October - Classic Tractors

Collector/historian has had “...quite a journey”

Dave Becker of Elizabethtown, Pa., calls his farming career “... quite a journey.” And indeed it has been. He was a junior in high school when he started out with 60 rented acres and a new Allis Chalmers D12. In 1967, he married and moved with his new bride to another 120-acre farm, where, as part of the rental agreement, the land owner wanted the Beckers to grow 10 acres of tobacco. When they rented an adjoining farm of 10 acres, the landlady wanted to also see 10 acres of tobacco. Same with the next landlord.

The Beckers eventually found themselves farming 1,000 acres of Lancaster County farmland — rented from a dozen landlords — and raising 30 acres of tobacco and other field crops for three decades. “I don’t know how we did it, especially the tobacco,” Becker said said in a conversation about his years in the tractor seat.

His first wife passed away in 2001 and Becker cut way back on the farming operation. Today he’s remarried, retired from farming and living on 200 acres that he bought, then sold to his son, David S. Becker, who owns D.C. Welding in Elizabethtown.

Becker’s grandson, Scott Becker, now runs the 200-acre farm.

Which is not to say that Becker Sr. spends his days in a rocking chair. That D12 he started farming with in 1963 is still in a shed, still looking good and still field ready. Early on, he bought three more new Allis-Chalmers tractors, one each in 1970, 1973 and 1976.

And then he got some more A-Cs, then some Cockshutts, a Gleaner or two, a collection of wagons...quite the collection. Becker does most of his own work on the collection, but gets help on fabrication and welding from D.C. welding and has done some projects with his grandson.

We visited Becker this past summer when he had his collection out on the lawn for his annual tractor show, then followed up with a phone interview about how he keeps it all going. We came away with pictures of just a few items from his collection and more than a few stories.

-Dick Wanner Reporter

In 1949 or thereabouts, you could buy an A-C Model B and a Crop 40 combine for about $1,000. The tractor and the combine were a good match. This tractor was pretty much a basket case when Becker bought it. He did some body and paint work and overhauled the engine.

When his grandson was a young boy, Dave Becker started to convert an old Wheelhorse riding mower into a miniature replica of an A-C Model 40. The project never quite got off the ground and sat in Becker’s shed until Scott became a teenager. Scott finished the project with his grandfather, including making the toscale plow.

This 1947 Co-op and the 1951 Cockshutt 30 look pretty much alike because they are alike. When Cockshutt was marketing Co-op tractors through the American Farm Bureau, the only major change between the two brands was the paint color.

This good looking combo includes one the the least inexpensive auction finds in Becker’s barn. He overhauled the tractor and the sickle bar mower, which he found nearby in Elizabethtown. The A-C crimper came from Vermont.

This sign at the driveway into Dave Becker’s driveway lets visitors know that his 200 acres is one of more than 900 preserved farms in Lancaster County. It also lets visitors know that Becker is a fan of the Cockshutt brand.

One of Becker’s goals as a tractor collector/historian was to own the entire Allis-Chalmers D series. He completed that part of the mission when he bought this D19, which was in really good shape. It was straight and clean and just needed new tires.

An Allis-Chalmers WC with a Model 33 mounted picker. Probably dates to the mid-1940s, according to Becker. The 33 was a definite leap ahead from hand harvesting. It was good for snapping ears from the stalks, not worth much as a husker.

 

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