tv Forbes on Fox FOX Business March 26, 2017 7:00am-7:31am EDT
you'd like to share with us? we'd love to hear it! send me an e-mail or go to our website -- strangeinheritance.com. ♪ >> a farmer with an unusual hobby hands down a humongous collection to his family. >> anybody that collects 150 tractors -- doesn't that make you eccentric? ♪ >> he spent a lifetime, and a pretty penny, amassing it. >> definitely a method to grandpa's madness. >> is it a treasure trove of valuable americana? >> it was almost out of control maybe you would say. >> or a herd of white elephants? >> dad, are you ever gonna stop? you know, for one thing, you're running out of room. where are you going to put them all? [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] ♪ >> i'm jamie colby, and i'm just
pulling into le mars, iowa. it's a short distance from sioux city. i'm about to meet a family that's farmed this land for generations and learn about a very strange inheritance. ♪ >> my name is roma lancaster. after my dad passed away, we knew that there would be a lot of things that would have to be sorted out and gone through on the farm. >> roma's father, dave hawkins, has deep roots in this part of iowa, going back more than a century. >> my father's ancestors immigrated to the united states in late 1800s. they moved westward with the expansion of the railroad, and my grandfather, my dad's father, albert hawkins, farmed just south of here, about a mile. >> dave hawkins grew up hearing stories of his ancestors plowing this land behind a team of
horses. as a young farmer in the 1950s, just out of school, dave spots a tractor rusting in the weeds. it sparks his imagination. >> the 1920 9d is the tractor that belonged to my grandfather. that's what got my dad into the collecting again was when he restored that tractor that had originally belonged to his father. >> as his farm grows to over 500 acres of corn and soybeans, and his family prospers, hawkins seeks out the next vintage tractor to buy and restore. then the next and the next, including this one, a minneapolis-moline that hawkins bought, restored, and donated to the plymouth county museum. >> how old would this one be? >> it's a 1944 model. >> incredible. >> i meet bruce brock at the museum. a fellow history buff, he and dave hawkins went way back. >> i was proud to be his
friend. he was a good businessman, he was a good father, a good husband, a great neighbor, and a good community guy. >> i understand coin collecting and car collecting, but tractors, bruce -- tractors? what was he thinking? >> these are a representation of the past that farmers and farm families and farm relations really enjoy looking at because it brings back memories. >> tractors are part of iowa's history. in 1892, john froelich invented the practical gas-powered tractor in a tiny village about 300 miles east of here. the mechanization of farming helps america become an agricultural giant. >> alex, are you in here? >> there he is. >> and even though none of dave's four children tills the soil like he did, he does share his passion for tractors with his grandson, alex. >> i can remember as young as 3 or 4 years old, riding in the combine with my grandpa and taking naps on the floor, and if
we weren't doing that, we were driving up and down the road looking for other tractors to work on and fix up in the shop. >> pretty soon, dave's sheds are filled with old tractors in various states of repair -- more than 100 of them. >> did mom ever say, "no more tractors"? >> no, not really, but i remember dad called the tractors his "savings account," you know, to justify it. through the years, as things became tight in the sheds, and, you know, there was just kind of a joking question about "dad, are you ever gonna stop?" >> the answer is, no, he's not going to stop. family vacations become cross-country tractor hunts. ♪ >> so would you say that he was eccentric? >> he was a little crazy sometimes, but he was definitely a savvy businessman. >> over the years, grandpa probably put $100,000, probably not over a quarter of $1 million million into his collection. >> but it wasn't about the money.
it was a passion, it was a love, and it was just something he wanted to do. he didn't really get into the collecting real heavily thep us go to college and make sure we got the education that we wanted. >> born of hardy iowa farmer stock, dave seems as indestructible as those tractors. everybody assumes he'll plow on forever. then, all of a sudden, in the summer of 2011, his 73-year-old body grinds to a halt. >> dad was a man who never complained. he was only sick for a few days. we did not even know what was wrong with him. the autopsy results came back that we found out that he had cancer. [ voice breaking ] i'm sad because my dad's gone. sorry. >> it was more than just a shock. it was a life-changing blow.
