Onckens are officially a two Jeep family

John Oncken
Soybean combining and dust go together.

The Wisconsin cropping season is coming to an end with harvesting of grain corn the only major crop still to be taken off the field. This week’s Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Crop Report says “Corn silage was 97 percent harvested with its condition rated 68 percent good to excellent.

Ninety-six percent of the corn crop was mature. and harvesting for grain was 32 percent complete, 4 days ahead of last year and 9 days ahead of the 5-year average. Moisture content of field corn harvested for grain was 20 percent, 5 percentage points below last week. 

Soybean harvest was 59 percent complete,  3 days behind last year but 6 days ahead of the average." 

It would seem that 2021 could be rated an average or better cropping season across the state as the result of timely rains and good growing days through the season.             

From North Dakota

Son John made the 585 mile trip from Grand Forks, North Dakota recently to visit his old dad and do a couple other things. One of which was to pick up a 1955 Jeep that he recently purchased – his second old Jeep.   

Readers may remember my recent columns telling of his many years remembering a 1957 Jeep owned by my Uncle on which John, as a youngster, learned how to drive a stick shift vehicle. He loved the memory of those childhood days and that Jeep and in July 2020 made the move to own one. 

Son John Oncken’s 1957 Willis Jeep at a Grand Forks auto show was picked as “peoples choice.”

He found one in New York, bought it and hauled it home to North Dakota, rebuilt and refurbished it and by last June it was shining, sparkling and running like new. Of course, he had to let people see the near 70 year old vehicle so he entered it in a Grand Forks car show where it was awarded the “People’s Choice” plaque. 

A second Jeep

Sometime in a conversation, I mentioned to John that I drove a Jeep while in the Army in Korea. All I remembered was that it had no top or doors but that it ran and that I drove it into Seoul, Yung Dung Po and other nearby places.

A couple of weeks ago, John sent an email informing me that he had bought a 1955 Willys Jeep and would be coming down to visit me and to pick up the Jeep in Janesville. So that means another rebuilding job when he gets it back home. 

The 1955 Willys Jeep rests in the Oncken yard before the long trip to North Dakota.

Broken transmission

Another reason son John made the trip to Sun Prairie was to replace the transmission in my tractor lawn mower. Several weeks ago, the machine got slower and weaker going up a couple very slight rises in my lawn, then wouldn’t move forward at all. A local mechanic said the transmission was gone and would be too costly to replace and re-parked it in my garage. 

In a phone call, John said he’d order a new one and come down and replace it.  (Fortunately he is the CEO of True North Equipment – comprised of eight John Deere stores in North Dakota and Minnesota – that also sells lawn and garden equipment.  And so he did in about a half hours time. And it surely works as he has mowed the lawn twice since. 

A first look at the 1955 Willys Jeep.

Back to the 1955 Jeep. He found it on a Willys Jeep internet forum, of which there are several John says. The owner lived at Mt. Morris, Illinois but works at a construction company near Janesville where the Jeep was located.

Purrs like a kitten

We drove down a few days ago, met the owner Tom Nobis who started the old machine that was parked outside behind a work building. It started on the first turn of the key and Tom drove it onto John’s trailer. 

Onto the trailer with no trouble.

They tied it down securely and off we went the 50 miles or so home. John parked it along side my garage where it has rested for several days. Today he loaded the oldster on to the trailer for its trip to Grand Forks where it will get a rebuild in coming months.

Must find time

"How do you find time to undertake such a rebuilding job while running a 230 employee, eight store John Deere dealership locations?" I asked John.

“I work on it at night, weekends and other open times,” he answered. “I have a big garage and the tools at my home and know many experts nationwide who can answer my questions. Yes, True North Equipment is a big company but everyone should have a hobby to help keep a clear business mind. “

John has been visiting (and working on things I’ve not gotten done) for near a week now (his wife Joan was also here for several days for a family gathering and their daughter, son-in-law and new baby were also here for the weekend). I’ve certainly learned that with age comes less ambition, slower moving and the thankfulness for a son and daughters who will occasionally visit and help dad out.

The 1955 Jeep needs a little work...John will do it.

Meanwhile John’s company moves on. “I’ve got a great management staff and an iPhone that I can and do use if need be,” he says.

And so the Onckens are now a two Jeep family and I’ll watch from a distance its rebirth into a new 1955 model. 

John Oncken can be reached at jfodairy2@gmail.com or 608-837-7406.