By Ben Orcutt -- firstname.lastname@example.org
CHESTER GAP -- American folk hero Will Rogers is credited with saying he never met a man he didn't like. In the case of Larry Andrews, it can be safely said that he probably never saw a John Deere tractor he didn't like.
Andrews, 61, and his wife, Cindy, 56, live on a 650-acre farm in Warren County they call County Line Farm because it borders Fauquier County. The couple have three grown children and eight grandchildren.
In addition to being a farmer -- Andrews has 100 beef cattle -- and a developer, he's also the pastor of Grace Bible Fellowship Church.
"I kind of slowed down a little bit, quit building 15 years ago and said, 'Well, I'm just going to try to farm, develop and work the church' and then my wife wanted me to get a hobby to relieve some stress," Andrews said recently. "I started with one tractor and then it went from there. She has no idea how many I got. She doesn't count them, but she knows there's quite a few out here."
At last count Andrews had 41, which is OK with his wife, who says his hobby is a good stress reliever for him and helps make for a happier marriage for both of them.
"He's had [the tractor collecting hobby] for years," Mrs. Andrews said. "He's been fascinated by them. He just really enjoys it."
While Andrews puts the church and his family before the tractors, he readily admits the farm vehicles have a special place in his heart. He grew up riding a tractor and started working when he was 11.
"We'd get up at 7 o'clock in the morning, drive to the field and get on one and start mowing the field," Andrews said. "Stayed there all day long and go in and eat supper and go back until dark."
Just as an avid baseball card collector can rattle off players' statistics, Andrews can do the same with his tractors -- barking out model numbers as he walks through a 5,000-square-foot building that houses the majority of his collection.
Walking over to a 1934 A tractor, Andrews talks about some of the history.
"These tractors started on gasoline," he said. "They started on gas and then they switched over to kerosene because kerosene was 8-cent a gallon or something like that back in the '30s."
"There's another unique story about the seats, and I read this in a John Deere book," he said. "How they came up with the size of the seat, they said that at the factory, they picked the guy with the largest rear end and had him sit in a plaster mold."
Andrews is proud of a 330 series John Deere that he bought for $24,000. He won't hesitate to go wherever he can to find a good deal.
"I've been as far as Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana," he said, adding that he's probably left out a few states that he's traveled to in pursuit of a tractor.
"I went to a sale out in Madison, Wis., last year," Andrews said. "I took $20,000 and I wanted to buy a 1919 N. It was restored. But I was just a little bit off on my price. It sold for $167,500."
Andrews is a stickler for keeping his tractors in good running order and looking sharp.
"When I get through my hay season, we usually wash them two or three times a year, so we pull them all out of the building, clean the floor, wash them all down," Andrews said. "We run them about once every 30 to 45 days. If it's a gasoline tractor, we keep just a little bit of gasoline in it so that every time that we're running it, we're putting fresh gas in it. If it's a gas, the gas is turned off so it doesn't leak down through the tractor. These things are uniquely designed and a lot of people don't know that the John Deere diesel motors were some of the most fuel-efficient motors ever made."
By the 1960s, John Deere came out with what's referred to as its "new generation" of tractors, Andrews said, which consisted of four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines.
"Some of these things you can't replace," Andrews said. "You can still buy seats and different things. You can actually take one of these tractors and go online and you could sell the steering wheel, parts off the motor, the wheel, and you could get probably two to three times as much by parting it out than you can what these tractors sell for because people are trying to put an original back together."
Andrews has a workshop in one corner of his building with loads of tools and John Deere shop manuals. Mostly self-taught, he is proud of the fact he can take a tractor apart and put it back together.
"The part that really means something is when you take it apart, something's not working right and you fix it and put it back together and it works," Andrews said. "That means a lot. Some things I cannot do that well so I find a person. If I've got to weld a plate on a transmission and it has to perfectly fit and I can't do it, then I'll find somebody that can make that for me. Now when I put all that back together and it runs ..."
Over the years, the green and yellow John Deere tractors have earned a strong reputation, Andrews said.
"John Deere in somewhere in the mid-'50s, the two-cylinder was so good a tractor and people knew it," Andrews said. "You could buy that tractor [and with] a monkey wrench and a pair of pliers and a screwdriver, you could run it all day long. They were durable. They lasted. So they sold themselves, and then people, as time went on, bought into that John Deere green and yellow. ... John Deere is the Cadillac of farm equipment. You pay for them, but you get a good piece of equipment."
Andrews said he can close his eyes and tell by the sound of the motor if it's a John Deere tractor.
"Yeah, especially these two-cylinder [ones]," he said.
There doesn't appear to be a whole lot of room left for more tractors in the building, and Andrews said he's open to perhaps adding another building to house more.
Asked if his wife were to discover he had died on a tractor or in the tractor building, and if they would both be satisfied with that ending, Andrews replied, "Yeah. We'll be comfortable with what happened."