>> he went to the same church from the day he was born until the day he died. he was baptized and had his funeral in the same small country church. it was very important to him that we all knew that legacy and continued that on, also. >> at first, life on the farm continues as before. dave's son-in-law, alex's dad, todd popken, farms the acreage. alex tends the tractors. but soon, the loss of their patriarch sends ripples of change through the family. dave's widow, judy, moves into town. >> did that surprise you? >> no. mom had said for 10 years, "if something happens to you first, i do not want to stay out here by myself." >> dave's absence creates a crisis, sparking strong disagreement within the family. should they hang on to dave's beloved collection or sell it and close out his
"savings account"? >> at the time of his death, how prepared was he for you to take on this huge obligation? >> i wish we would have even had just a couple days to ask him some questions that would have helped us make sure we made the decisions that were how he wished for them to be made. and obviously the more people involved, the harder that decision becomes. you have to know, there were some bumpy roads that we traveled there. >> that's next. >> and now for our "strange inheritance" quiz question... the answer when we return. [ bird caws ]
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[ bird caws ] >> now the answer to our "strange inheritance" quiz question... it's "b," lamborghini. >> the untimely death of iowa farmer dave hawkins in 2011 leaves his family in a state of upheaval. his widow, judy, moves into town, leaving the homestead empty for the first time in generations. dave's grandson, alex, a 23-year-old newlywed, and his wife, maria, buy the house and
move in... a bold move by the young man, who has the best shot of keeping the hawkins' tradition of family farming alive. alex says his grandma made the house deal easy for the first-time buyer. now, isn't that what grandma's are for? >> so, did she give you a good deal? >> yeah. a family deal. >> but the family hasn't even started to discuss what to do with the strange inheritance -- dave hawkins' collection of rare and antique tractors. >> we didn't even talk about it until at least a year or almost a year had passed. i don't think it was easy for anyone. and we did go through that where, you know, we weren't all agreeing. the number-one toughest decision was, can we keep the collection or do we have to sell part of it? financially and time-wise, there was nobody that could do what dad had done. >> did he tell you before he passed? >> we had talked about it, but never made a decision, or he
had never made a decision about what he wanted to do. >> finally, dave's widow, judy, asks the kids to come to a decision. it's not easy. >> how do you come to an agreement when each party has a different idea of what is right or wrong? to please five parties is a tough, tough decision to have to come to grips with. >> amid this family discord, tammy's son, alex, spends nights and weekends keeping his grandpa's precious tractors from deteriorating. >> there's a lot of expenses to keep them -- insurance, upkeep, batteries, tires, and to keep the collection and not upkeep it, in my opinion, was not an option. >> dave hawkins' pride and joy is becoming a sore point. >> i was at a full-time job,
as i was just graduated from college, just got married, and maybe some of them didn't realize all the time and work and money that it was gonna take to keep those tractors up. >> alex thinks that could add up to more than $10,000 a year. >> there just is too much of a financial and time commitment that none of us were able to exercise, and that we didn't expect alex to exercise, and we made the decision then at that point to sell the items. ♪ >> the family decides the best way to maximize the collection's value is through that great american country tradition -- the open-call auction. and they keep it local by hiring dad's old friend bruce brock, who's also an auctioneer. >> they wanted their father and their husband represented in a fashion that would make him proud because i know that he
made them proud, and i think that was important. >> what did the family tell you about how much they wanted to generate from the sale? >> they didn't really tell us anything. they just trusted us to bring them home as many net dollars as we could. >> but it's not quite that simple for the hawkins heirs, who made a curious discovery after their father died, one that could affect their bottom line and their father's legacy. from beyond the grave, dave hawkins is guiding his family on how to handle their strange inheritance. that's next. >> here's another quiz question for you... the answer when we return. [ bird caws ]
>> so, how many acres could a farmer till in a day with a horse-drawn plow? the answer is "b," 1 to 3 acres. ♪ >> after months of discussion, dave hawkins' heirs have come to a painful conclusion -- it's time to auction off his lifelong collection of tractors. but one more family member gets to weighs in -- dave himself. >> it was discovered in my dad's desk that he had a handwritten list of the tractors that he wished for us to save. >> these tractors, going back to the 1920s, are the cream of dave's crop and must stay in the family. their dad's list gets them thinking. what else should they keep off the auction block? so, they each make their own
lists. >> it had to be godly intervention that when we got together for a family meeting and compared our lists, nobody had picked wanting the same item. at first, roma herself is undecided. >> one day, i would think, "yes, i should keep a tractor." and the next day i'm thinking, "you know what? it's only metal, and my memories of being with dad are invaluable to me." >> in the end, she can't resist keeping two bright green john deeres -- a 1943 b and a '48 m. meanwhile, alex and his dad work the family farm with this 1964 deere. okay. that's one. he asks if i want to drive it. >> over there are your brakes. >> brakes are important. >> this is your lever to select the gear that you go in. >> and, of course, he's gentleman enough to coach this city girl on the basics, like how you turn the darned thing on. >> i'm gonna start it up. i see a key. >> yep. [ engine turns over ] >> there you go. perfect.
