Fighting cancer one tractor at a time


Participants in Saturday's Sibley Burr Oaks Tractor Drive travel through Chatsworth / CIFN photo.

CHATSWORTH – What started in 2005 as a way to honor the memory of a couple of people has turned into an 18-year tractor driving tradition.


Almost 60 tractors participated in Saturday’s annual Sibley Burr Oaks Tractor Drive in Ford and Livingston counties to raise money for the American Cancer Society.


“We were going to do it for one year and here we are 18 years later still at it,” explained organizer Russ Tjarks.


The drive traveled from Sibley to the old gym at Roberts before heading to the nursing home in Piper City and the Chatsworth American Legion for lunch.


“Those folks just love it when we come through with these tractors,” noted Tjarks.


Tjarks was driving a 1952 John Deere B and another tractor he had in the drive was a Farmall H which was painted purple by the Prairie Central ag classes several years ago. He calls it the “purple cancer eater.” The purple color serves as a reminder that the event raises money for all types of cancer.


“We are selling 50/50 tickets and we also have a pedal tractor which has been donated by the WGCY family,” explained Tjarks. “It’s a survivor tractor from the flood in Gibson City.”


Mike Doyle, who also serves as vice president of the Threshermen’s Reunion near Pontiac, was among the tractor drivers on Saturday.


“A friend from Indiana came to drive the Super M and I’m driving the 656,” Doyle said.


Doyle always had an interest in tractors. He started out with a Farmall H when he was seven years old and he’s now 69, so he has been around them his entire life. International Harvester is his favorite brand.


“You meet a lot of people and once a year, get to see people again,” added Doyle.


Ron Beck drove an Oliver 88 diesel and had three other tractors in the drive. One of the drivers came all the way from Missouri.


“She’s loving it but it’s kind of old news for me since I drive a tractor all the time,” Beck admits.


Beck, whose brother had cancer, has attended most of the Sibley tractor drives.


Becky Kerber-Ramsey, originally from Colfax, drove one of Beck’s two-star Minneapolis tractors since he needed some drivers for the event.


“It’s beautiful,” Kerber-Ramsey said of the rural landscape. “It reminds me of my days when I used to walk 200 acres of beans.”


Anyone wanting more information about future Sibley Burr Oaks tractor drives should contact Tjarks at 217-249-2377. He hopes to continue the drive well into the future.

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