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Have tractor, will travel, with a purpose

June 22, 2011

“Tractor Dave” Wolfsen began a 75-day trek across the United States beginning June 1. Photo by Angel Perkins

NAPPANEE — “Have tractor, will travel” could be the slogan for Dave Wolfsen’s latest journey in life. The oldest of eight children of a dairy farmer, he has set out from Fremont, Mich. on his 1937, Farm Bureau Co-Op tractor to tour 48 states — and at 30 miles an hour. “At first we thought he was a little nuts,” laughed his sister, Diane DeRoos, who is the Resident Service Director of Heritage House. “But we’re trying to support him in any way we can.”
Wolfsen said in his sanity’s defense, at the assisting living community in Nappanee Wednesday evening, “I think its all about the want and the will to help one another — and that’s just human nature.”
That may be his rationale, but the reason is closer to the fact that 66-year-old “Tractor Dave” has a generous heart. During his 75-day trek (that is expected to end Aug. 16) he will be speaking at assigned and impromptu stops about — and to raise money for — the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s disaster relief services and the Food Resource Bank. “We all know about the natural disasters right now in North America,” he said. “Volunteers are working to help out in several ways.” He told those gathered at his first scheduled stop that he had been an International Harvester dealer for 36 years, and that after six years of retirement, a friend of his suggested he travel with him to Iowa. “It evolved from there but it came right down to the hand of the lord,” Wolfsen said. “Its not my cup of tea to talk in front of groups of people, but it is now. I’m here looking for two-by-fours.”
He said that the Food Resource Bank involved farmers who grow their crops, and then turn them over to cash to go toward helping those in other communities become more self-sufficient. He said he has seen the benefits of the CRWRC’s efforts first-hand in Nicaragua.
“After the first year you don’t see a lot of progress; they’re just getting the process down,” Wolfsen explained. “But six or seven years later you see their success, their grain storage facilities, and now they’ve built schools; they have first aid. It’s nothing like what we have here of course, but its spreading.”
The traveler is taking the voyage on his own, a small trailer for sleeping being pulled behind the tractor — the refurbishing of which was all donated work from various laborers. “The tires were donated,” he explained. “The paint job and the sandblasting was donated. The engine was rebuilt and electricians donated all that work. I think the uniqueness of the tractor makes the situation more interesting, more appealing to people.”
“My schedule is getting filled,” Wolfsen continued. “I’m starting quick and ‘time is of the essence’ but I’m going to see this thing through.”
And he hopes to get to Iowa or South Dakota before needing new tires.
To learn more about the CRWRC’s disaster relief efforts or the Food Resource Bank visit www.crwrc.org, or to track “Tractor Dave’s” progress, visit www.TractorRideAcrossUS.org, email tractordave@rocketmail.com or call 231-924-0731.

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