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'Gets the job done': Roundup man restoring vintage horse-drawn farming equipment

John Deere Big 4 horse-drawn mower
Posted at 9:07 AM, May 20, 2024

ROUNDUP — More than 27,000 farms and ranches can be found across Montana, according to the Montana Department of Agriculture. One Roundup resident is working to preserve the traditional way of farming, restoring vintage horse-drawn equipment that he uses on his property.

For Jim Quade, farming comes naturally.

"I've driven tractors for most of my life," Quade told MTN News on Wednesday. "I was raised in a tractor."

Jim Quade
Jim Quade

Raised on a farm in South Dakota, he was driving tractors before he learned to ride a bike.

"I'd go out and mow. Dad had a field of 40 acres of hay,” Quade recalled.

The 74-year-old is still farming—but recently switched gears.

Before the restoration
Before the restoration

"These old machines are good. Gets the job done,” said Quade. "There's still people that do use them."

He restores vintage horse-drawn farming equipment to use on his Roundup property. The manure spreader pictured below was used in the Billings Cattle Drive last October.

Jim's horses behind one of his finished restorations
Jim's horses behind one of his finished restorations

"I'll admit, this is a lot slower (than a tractor), but it's so much more peaceful. And you get connected with nature so much more," Quade said. "I mow the ditches here. And I can go right along the top of the ditch with a horse."

He recently finished up a John Deere Big 4 horse-drawn mower, pictured below, that he suspects to be nearly a century old.

John Deere Big 4 horse-drawn mower
John Deere Big 4 horse-drawn mower

"It's 80, 90 years old," Quade said.

But his restoration projects go way back to when he was living in Madison, South Dakota working maintenance at a manufacturing company.

Jim working on a manure spreader
Jim working on a manure spreader

"I got a hold of an old McCormick Gearing Big Six mower at the time, and I got that working,” Quade said. "I hooked it up to the horses that were broke, but not real well. The mower made it about 50 feet. They heard the rattle back there, and away they went."

He ended up moving to Buffalo, Wyoming where he lived for 13 years before moving to Roundup nearly seven years ago.

"I was just by myself out there. Only had a couple of acres," Quade said. "No place for horses or anything like that until I ended up moving up here."

Now his property is full of vintage farming equipment waiting to be brought back to life.

Drone shot of Quade's property
Drone shot of Quade's property

He keeps most of what he restores but recently found others have an interest in purchasing his projects.

"This (John Deere Big 4) right here I have sold to a guy down in Southern Wyoming,” Quade said. "I also did two similar for my stepson."

Jim moving his John Deere Big 4 mower
Jim moving his John Deere Big 4 mower

Which is simply an added bonus for the man who loves to stay busy.

"Always got to have something to do," Quade said. "Whatever it takes to get her done, I get her done, usually."