The John Deere collection put together by the late Jimmy Dillon of Lebanon leaves visitors seeing — you guessed it — green.
Richard and Danny Dillon (right) stand beside a 1922 Waterloo tractor, one of 20 restored John Deere tractors in their father’s collection, in Lebanon, Tenn. (TMP Photo/K. Beck)
Jimmy Dillon of Dillon Cabinet & Millwork fame died in 2004, but his sons Danny, 51, and Richard, 46, have preserved the collection as their father left it and plan to display a portion of the memorabilia at the Wilson County Fair in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of the first John Deere plow.
Among the star attractions of the 1,476 items in Dillon’s Deere collection are 20 big tractors made between 1922 and 1964. While there also are hundreds of miniature toy tractors, the expansive array includes farm boy dolls, metal tractor seats, pocket knives, yo-yos and even bicycles, all wearing the John Deere brand and green paint.
“There’s everything from John Deere caps to John Deere marbles. You couldn’t buy him nothing for Christmas that was John Deere that he didn’t already have,” Richard said about his father, who started his collection in the early 1970s.
“When my granddaddy started farming, he bought a 1951 B John Deere. That’s when Daddy took a liking for John Deere,” Danny said. “And in 1965 my daddy and granddaddy bought this 1965 John Deere lawn mower. It is entirely worn out.
“We’ve got tractors everywhere,” said Danny, who often steers one of his father’s green machines in the annual Possum Town Christmas Parade.
Jimmy Dillon harvested his big tractors from across the U.S.
Danny recollects, “He called me up one day and said, ‘I’ve got a tractor I want you to pick up in Omaha.’”
“Whenever he got another one, he’d come in and say to our mom, ‘Rose, I bought you another tractor,’” Richard said.
“We had all of them running but five after Daddy died, and most of ’em you have to crank by hand,” Richard said about the John Deere concert produced by the music of the revved-up tractors.
One of the many unique items in the family archives is a large John Deere dinner bell that their mother found for Jimmy Dillon. The collection also holds a single yellow John Deere tractor (an industrial tractor) and a John Deere buggy built for Dillon by Mennonites.
Jimmy Dillon began his cabinet company in 1969, the same year Cracker Barrel Restaurants started, and Dillon Cabinet & Millwork has made tables for the restaurant chain ever since.
(Earlier this summer, woodworker Danny constructed a 3,000-pound water wheel for the grist mill in Fiddlers Grove at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.)
“There’s one piece of equipment John Deere won’t stand behind,” said Richard, laughing while he pointed at a long piece of machinery behind a tractor. “The manure spreader.”
Danny and Richard’s father’s favorite tractor was his 1964 model.
“That was the one he always cut hay with,” Richard said. “He sent it off to be restored but died before he saw it finished.”
The Dillon brothers continue to enjoy the green machines, toys and other items their father assembled over 30 years and are hoping fair-goers will like viewing part of the Jimmy Dillon collection at the Wilson County Fair.
“We’re just gonna keep it together,” Danny said. “There’s not a lot of ’em, but the ones there are pretty unique.”