Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
A group of innovators in the agricultural machinery field will gather in Havre this weekend, including a group with strong local ties the inventors of the Big Bud tractor. “To my knowledge this is the first attempt to bring all of them together and show them some appreciation,” said Ron Harmon, owner of Big Equipment Co. Of Havre. A reunion of Big Bud employees and an awards ceremony for original members of four companies that built four-wheel drive tractors, one starting 50 years ago will be held at Big Equipment Saturday, with an open house scheduled for Sunday. Those attending include Wilbur Hensler and Bud Nelson, the original producers of Big Buds, and Bill McNabb of the Wagner tractor company, as well as Doug Steiger of the Steiger line of tractors and Montana’s Dave Curtis, of the Curtis-Righte line. Harmon said Sunday will be the day for the general public to come and meet the manufacturers and see the information available the open house will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Big Equipment, on U.S. Highway 87 south of its intersection with U.S. Highway 2. Saturday is expected to be filled with the gathering of Big Bud employees and the honorees and their friends and families, Harmon said. It will start with a meet-and-greet period, followed by a dinner. “And then we will give some awards To the pioneers of the four-wheel drive tractor industry,” he said. There will be some displays and information about the tractors at the event including brochures and some films, he added, as well as a few actual tractors. The Big Bud 747, the largest tractor in the world, now owned by the Williams Brothers farm out of Big Sandy, will be at Big Equipment. Harmon said people come from as far as overseas to see that piece of machinery. The event will also display the tractor that started it all for Big Bud. “We’ll have Bud’s first tractor that he built in ’69,” Harmon said. Sunday will also be an opportunity for local residents to see Hensler and Nelson, who have been gone for quite a few years, Harmon added, although they still have ties to the area. That includes a special tie to Montana State University-Northern the Hensler Auditorium in the Applied Technology Center at the university is named for Wilbur Hensler, who was a major private contributor to the construction of the center earlier this decade. Harmon said the story starts with Wagner tractors. “The Wagner company is the grandfather of everybody, they were the first to build an articulated four-wheel drive tractor,” he said. That started in the 1950s. The Steiger line, now Case-IH, started manufacturing their line in the 1960s in a dairy barn in Thief River Falls, Minn., Harmon said. The Curtis-Righte line was the only other Montana-made articulated fourwheel drive tractor besides Big Bud, Harmon said. Curtis-Rightes were manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s, he added. The Wagner line was what led to the start of Havre’s own manufacturer, Big Bud. Wilbur Hensler was the local Wagner tractor dealer, until the company sold the rights to its tractor to John Deere, cutting out its distributors, Harmon said. Since Hensler could no longer sell Wagners, his employee Bud Nelson from whom comes the name “Big Bud” designed his own four-wheel drive articulated tractor and Northern Equipment started manufacturing them and selling them from Havre. In 1975, Harmon bought the company, manufacturing the tractors including the Big Bud 747, the largest tractor in the world until a problem obtaining transmissions for the farm vehicles pretty well shut the company down. The company produced 550 four-wheel drive tractors before stopping production in the 1980s, most of which are still in operation around the world. Harmon now operates Big Equipment, primarily repairing, reconditioning and reselling large farm equipment including Big Buds around the world. He was awarded the title Montana Exporter of the Year by the Small Business Administration in May.