Russel lived on acreage with the wonderful name “What Next Farm” in rural Pleasant Plains. This antique tractor collector passed away on March 14, 2022. The Sangamon County Fair Tractor Drive put on by the Farm Bureau Young Leaders planned their annual drive in his honor. His family and friends came out to make a fun day remembering this man that loved to smile and tell stories.

Group that went on the Ride for Russel

Billie and Russel

Billie Miner with her grandson Gary Reavis.

Besides the tractors, there was also a people mover that was part of the drive. Along with many members of Russel’s family, his wife Billie was on the mover. With the sun in the sky and a slight breeze, the drive left the New Berlin High school and headed to the Miner’s homestead. Our friend Bud Redeford said it best when he said it was like he was looking down on the day and that he planned the weather.

Bud said Russel planned the weather from above.
The drive underway!

On the return trip, we sat next to Bille. She grew up in this part of the country and waved to her sister and pointed out friends along the way. Billie said, “Russel was from the Nortonville, Franklin area. He said (about their farm near Pleasant Plains) this was as long as he ever lived in one place.”

Billie said she met Russel on the 4th of July in Franklin, then later saw him before he went into the service. He served in the Army. Then they married on February 11, 1955. Together they had two daughters and they have five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

My memory

Over the years we knew the Miners as collectors of varied tractors from their Pennsylvania Panzer to their Graham Bradley. However, what sticks so freshly in my memory is the innate kindness of the two of them. Once at the Argyle State Park during a tractor show, our daughter, Allie was around four or five. She was bored, and hot. Billie and Russel invited her to come over to their campground. They entertained her and made her day. Taking time with a child was just one of the ways they showed their patience, kindness and tractor family inclusion.

Memories of Russel

At the tractor drive I asked others that were there about their memories of Russel. Don Nowak, said, “I remember when he tractor pulled. He would jump up and down on his seat to make it bite more.”

Carl Davis said when Russel would come to the Prairieland show and bring a garden tractor, “You never knew what he’d bring, that’s why he called it “What’s Next Farm”!”

Dale Lair added that Billie and Russel always loved to go to shows, and that Russel said, “Don’t ever price a tractor, if you don’t want to sell it.” Sage advice!

Audie Alexander said, “He was just one to run the river with. We went to Highschool together and had AG together. We played basketball; Russel was always a good person. He and Billie are both super people.”

Rick Shaw on his tractor in the drive.

Rick Shaw also wrote about this event on his blog Antique Iron Media. He has a new book coming out soon titled New Perspectives! He said he learned about Graham Bradley’s from Russel.

More recollections!

Collector Dave Kemp recalls taking Russel to tractor meetings. “He had a story every way, there and here. We farmed on North Tower Road, and Russel on Miner Road, so we were neighbors. Russel was a father figure to me.”

Wayne Ladage and other drivers in the background!

Wayne Ladage remembers a memory from childhood about Russel. He remembers going with his dad when he worked for Morgan’s Farm Equipment to deliver a John Deere 4020 to Russel. “As soon as Russel heard they were going to build a 4020, he ordered one. I could write a book about the ride in the 1947 Flatbed Dodge which had an engine that would get hot if overloaded.”

Lloyd Frazee brought a tractor, a Massey Pony. He had purchased the tractor from Russel, and he brought it to drive in the tractor drive. He added, “Russel used to tell stories about when he was an insurance adjuster, he used to repeat stories too,” he laughed.

Leahy Bennett before the tractor drive.

Leahy Bennett who now farms Russel and Billie’s ground and was driving the first Farmall H he ever drove in the drive, he said, “He and my father went through the Army together. Russel took me to the Star Cafe in Beardstown when I was just a little guy. I told my father he should be a politician. Dad said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because he knew everyone in the cafe.’ I didn’t know you could know everyone that far from home.”

Leahy added, “Russel was like a dad to me, a mentor. When I was a boy, I looked forward to Russel coming by and taking me to the elevator, etc.”

Here again is that kindness to children, early on!

Jim Savage shared memories of Russel.

Jim Savage said, “Russel was a good friend. My dad set him up in housekeeping and said, ‘Pay me in the fall’. He did no till planting for me, and said he wanted to return the favor.”

Tractors and family

There were all brands of tractors in the drive and several that had belonged to Russel. One of those was a 1934 Model A Doodlebug, that Eric Smith got from Russel, who was his grandfather. “He bought it off the east coast it was used on a vegetable farm.”

This beautiful Doodlebug once belonged to his grandpa, now his grandson Eric Smith is driving it!

When asked about his grandpa, Eric said, “He would talk to anybody, everyone was his friend.”

That pretty much said it all about this day. Russel was a friend to everyone. Billie still is, pointing out friends and family and making sure that everyone was comfortable and knew everyone on the drive.

The tractor family is an inclusive one, and people like the Miner’s remind us why this hobby is the greatest!

When we wound up the day the 2022 Sangamon County Fair Queen Meadow Sporror posed in front of a variety of tractors. Rick Shaw took a great picture of this!

Rick Shaw’s picture of the Sangamon County Queen!

If you liked this article, you may enjoy other tractor drive articles as well.

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