Yoakum senior restores 75-year old tractor

Yoakum High School senior Seth Hanzelka, 18, restored a 1945 tractor for the annual Yoakum FFA livestock show. He presented his restored tractor to judges Friday and Saturday at the Yoakum Rodeo Arena.

YOAKUM – Seth Hanzelka, 18, spent at least 1,500 hours restoring a 1945 tractor.

“It was a top-to-bottom, inside-and-out restoration,” said the Yoakum High School senior.

Hanzelka competed in the annual Yoakum Livestock Show Friday and Saturday and brought home Grand Champion titles for his agricultural mechanic restoration and his his goat: Goat No. 10.

About 75 students competed in the annual competition, Future Farmers of America adviser Laura Johnson said. The students range from Yoakum High School students down to the elementary level.

They showed rabbits, goats, hogs, boilers and mechanical projects Friday and Saturday at the Yoakum Rodeo Arena.

Hanzelka has been around tractors his whole life. For as long as he can remember, his grandfather bought and restored old tractors.

It only seemed fitting to try it himself.

“I wanted to make it exactly like it came off the assembly line,” he said, while standing in front of his gleaming red tractor.

His grandfather bought the tractor a few years ago, and he never got to restore it to its former glory, Hanzelka said.

“I had no comprehension of what I was getting into,” he said.

He started working on the project in 2018 and finished it in late 2019 before presenting it to judges.

“I feel like it’s been a really big triumph in my life,” Hanzelka said.

The Hanzelka family has been apart of the livestock circuit for 11 years now, mother Dianna Hanzelka said.

Her three boys have all competed and showed goats.

“It’s always been goats,” she said. “This is the first tractor project.”

Dianna Hanzelka said she is grateful they found FFA because of the deep ties it has with the community. The kids invest in their animals and local community members pay it forward by purchasing the animals.

Those funds have helped the family buy next year’s projects and tuck some money away for college.

Dianna Hanzelka is proud of Seth Hanzelka’s accomplishment with his tractor.

“It was very stressful,” she said. “He never wanted to give up. I would have.”

Seth Hanzelka has been a part of FFA since his freshman year, but he participated in 4H long before walking the high school hallways.

In his years in livestock shows, he hasn’t seen anyone do a project the size of his tractor restoration.

“I made a significant mark on the Yoakum FFA,” he said regarding his project.

He has always shown goats, named with a number, but this tractor project filled his passion like he never thought possible.

“This is my passion,” Seth Hanzelka said motioning to his tractor. “Goats are okay but this is what I like to do.”

Seth Hanzelka said he hopes to attend A&M to study agricultural systems management. After college, he strives to work on a farm equipment engineering team.

“FFA really showed me what my passion was,” he said. “If this (tractor) dies, I die.”

Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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