Santa's helper has penchant for building farm toys

Gloria Hafemeister
Mike Docter of Brandon gives Santa some assistance this year building special farm toys.

BRANDON – When Santa has a problem keeping up with the toy orders on his list, he farms out certain orders. He is especially happy that people like Mike Docter are around to fill the orders for farm toys on youngsters’ lists. 

Docter, a Brandon native, is able to make many of those implements that aren’t manufactured by Santa’s elves or at any toy manufacturing plant.

 He builds self-unloading wagons, peanut harvesters and other farm implements from scratch. He also salvages discarded broken toy equipment. When parts are missing he makes them. If parts are broken he repairs them.

His toys range in size from 1/16 to 1/32 to 1/64 scale.

His shop includes a spin caster, sand blasting equipment to prepare toys for a new paint job; molds for pouring metal and other specialized tools.

“My toys are made with pewter. There is no lead in any of my toys,” he notes.

He partners with a friend who has a toy-making shop in Oshkosh. Retired as a mechanic and equipment operator for Stokely canning company, Schultz makes specialized vegetable harvesting equipment and many more unique pieces.

He has the specialized equipment for making the plastic parts.

One of Docter’s special projects was rebuilding the cab on a toy John Deere tractor.   The cab had melted when the toy was in a fire and Docter set out to restore it to new condition.

Docter grew up on a Brandon farm where he still lives. Before he settled in a career as a carpenter, he spent some time working with the wheat harvesting crew, traveling from Texas and working his way north across the country.

“I really enjoyed that and saw so much along the way,” he says. “It was something I always wanted to do and I decided to do it before I’d be tied down to a full-time job at home.”

He’s been repairing and making toys all his life.

“When I was younger I’d take things to the town dump and came home with discarded toys I’d find there. I’d fix them and paint them and make them usable again.”

He notes, “In my youth I helped my parents with chores on the farm. I bought model toy kits and put them together at night after chores.”

He enjoyed a career as a carpenter but when an accident resulted in a broken back he was unable to continue his profession. That’s when he decided to spend more time at toy-making, turning his hobby into his new occupation.

He has displayed his works at the National Farm Show in Iowa and he regularly travels around southeastern Wisconsin to farm toy shows.

He was an exhibitor at the Dodge County Antique Power Club’s farm toy show last weekend in Waupun.

His wife, Linda, enjoys going with him marketing the Christmas ornaments she makes.  One of her most popular creations this year was a recycled plastic wine glass that features a tiny tractor inside.

All of the Christmas creations of this talented artist have a farm theme. In the summer the two travel to antique steam shows helping to set up.