Retired legislator now convenes with personal tractor collection

Rob Marionneaux maintains a deep fondness for one of his favorite childhood pastimes – and particularly the item that figures so prominently in the hobby.

The former state lawmaker – who served terms in the House and Senate – recently became the proud owner of a 1977 John Deere 4430 tractor.

He stood in the driveway of his Grosse Tete home on a chilly December morning, where he waited with a sense of anxiety that he may have felt during Christmas seasons during his childhood.

It also linked him to his childhood years he helped his father plow farmland.

“Growing up, I drove a tractor like this – the same make, model and size,” Marionneaux said.

He paid $39,000 for the 4430 and another $5,000 for the shipping costs.

The John Deere 4430 cost $23,000 in 1977. A 2021 model – much of which is computerized – runs for $200,000, while the tires cost around $1,100.

John Deere tractors are nothing new to him. Several models dot the landscape of his farm, but his latest acquisition was not the average old tractor.

The model he purchased was featured on the 2012 John Deere calendar. It was voted one of the top five original models last year during the annual Farm & Machine Equipment Show in Louisville, Ky.

He bought it through Mecum Auctions in Davenport, Iowa.

The tractor had been hauled from one show to another during the past several years.

“It’s almost too nice to use,” he said.

John Deere tractors has played a prominent role not only for Marionneaux, but millions of other farmers for nearly two centuries.

The company’s roots date back to 1837 when Vermont blacksmith John Deere relocated to Grand Detour, Ill., where he devised plows made from Scottish steel saw blades.

In 1912, William Butterworth – his brother-in-law – expanded into gasoline tractors in Waterloo, Iowa, under the brand “Waterloo Boy” before it took on the John Deere name in 1923.

Marionneaux bought the tractor for use on the 200-acre farm where he has spent his entire life.

The fascination with John Deere tractors does not stem from any fancy features.

Instead, the beauty lies in the simplicity, Marionneaux said.

“What fascinates me is that they called them the old ‘iron horses,’ ” he said. “The old models don’t have all the new electronics the new tractors have – and it’s the new ones that we try to stay away from as much as we can.”

Marionneaux did not seek the tractor to serve as a showpiece.

He wanted the simple model he used during his childhood, unlike the computerized equipment found in today’s models, which have jacked up the repair costs.

“I just wanted one with a battery and an engine,” Marionneaux said. “It’s hard to find repair shops for today’s tractors.”

The purchase also keeps him close to the childhood work he did with his father.

Marionneaux said he wants to hold on to those years in much the same way he yearns to keep a close bond to an industry that fewer Americans embrace in the 21st century.

“Finding a tractor like this doesn’t come very often, particularly in this era,” Marionneaux said. “Unfortunately, farming is a dying operation, so I will stick with this as long as I can.”