So, before anybody starts emailing me about the IH 1086 in the photos in this week’s Interesting Iron, it’s not for sale.
Nope, this particular IH 1086 was only sold twice. Once when it was new in 1977, and again on an auction in September of 2020. It won’t sell again in any of our lifetimes, I can promise you that.
As of today, September 7, 2022, we’ve got a total of eight 1086s listed on Tractor Zoom.
Okay Interesting Iron guy, why tell us a story about a tractor that’s not up for grabs at an auction or a dealer? What gives?
Well, because I’m kind of a romantic at heart. Yep, this week’s Interesting Iron is all about why sometimes, it’s not about the money – because it’s not what matters most.
It’s also about two dear friends of mine – Sam & Rae Lynn – who met (and fell in love) through tractor pulling. And this past Saturday, my wife and I went to their wedding!
Let’s dig in.
Sam Kelley and I go back a few years. I met him in the summer of 2016 when I started traveling a little more to take photos of truck and tractor pulling in the Midwest. He was on staff with the PPL Western Series, so we saw each other quite a bit and become good friends.
Sam is a 4th generation farmer from Western MO – sort of. Farming runs deep in his family’s roots (on both sides), but it skipped his dad’s generation for a little while. Keith Kelley is a technology director for a school district, and Mom is a teacher. During the off-hours, though, he’s helped Sam get his farm started on the right foot, so in my mind it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Keith is a farmer too.
For Sam, though, his mind was about made up by the time he was 5 or 6. It was either that or play baseball for the Kansas City Royals. However, being the practical guy that he is, farming was the better choice. His grandfathers played a pivotal role in that – especially his Grandpa Marvin Luke. Marvin & Sam were pretty much inseparable when Sam was growing up.
Marvin taught Sam all about farming. His operation wasn’t huge, but with corn, beans, hay, and a cow/calf operation, it kept them busy. As such, Sam took on responsibilities fairly early in life. He told me once that when he started running the combine for Grandpa Luke, they had to put a weight on the seat of the Case IH combine so that the emergency brake didn’t kick off!
As I understand it, one of Marvin Luke’s cardinal rules was that the equipment always went in the shed at night. He believed pretty strongly that if you took good care of your equipment, it would take good care of you. That’s a good rule of thumb for any size operation in my book. He always farmed with smaller equipment – nothing bigger than those 1086s, a Kinze 2600 6/11-split row planter, a 15′ John Deere 750 grain drill, and a Case IH 1666 combine. Everything was fairly small, but it was always well cared-for.
The 1086s – a 1977 and a 1978 – were always the workhorses. Marvin Luke bought the one in the foreground brand new in 1977 (I believe it came from Lawson Truck & Tractor in Stanberry, MO), and then added the second one a couple of years later. They’d both had some fuel pump work done (the 1978 ran a fair bit hotter than factory stock), but both were always treated with respect. Neither of those tractors were the weekend hot rods; Grandpa Luke had a pulling tractor to scratch that itch. (More on that in a second…)
The one that Sam really loved was the 1977 model, mainly because it was the one that was bought new. It had 9500-some-odd hours on it, and it had been overhauled once. It had also been repainted by Scott Hill (Rea, MO), and Kevin Holtmann (and exceptionally talented restorer) had gone through the interior as well. At the end of the day, it was definitely the nicer of the two, despite having higher hours (the 1978 had 8600, the 1977 had 9500).
Pulling is a part of life in a lot of northwest Missouri where Sam’s from, and Grandpa Luke loved to do it, too. He started with a Farmall 560, and then eventually built a Pro Field tractor wearing 66-series sheet metal. After he’d had his fun with the Pro Field tractor, it went to Illinois where the new owner used a few pieces and parts of it in a big time Super Farm tractor!
He never did get rid of the 560, though. It’s still in his shed today, and although it’s been returned to stock(ish), it’s still probably a little hotter than your average 560. It’s a great little tractor ride tractor!
Anyway, enough about pulling tractors for now.
Late in 2019, Sam told me that Grandpa Luke had decided to retire. By then, Sam was farming a little on his own, and there were plans for him to farm some of the family’s ground the following year. Rod Dollars, a local auctioneer, was to host the auction in late March of 2020.
He also wanted to know what 1086s were going for. He told me that he wanted the 1977 model. It was the one that had been on the farm the longest, and it was special to him. I told him what they typically brought (at the time, $15K would buy you a pretty nice one). I also promised him that we’d work with Rod to get the auction listed on TZ as soon as the catalog was ready.
Then about a month after we had that conversation, the pandemic hit and turned everybody’s world upside down.
The auction, which was originally scheduled for March 28, had to be postponed. The new sale date was to be September 19.
So, Sam went on to farm that ground, and spring planting went off without a hitch. We went pulling together quite a bit that summer, talked auctions and farming, and so on. As the auction grew closer, I knew he had a number in his head for the tractor, but I didn’t know what it was. (I still don’t.)
The day of the auction, when Sam got to the farm, people he didn’t know were looking over the 1086s pretty carefully. That was when it all got very real for him – and honestly, I don’t think it had sunk in until that morning. (I can totally understand why, and I suspect some of you can, too.)
