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Slayton tractor spreads cancer awareness

(Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)1 / 3
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SLAYTON — It’s hard to miss the long line of tractors parked along the driveway leading to the home of Ernie Engelkes and his wife, Betty.

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It’s also difficult not to notice the pink tractor decorated by Engelkes that was moved Thursday afternoon to the Murray County Fairgrounds. The Super 8 Farmall that dates back to 1954 is his so-called “cancer tractor.”

“I bought that tractor last fall on auction,” Engelkes said Thursday at his home. “I had been thinking about doing a pink tractor — a cancer tractor — so that’s what I did.”

One of about 40 tractors in Engelkes’ collection, the cancer tractor took him and his son, Jeff, about six weeks to paint, as they worked on and off the project. Once people start to see the tractor, word of it began to spread around the region. It has now appeared in parades in conjunction with the Fulda Wood Duck Festival, Balaton Fun Fest and Edgerton Dutch Festival this summer, and is also slated to be driven in Saturday’s parade in Slayton coordinated as part of the Murray County Fair.

“I’ve got something else — a float — I’m going to pull behind it,” Engelkes teased. “People will get to see it when we go through. It also has to do with cancer.”

The cancer tractor also made an appearance during last weekend’s Murray County Relay for Life, Engelkes said, as well as at a benefit event for an individual diagnosed with the disease.

“We’ve got a lot of cancer in Murray County,” he said. “It has affected a lot of people in my life, and that’s why I did it (tractor). When I go to shows, people asked me, ‘Who’s that tractor for?’ I say, ‘It’s for everybody.’”

Not only is Engelkes’ tractor pink, but it’s also adorned with 28 ribbons — “that’s how many different kinds of cancer there are.” There’s also a 29th ribbon that symbolizes something else — that it’s now rust-free, following its restoration.

“There’s no money involved,” Engelkes added. “It simply says on the top of its sign, ‘Help fight cancer.’”

Engelkes is retired after running heavy equipment for many years. He has been married to wife Betty — also retired after a long career at Murray County Hospital — for 52 years. They live on an acreage.

Englekes was also proud Thursday to show off the arrangement of 80 to 90 tractors — owned by residents of Murray County and beyond — that he has displayed in conjunction with the fair, which continues through the rest of the week. One he’s particularly enamored with is a 1930 McCormick-Deering 2236 he purchased on auction years ago.

He will also host threshing and field demonstrations at 1 p.m. Sunday at his farm.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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