Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Faces: Allis Chalmers devotee May 1, 2015

Portrait #19: Juanita


Portrait 19, Rice Co. Steam 2012, Juanita


I love how natural light from an open doorway provided the perfect lighting for this portrait of Juanita. This was an impromptu photo snapped in a blacksmith shop at the 2012 Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show, rural Dundas. To this day, it remains one of my favorite portraits.

I love the image not only because of its great lighting and composition, but because it truly captures the spirit of Juanita. Look at how her eyes sparkle, how her genuine smile dimples her cheeks, creases the corners of her eyes and spreads across her freckled face. I’ve always found Juanita, whom I met some five years ago at her dad’s Allis Chalmers tractor auction at his North Morristown farm, a people-person.

She’s also very much her own woman, one who unabashedly wears orange (here around her hat and neck) to honor her love of the Allis Chalmers brand. Juanita dresses practically and sensibly, usually with a rural fashion touch of orange.


This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The anatomy of an Allis-Chalmers auction on a Minnesota farm August 6, 2010

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the young

and the older

to Allis-Chalmers collector Carl Krueger’s farm

where he sold his beloved truck

and his cherished Allis-Chalmers tractors

to the highest bidders.

The collectible Allis-Chalmers tractors

even the Wallis

and the Allis-Chalmers tractor manual sold.

But the neighbor’s rare 1964 Schafer failed to get a high enough bid.

Auction attendees fueled up on bars from the Lutherans

clasped steering wheels

at the auction on a Minnesota farm field on an August afternoon.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

(See my August 2 post for additional photos from Carl Krueger’s Allis-Chalmers auction.)


Guys and their tractors, at an Allis-Chalmers auction August 2, 2010

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Bidding proceeds on the 50-plus Allis-Chalmers tractors at the auction.

WHEN MY HUSBAND SUGGESTED Saturday morning that we take in a large Allis-Chalmers auction at North Morristown, I balked.

Why would I want to stand in the middle of a field on a hot and humid summer day and watch an auctioneer sell old tractors and other farm equipment?

“It’s blog material,” Randy said.

He got me there and he knew it, so Saturday afternoon I relented and tagged along, camera bag in tow.

Maring Auction Company ran the auction on Carl Krueger's farm.

The auction had already been going 4 ½ hours when we arrived at collector Carl Krueger’s farm next to Trinity Lutheran Church and School, which is North Morristown. Randy parked our car among the rows and rows of pick-up trucks that stretched across the trampled alfalfa field. Up and over, on the other side of the hill, people swarmed like ants around the auctioneer’s truck and around the orange tractors and other farm equipment spread out in orderly rows.

This steel wheeled tractor immediately grabbed my attention upon arrival at the auction

A close-up of that steel wheeled tractor in a long line of tractors.

Immediately, I saw the potential and soon parted ways with Randy, who was primarily interested in the tractors while I was primarily interested in the crowd. I had already spotted several photogenic characters. Not that I ignored the pumpkin orange tractors; they, too, offered ample photo ops.

But the bidders, the curious, intrigued me the most, mostly because many sported bright orange attire. If I had been on a highway, I would have thought we were in a construction zone.

I quickly determined that these Allis-Chalmers folks are pretty devoted to their brand. Otherwise, why would you willingly choose to dress like this? I’m no fashionista, but even I would need to think twice before donning bib overalls, a bright orange shirt and an equally bright cap. I saw plenty of all three at the auction.

The dress code of the day: Allis-Chalmers orange.

"The Allis-Chalmers Kid," Carl Krueger, left, watched as his tractors were sold at Saturday's auction.

Clearly, these folks love and respect old tractors, and I appreciate that. As I watched, men (the crowd was overwhelmingly male) settled onto the seats of Allis tractors, clasped their hands upon the steering wheels and drove away in their imaginations. Palms caressed tractor metal. Butts connected with tractor tires, offering a temporary resting place in the heat of the afternoon.

Three men rest on three tires on three Allis-Chalmers around 3 o'clock.

Many a potential buyer, or simply an Allis-Chalmers devotee, settled onto a tractor seat.

Leaning on, touching, climbing--all were important in evaluating Allis-Chalmers tractors at the auction.

Randy was right. I had found sufficient blog material here on this hillside farm field on an August afternoon. But after 1 ½ hours of pursuing photos, I needed a break.

“Is my face all red?” I asked, knowing the answer before the words even tipped my tongue. When I get overheated, my face turns beet red. I sought out the shade of a pole shed, where volunteers from Trinity school were selling beverages, sandwiches, bars and other food. I dipped my hand into a beverage-cooling cattle tank and swiped refreshing water across my flushed skin. Since I didn’t have any money with me for bottled water or pop, I was tempted to slurp a handful of water too. But I figured that wouldn’t be appropriate although no one probably would have cared. I talked to a few people, snapped several images and aimed back toward the field to find my misplaced husband. He was still ogling the tractors.

A long orange line of Allis-Chalmers tractors awaited bidders.

“My dad had one like that,” he said, pointing to the 1950s Allis Chalmers WD, just one in the long orange line. Oops, that’s John Deere’s tag—the line, the long green line. I met a guy who dared to wear his John Deere t-shirt here in this oasis of orange. His girlfriend has an Allis-Chalmers, he explained, as if justifying his attire, even his presence.

I wanted to tell him: “I don’t think it really matters. I’m here. I’m not wearing orange and, uh, we don’t own a pick-up truck.”

Pick-up trucks lined the alfalfa field at the auction site.

WATCH FOR ADDITIONAL auction photos later this week on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling