May 13, 2008
Worth Co. - A farmer thoroughly enjoys cutting grass in a hay field on a warm afternoon in Eastern part of the county. Hungry livestock will enjoy the hay later on, but Danny Culpepper doesn't think too much about tomorrow, but about yesterday.
"I just love everything dealing with agriculture," says the ever-smiling farmer with a friendly personality.
He drives a McCormick tractor, a model with two doors instead of one.
"This is where I get my best ideas sitting in the cab of this tractor," says Danny who has a fascination with farm equipment more than 30 years old.
"It's fascinating. Ever since birth I've loved it," says Danny sitting in the tractor's seat as he adds "I have my first toy tractor."
A toy with a story.
His father bought a new Ford tractor in 1967, a day he remembers as if it happened yesterday. The dealer gave two toy replicas of his father's new purchase, one for Danny and the other for his brother. The gesture made a lasting impression, but over time the toy had a tough life.
"I went back to the woods and found it where we had thrown it away," says Danny.
Almost gone forever, but not forgotten. The blue Ford tractor with a yellow spray rig looks like the day it was first handed to Danny. He refurbished it and now the model sits proudly in his home north of Sumner.
Danny loves to go off by himself into a kind of heaven in a box,
"I come in here and it takes you back," says Danny as he unlocks and opens the door to his modest shop.
A brass peanut wagon under construction appears when he turns on the overhead light once used in a ceiling fan. Danny starts working on his latest project immediately, grabbing a cigarette lighter to start a small torch that will warm the brass enough for the solder to melt and hold a support.
Danny has the hots for building equipment models.
"I like it to be built from scratch, from the ground up," says Danny as he pulls a piece of brass from his extensive supply. He cuts it to the exact size needed.
He builds one-sixteenth scale models of peanut harvesting and drying equipment, a hobby started 18 years ago.
"I had a tractor collection, but I never found peanut equipment for sale," says Danny.
He decided to make his own, and never looked back.
"I'm back in the antique days," says Danny.
Almost 40 years ago where he worked with the equipment that he builds as models today.
"A lot of the toys I've built are like the early (peanut) combines we worked in the 70s," says Danny who uses pictures, operating manuals and his memory to construct his models.
Time seems to stand still when he works in his shop that sits literally a few footsteps away from the home he built himself. He goes there right after dinner with his family.
"He stays out there to 11 or 12 or whenever. Sometimes he forgets about time and comes in about one or two in the morning. It's fine with me," says his understanding wife, Regina.
Details fascinate him.
"Perfect," says Danny with a smile after soldering a brace in place.
So perfect that people nationwide want his creations mostly because of the models' historical accuracy.
Danny builds the models and knows quite a bit about each one.
For example, Long manufacturing company, now out of business, created a practical solution for a persistent problem faced by hundreds of peanut farmers.
"Put power source up top," says Danny as he points to an engine sitting on top of a peanut combine. You wouldn't see that design today.
Back then, some tractors didn't have enough power to pull the equipment in the fields and make it work at the same time.
"Exactly," says Danny.
He keeps memories alive of some manufacturers that went out of business long ago.
"I made the Lilliston 7500 combine built in 1985. I only made five of them, and it was the first black one I made," says Danny.
He thinks he's made about 250 replicas, museum quality peanut combines, and wagons with moving baskets, with ladders and metal screens, just like the real ones.
Some people see just metal.
"This has got me in it," says Danny pointing to the brass peanut wagon under construction. Then again, everything he makes includes pieces of him because he puts so much of himself into each one, but then again a model historian does that.
An organization sold one of Danny's one-of-a-kind creations, in a fund raiser, for five thousand dollars.