Now, Sam’s a pretty methodical guy. He thinks things through, doesn’t make impulsive decisions, and doesn’t get rattled real easily. But the thought of the 1086 in the foreground going home on somebody else’s trailer…that rattled him. And right then and there, he made a promise to himself.
They can buy everything else on the auction, but the 1977 model IH 1086 stays put.
That one is mine.
And it did stay put. But it didn’t come cheap.
When it came time for the 1977 model to sell, the locals (who all knew that Sam wanted this one) did the honorable thing. They stepped back and kept their hands in their pockets. However, there was one other bidder. Sam doesn’t know who he was, but I got the impression that he was from out of town. And he wanted that tractor pretty badly, too. The bidding went back and forth for what seemed like an eternity, but Sam wasn’t about to break the promise he made to himself.
So he kept bidding.
So did the other guy.
Back and forth they went until finally, the other guy threw in the towel.
When the hammer dropped, Rod smiled as he said, “I’m happy to say that this one is staying in the family.”
Sam told me that as soon as the hammer fell, he turned and looked at Grandpa & Grandma Luke. “Ryan, I don’t think I’ve ever seen bigger smiles from them in all my life than I did that day,” he told me.
The final sale price?
The day of the auction, I was at a tractor pull in Nashville, IL – one that he normally would’ve been on staff for. A bunch of us were hoping to hear good news, and once we did, it traveled pretty fast. I don’t know many pullers who don’t have a special place in their hearts for family tractors, and knowing that he did what it took to keep one in the family? That made us all very proud of him.
Sam didn’t waste time in putting the tractor back to work; he couldn’t. It was harvest time!
Sam once posted a photo on social media and told a little bit of the story, and of course, the critics came out about as fast as the congratulations. People said he was foolish for spending what he spent on a 1086, and others tried to fault Marvin for not selling it to him privately because it was a family thing. And to his credit, Sam handled it all very well. I wouldn’t have. I’d have probably snapped back with something snarky (and I know he wanted to).
Keeping that 1086 in the family was what mattered most.
Here’s where we go back to pulling, and the events of this past weekend.
Remember how I mentioned that this story was about two dear friends of mine, and how there was a love story entangled in all of this?
Let’s talk about that for a minute.
Exactly five years ago tomorrow, at a tractor pull at the Putnam County Fair in Unionville, MO, Sam met Rae Lynn. She eventually stole his heart, and as of last Saturday…his last name.
I know this for fact, because I was there that night, and I took the first photo of the two of them together!
It was Rae Lynn’s first night on staff at a PPL Western Series show, and boy, was her head spinning. She caught on quick, though, and before long, she was a pretty integral member of the team.
Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t like they fell for each other right away. They became friends, but like any coworkers in a high-stress job, they butted heads here and there. The funniest part was that they couldn’t see what all the rest of us saw pretty much right away…that they were perfect for each other! All of us in their pulling family dropped hints – staff, photographer/media people like me, competitors…everybody!
I’m pretty sure Rae Lynn fell for him first, but being a typical guy, I don’t think Sam saw it coming. I can say that because I’m a typical guy and I didn’t see it coming when I met Kara, either. Just before Christmas in 2020 (and possibly with a little liquid courage), they finally opened up to one another.
I was probably the first to know mainly because I made a snarky comment to her one night just after it had happened (I didn’t know at the time), and she called me and yelled, “WHO TOLD YOU????”
I started laughing and replied, “You did, honey. Just now. It’s about frickin’ time you two finally saw the light!” (And I’m pretty sure everybody else said the same thing, too.)
About three weeks ago, Sam spent gobs and gobs of time getting his IH 1086 and his Farmall H pedal tractor polished up and ready, because they both had important jobs this past Saturday.
After the minister had proclaimed them hitched, one of the ringbearers took his baby sister out of the church in a little wagon hitched up to the pedal tractor. It was super-cute. On the other hand, we didn’t see the 1086 until we got to the reception.
I think that in Sam’s head, he thought it’d be really cool to leave the wedding reception in that tractor. However, if you’ve ever been in an IH 1086 (or any of the 86-series tractors), you know they’re a little tight on space. They’ve got levers on both sides of the cab, too, which would NOT be easy to deal with in a big floofy wedding dress! So, I think common sense took over and Sam decided that it would just sit there and look pretty…which it definitely did.
I know Sam’s story isn’t unique, but I always have (and always will) admire a man who feels that strongly about his family’s heritage. At the end of the day, long after Grandpa Luke has taught his last lesson, Sam will still remember what he learned in that cab. And God willing, someday he’ll teach his kids some life lessons in the cab of that tractor.
The story of Sam and Grandpa Luke and the IH 1086 has been a LONG time in the making. I’ve wanted to tell it for nearly two years now! But, when “Sam” became “Sam & Rae Lynn”, I had a sneaking suspicion that if I waited just a little bit longer, the story would be that much more fun! It turns out that I was right!
So, congratulations, Sam & Rae Lynn. Your pulling family loves you, and we’re so happy for you both!
Oh…one more thing. Remember when I said that Sam got the farming blood from both sides of the family? Well, the other half farmed green…and there’s only one green tractor Sam will ever have his eye on. This beautiful Sound Gard 4440 that his Grandma Kelley owns!
Here are photos of a couple 1086s currently listed on Tractor Zoom. Hit the link above to see them all (including one that came from Stew Paquette’s collection down in Florida).