Area collector has a passion for farm life
GIBSONVILLE — No matter where you look in Rick Murray’s basement, there are splashes of green and red. Shelves upon shelves of toy tractors, from John Deere, International Harvester, Farmall, Massey Ferguson and Allis-Chalmers, line the room from floor to ceiling. There are cast-iron horse-and-wagons that demonstrate what farming would’ve been like in the 1920s and current models as well. Some are still in boxes and then others are more recognizable to young children such as the tractor from the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars.” Even the light-switch plate is devoted to the collection with a John Deere logo.
Murray’s collection is a true representation of the metamorphosis tractors have gone through during the years — from the simple farm tractor to the more modern version with a deluxe cab.
“Each year, toy tractors are created to mimic the current real-life version,” Murray said.
It was Murray’s love for farm equipment that led him to develop a collection of close to 2,000 toy tractors during the last 40 years.
The youngest of two sons born to the late R.C. “Dee” and Irene Murray, Rick and his late brother, Dean, first became familiar with collections while helping their friend, Gary Morton, work on race cars.
“He had a toy truck collection,” Rick said. “I thought it might be fun to start a tractor collection.”
As a teenager, Rick was familiar not only with tractors, while working in the tobacco fields with his late uncle Henry Murray, but his father and uncles owned and operated Murray Brothers store for a number of years. It was the cornerstone of this community in northeast Guilford County, a place where farmers, businessmen and their families would bring their cars to be serviced or fill up with gas. In the summertime, folks would sit on wooden drink crates and swap stories between sips of sodas (in bottles back then). And in the winter, they would gather around the woodstove inside the store.
These same friends and family members help contribute to Rick’s collection — oftentimes buying the toy tractors from hardware stores as gifts for birthdays, holidays and his high school graduation.
Along with the tractors, Rick also collects implements such as disc harrows, tobacco toppers and tobacco sprayers.
“I got interested in implements because I thought they were just as neat as the tractors,” he said. “After all, they do most of the work.”
Rick and Hubert Penland began the Tarheel Farm Toy Show 30 years ago as a way to not only unite collectors, but encourage young people to become interested in farming.
“A lot of youth today don’t even realize where food comes from,” he said. “They’re not exposed to farming like I was growing up. Through the toy tractors, we get them interested and hopefully educate them about the importance of farming.”
Penland and Murray also have an auction business, Creekside Auction Services in Elon. Murray’s full-time job is as an engineer with Duke Energy, where he’s worked for 38 years.
The Tarheel Farm Toy Show will celebrate its 30th anniversary from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 12 and 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with an auction at 5 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Ramada Inn Convention Center in Burlington. Cost is $4 for adults and free for children 12 and under.
Rick was recognized last November as the first N.C. Inductee in the National Farm Toy Hall of Fame in Dyersville, Iowa, the birthplace of toy tractors.
“It’s a big deal there,” he said. “They close the schools down for the national farm toy show.”
Once a year, a ballot is sent out for nominees and Rick was chosen because he was “a major force in the founding and growth of farm toy-collecting in the Mid-Atlantic States,” according to the National Farm Toy Hall of Fame.
“I’m truly blessed,” he said of the nomination which was decided on among his peers.
The collection, which continues to grow, not only has special meaning to Rick, but it’s something he’s shared with his son, Dylan, stepdaughter, Danielle Smithey Sockwell, and now his stepgrandchildren, Case (named for the Case tractor) and Cailynn, 6-year-old twins. Rick and wife, Joni, along with their family can usually be found at the annual tractor show.
The grandchildren, Rick said, “are all about farm life.”
Exposing young people to farm life, whether it’s just through a toy tractor, well, it’s more than Rick’s passion — it’s his mission.
“If we don’t educate them, if we don’t teach them about it, where will we be?” he asked.
Article source: http://www.starnewsonline.com/lifestyle/20160717/toying-around