A collection like no other

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DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In the back woods of DeFuniak Springs sits a collection like no other.

It is said to possibly be the largest restored tractor collection in the world.

"So I spent my spare time over those 43 years in the shop [re]doing old tractors," said Dr. James Sheppard.

Sheppard grew up the son of a Tenant farmer in Houston County, Alabama, and from a young age developed an appreciation for farm machinery.

"I kept badgering my dad to get rid of the mules because I couldn't plow with the mules or wise enough I couldn't manage them," said Sheppard, "and about the time I turned 12 years old my dad traded the mules in and got a small John Deere Tractor."

That was in 1942.

Sheppard said owning that piece of equipment changed his life forever.

"This single instrument that moved us out of the pits of poverty into prosperity and I think that's the reason I have such a fondness for the old tractors; that it really got us out of the desperate poverty we were in farming in," Sheppard explained.

For the past 42 years, Sheppard has been traveling the country collection pieces and parts to restore this antique farm equipment to its original glory.

"People have repeatedly told me, collectors coming to visit, have told me they believe that there is more restored antique tractors on this farm than in any other one place in the world," said Sheppard.

With an example of each model from 1918 to 1960, Sheppard said he has completed more than 150 full restorations on these tractors.

"You had to rebuild the engine, rebuild the carburetor, rebuild mandatory, rebuild the water pump, rebuild everything on it and cosmetically take it apart and restore every piece of the tractor," he described.

Sheppard said he gets the most joy out of showing off his collection and talking to people about the machinery.

"Well, it was a hobby that turned into a passion," he said.

Sheppard said he's had many offers from companies to sell or auction off his treasures, but he would rather keep them close to home.

"If we could put them in a museum and keep them locally in the county and show them, that would be good for me," Sheppard said. "I'd be open to that and it would be good to let everyone have an opportunity to come and see and visit them. Ask about them and talk about them."

He added that his barn doors are always open for anyone who would like to come and visit his collection.

For visit inquiries email Fletch7245@aol.com