Tractors to add country flavor at fair

Published 10:23 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

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Marvin Rhodes keeps equipment in shape for display


While attending the Isle of Wight County Fair this coming week (Sept. 13-16,) visitors will see classic machinery that at one time or another in decades past was actually used in farming. Providing this original country flavor is E. Marvin Rhodes Sr., who knows the equipment so well. With the help of his son, Tony, and grandson, Adrian, they’ll load about nine working tractors for delivery and setup.

This isn’t the senior Rhodes’ first time at the fair, though; he’s been lending the John Deeres, Olivers and International Harvesters for the past seven to eight years. He’s also provided them for parades when requested. Children and adults unfamiliar with farm life get to see what harvests corn, peanuts and soybeans — they’re all crops with which Rhodes was once quite familiar in his time as a farmer.

He learned the work from his father, beginning around 1945 after an 18-month stint in the Army — his duty took him to Germany.

Farming has not been without its perils. In 1958, Rhodes got run over by the very tractor he was driving after his coveralls got caught by the hand clutch. His move to free himself put him on the ground in the way of a tire. For six weeks his broken jaw was wired together and he had to wear a halo that kept everything in place.

Obviously, Rhodes not only recovered, but continues walking and talking at 91.

Like cars, tractors need regular maintenance and occasional repairs, both tasks to which he is up to the task. Rhodes agreed with the description of being mechanically minded.

That’s a skill that’s obviously passed onto his son, Tony, who owns and operates Rhodes Garage over on Spivey Town Road.

Tony said about his father, “He’s got an extra amount of patience and enough determination to help you fix what he’s never worked on before.”

The son added that in 1954, his father had the first self-propelled soybean and grain combine in all of Western Tidewater area.

In a couple of the storage units behind the shop, Rhodes pointed out various tractors used before he retired in the early 1990s. For example, there’s a 1962 John Deer bought used, and another that was new in 1963.

“They’re really reliable,” he said. “I just like John Deers and Olivers.”

When you visit the fair this week, you’ll also see why Rhodes treasures these mechanical tools so highly.