Nothin' Runs like a Deere
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Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

I’m not a big John Deere supporter. It could be my perspective is mere sour grapes born of the fact I can’t afford their shade of green. There is however, one small exception when I really do like ‘Deere products.

 

In 1975 my brother, David, was working in Fordville, North Dakota for Casement Implement. Casement was a John Deere dealer and had a new product to sell, the snowmobile. The Horicon Works (part of John Deere) began development of Deere’s first snowmobile in 1969 followed by the first production model in 1971. The first models were the 300 and 400 (my parents purchased a 300) and were followed in 1972 by the JDX4, JDX8 and 600. The 1971 snowmobile line also introduced a new marketing phrase, “nothin’ runs like a Deere. “ It’s seems a little crazy that a huge agricultural company would produce recreational vehicles, but consider that John Deere already had a network for dealers, parts and service departments that needed Winter work and the concept gains sanity.

Brother Dave drove both a JDX8 and a 295S racing model in the North Dakota in Langdon, Grafton and during Hatton Days. Dave trained by driving from our place in Viking to Fordville. John Deere later began “Enduro Team Deere” to champion their snowmobiles on the racing circuit. Going to school at Viking (Minnesota) Elementary, one of our holidays was to load the school into buses and watch the International 500 snowmobile race. In my class of 28 there were twelve Arctic Cat fans, eight Polaris fans, four Ski-Doo supporters, three pulling for Moto-Ski and me. In 1976, Brian Nelson won the I-500 on a John Deere Liquidator and brought me vindication for those years of teasing I suffered by those with no vision. Brian Nelson immediately gained status with me formerly reserved for Alan Page of the Minnesota Vikings. Brian currently conducts tours in Montana and Idaho from his home base in Spicer, Minnesota and was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 2000.

The John Deere snowmobile meant freedom for me. I loved the farm but a little distance makes you appreciate what you love. I could only drive around the section but there was enough snow so I could drive anywhere on that 640 acres. Nights spent on an inland sea of snow fired my imagination and taught me how your perspective changes and mind clears without the rattle of life and work. Starting a snowmobile before advanced electronic ignitions required determination and commitment but great reward awaited those efforts. I remember topping out the speedometer at 45 miles per hour on a long stretch of field road. Today you would be left behind at that speed.

My wife and I don’t own a snowmobile today although we both have a snowcatting history. Lisa’s family made long rides with campfires and food but today we stay close to the farm. The reality of the situation is that after moving snow and feeding cattle I’d rather ride our corn stove than a snowmobile. But I still have some pictures, some memories and that great day in 1976 with Brian, the Liquidator and twenty-seven dumbfounded classmates.