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Thursday, July 21, 2005 11:43 pm

The green bad boy

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Roger and Myrna Moore and their John Deere 620 “Villain”
PHOTO BY CINDY LADAGE

A surly old-timer named Deere disrupted a carefully choreographed square dance last month at the Montgomery County Fair — and the audience was thrilled.

The interrupted show was a performance by the Dancing Farmalls, a group of International Harvester tractors driven in intricate, daring maneuvers that have been thrilling fairgoers around the Midwest since the late 1990s.

The bright-red tractors are the good guys in this show. But for every good guy, there must be a villain. At the Montgomery County Fair, the villain turned out to be Roger Moore’s John Deere 620.

The green bad boy was part of a show that drew spectators from several states. Although the Dancing Farmalls are famous, the JD 620 was the hometown favorite.

Myrna Moore explains how the JD 620 was cast: “Don Walker [a fair organizer] wanted to get the Dancing Farmalls here for the Montgomery County Fair’s 20th anniversary. In that show, there is a John Deere ‘villain’ that comes in and steals one of the ‘women.’ ” Myrna laughs as she describes the plot, noting that all of the women in the show are driven by burly he-men.

“The villain tractor has to be supplied locally,” Myrna says. “The villain’s driver was dressed in a fancy black tux and tries to give the women flowers; then they chase the John Deere off the track.”

Myrna notes that in every video of the performance she has seen, the villain tractor is a John Deere. For those not familiar with tractor-manufacturer rivalries, think Cubs versus Cardinals.

Roger Moore’s 1958 JD 620 filled the bill perfectly. The Deere, which once belonged to Roger’s father, John Moore, spent 22 years in a shed after the elder Moore’s death. Roger and Myrna recently carried out a painstaking part-by-part restoration of the tractor.

During the show, the JD 620 was piloted by a professional driver. Roger had just one condition for lending his heirloom: “I told them if the tractor died, don’t hook onto it and pull it out with an International Harvester tractor.”

The Dancing Farmalls, accompanied by the JD 620, were a great success. Many local fair planners came to the show to see the troupe, and, rumor has it, the group will make other Midwest appearances next summer.

Now that the JD 620 has made its debut, additional appearances are planned. The tractor will be displayed at the Hillsboro tractor show in August, and Roger says that it may also appear at the Lincoln Fall Festival Days, scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10 at the Montgomery County fairgrounds. At this rate, the Moores may have to hire an agent.

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