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4 Bloomington seniors restore antique tractor (video)

By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.COM
Feb. 23, 2013 at 5 p.m.
Updated Feb. 22, 2013 at 8:23 p.m.

Ruben Aguirre, 17, and Nathanial Sanchez, 17, work on the newly attached starter on the 1946 John Deere tractor. Ruben has shown hogs in the past as part of FFA, but this is the first time anyone in the group is taken part in a project like this.

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Four Bloomington High School students are hoping the John Deere tractor they're restoring will soon look just like it did when it rolled off the manufacturer's showroom floor in 1946.

Ruben Aguirre, 17, Keanu Escamilla, 17, Zach Depine, 18, and Nathaniel Sanchez, 17, have been toiling away - sometimes for 30 hours a week - in a worn, yellow garage abuzz with the sound of whirring tools and students' chatter to breathe new life into the once essential farm tool. They juggle this atop other commitments, such as raising animals, doing homework or playing for various sporting teams.

Zach got the idea to restore the tractor after he discovered it sitting unused on his family's 5,000-acre farm in DaCosta.

"This is my last year. I might as well go out with a bang," Zach said.

The group's first-year teacher Jeremy Wamsley hopes the expensive project will garner some interest in a school's somewhat stagnant agriculture mechanic's program. Only 10 of the 111 students enrolled participate in events, such as the Victoria Livestock Show.

Wamsley has watched the boys hunt down hard-to-find parts on eBay and overseen donations to get the tractor up and running.

Overall, he said, they've got an edge on the competition.

"With today's economy, not many people can afford to do one of these," he said of the thousands of dollars worth of tires and welding materials generously gifted.

The boys, meanwhile, aren't worried about the glory, but rather what it means for their future. Ruben, who plans to enlist in the Marines after graduation, said it has taught him teamwork.

"We're pretty confident. The hard part is just getting the new things and putting them together," Ruben said. "Once we're past that, we can get it together really fast."

Zach said he's falling in line with a family tradition - farming.

"The two usually go hand in hand," he said, smiling.

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