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Wheelin' and dealin'

ROUND LAKE -- One year and one month to the day Gordy Wilson died while working on his beloved Allis Chalmers tractors, his family auctioned off most of the rural Round Lake man's collection.

The all-day sale on Thursday lured people from across the country to a lot on the west side of town where Wilson spent many years tinkering on his A-C toys.

Glen Fredrikson came all the way from Mesa, Ariz., for the auction -- as well as to visit family in the St. James area and attend an Allis Chalmers show earlier in the week in Hutchinson. He saw Wilson's bill of sale in the Old Allis News magazine.

On Thursday, he was considering adding to his collection of 21 A-C tractors, or at least buying some parts for those he has.

"There's a little tractor I wouldn't mind having, but I don't know how I'll get it back (home)," Fredrikson said, decked out in an Allis Chalmers cap with an Allis hat pin. "I'll figure it out, I'm sure."

The oldest tractor in Fredrikson's collection of A-C's is a 1928 model, while the newest is a 1953.

"We farmed with old Allis Chalmers tractors -- that's how I got into Allis Chalmers," said Fredrikson, who is one of about 400 members in an Allis Chalmers club in Arizona. The group hosts three tractor shows a year.

So, what makes the Allis Chalmers so special?

"Just the fact that they're unique -- they're different," Fredrikson said. "Some have John Deeres, some have International. Somebody's gotta support the Allis Chalmers."

Many of the nearly 250 bidders hoping to get a piece of Wilson's collection grew up with Allis Chalmers on the farm, including Terry Kaaz of Watertown, S.D. Kaaz took in the Hutchinson show earlier in the week, and was headed to another A-C show in Hastings this weekend. The timing of Wilson's sale made for an ideal Minnesota vacation.

Kaaz already has 15 A-Cs in his collection -- the oldest being a 1941, the same year he was born. In addition to growing up with the tractors on the farm, he worked at an Allis Chalmers dealership in Watertown for 20 years.

Duane Anderson, of Worthington, said he and Gordy were friends for some 58 years -- spending many hours tinkering on Allis Chalmers together in the repair shop.

"There's a lot of memories here," he said, looking down the row of Allis Chalmers and the crowd of bidders gathered around the auctioneer.

Though Anderson has 12 Allis tractors of his own, he worked on several of those on the auction lot Thursday. When the tractors began selling at 1 p.m., he won the bidding on the second tractor sold -- a CA with a belly mower underneath.

The Wilson family put 38 of their father's Allis tractors on Thursday's sale -- the oldest being a 1918 and the newest a 1964 D17. The collection also included a high crop tractor Gordy purchased years ago in Louisiana.

"He went all over -- even to Canada -- to get the tractors," said Randy Wilson. Gordy's collection, he estimated, was 20 years in the making.

The five Wilson children kept one tractor off the auction lot -- a request their dad had made before his death. The WD45 tractor, purchased in 1957, was the only Allis Chalmers Gordy bought new in his 82 years of life.

"It's everybody's tractor, and we'll keep it out on the farm," said Randy, the middle of the Wilson children.

"That was the one we always argued over who would get to drive," recalled the Rev. Steve Wilson of Red Cloud, Neb. "Since I was the oldest, I always won."

In addition to the WD45, the family also kept the cart that was used to haul their father's casket to the cemetery. The tractor that pulled the cart, however, was auctioned off Thursday. The IB Allis Chalmers sold for $4,400, with Dennis Freking of Heron Lake casting the high bid.

"(Gordy) was like a second father to me," said Freking, who first met the Allis Chalmers collector at a tractor show in Washington, Kansas, in 2000. Since then, Freking said he visited with Wilson several times about their beloved tractors.

Freking's purchase of the IB makes for A-C No. 17 in his collection, and he said it will be a part of this year's King Turkey Day parade in Worthington.

"There's only three (IBs) around," Freking said. "They made 500 of them."

There's no doubt Freking will think of Gordy as he enjoys his latest Allis Chalmers purchase.

"He was just well-liked, and he had a smile for everyone," Freking said. "He was kind-hearted and generous."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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