>> i wouldn't... >> [ laughs ] >> we don't have anything like this in new york. >> nothing like this? >> no, nothing. >> you think the taxis will get out of the way? >> oh, i think so. i think everyone will get out of the way. [ engine shuts off ] unbelievable experience driving a tractor. >> my pleasure. >> thank you. that was exciting. hard to imagine that the hawkins heirs had to wrangle more than 100 of these things to get ready for auction. >> you worked hard to get ready, i'm sure. >> alex and todd popken worked through the winter ahead of that sale date getting tractors ready. >> a lot of sweat, a lot of tears, and a lot of laughter. >> auctioneer bruce brock knows the key is getting as many motivated bidders as possible to the hawkins' farm on auction day. tell me about the night before.
you get a good night's sleep? >> very little. we are entrusted to, in just a few hours, bring to fruition a lifetime of collecting and sacrifice that the family's gone through. it was a big day for us, and we had everything planned, right down to the most minute detail. >> well, every detail except one. [ thunder rumbles ] >> the day of the auction started out a little bit on the rocky side. >> that's next. [ thunder rumbles ] how's it going? -hi. today we're gonna be comparing the roll-formed steel bed of the chevy silverado to the aluminum bed of this competitor's truck. awesome. let's see how the aluminum bed of this truck held up. wooooow!! -holy moly. that's a good size puncture. you hear 'aluminum' now you're gonna go 'ew'. let's check out the silverado steel bed. wow. you have a couple of dents. i'd expect more dents. make a strong decision. find your tag and get 15% below msrp on select 2017 silverado 1500 crew cabs in stock.
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custom alerts on thinkorswim. only at td ameritrade. >> narrator: now back to "strange inheritance." >> after months of tough decisions and hard work, dave hawkins' loved ones gather at the family farm for the auction of his collection of antique tractors. just as the gavel is about to be raised... [ thunder crashes ] it starts to pour buckets.
you went to all this preparation, though, for the auction, and the sky opens up. and what was it like? >> disappointing that it might damper the crowd, but you can't ever wish away rain if you're a farmer. >> dad would sing a song, "you are my sunshine," to all of us a lot when we were small, and so that morning, on the way over here, i had ran into town and got us four yellow roses. >> then the clouds part. >> and so, after it stopped raining, i took a yellow rose to my mother and my two sisters and said, "you know, dad will always be our sunshine." so, we all carried our yellow roses around, and he was our sunshine.
[ auctioneer calling ] >> once the bidding starts, it's immediately clear that dave hawkins isn't the only one obsessed with these big machines. was it a sell-out? >> it was a sell-out. and we were hoping to get 500 or 600 people, and we were almost double that. >> the bidders come from as far away as canada and mexico. 1936 john deere a -- sold. $2,000. '46 deere slant dash -- sold. $3,000. '49 case cs -- sold. $600 '51 oliver row-crop -- sold. $8,000. '58 john deere 730 diesel -- sold. $20,000. tractors are pretty valuable to people. >> tractors are pretty valuable, both emotionally and financially. >> the family's dedication to dave hawkins' memory pays off. the auction nets around $400,000 for his heirs.
i guess you could say dave is still taking care of his family. >> i had one child still in college, and my oldest child had graduated from college. and so, i was very excited to be able to use that money to help them with their college debt. >> dave, who hated debt, would be proud. oh, my goodness. but it could have been a lot more. if you add up the value of the 23 tractors that stay in the hawkins family, it comes to more than $180,000. still, there are a few tears as 100-plus tractors are trucked away to collectors around the country and beyond. >> it was kind of a bittersweet deal. there was a couple that i would have liked to have kept. >> i just feel bad for alex going out to all the empty sheds. >> but alex hopes the sheds won't be empty forever.
>> as i get older and get my own collection going, maybe i'll have the same problem again in 50 years. >> and remember that '29 john deere, the one that belonged to alex's great-grandfather? that very first one that dave rescued from the junk pile? so, this is it? >> this one's it. >> in his will, dave hawkins sets that one aside for alex. perhaps it will be the seed that grows into another grand collection, just like his grandpa's. >> living out here on the farm is good. you always get to walk somewhat in his footsteps, day in and day out. he's still here a little bit for me. people that grew up on farms, that's your lifestyle. you breathe and die farming. >> i couldn't help but notice alex's pride, not just in that machine, not simply a strange
inheritance that turned out to be quite valuable, but rather in the way of life that links him to those who came before him on this land and the determination of dave hawkins' heirs to keep his legacy together for at least one more generation. we learned one other story about dave hawkins from his family. he never spent time with his tractors without having one of his children or grandchildren alongside. a completely positive person -- that's how they described him. so positive that he'd answer the phone "good morning," whether it was morning or night. in fact, after he passed, they had t-shirts made that said "good morning" with "gramps" on the sleeve to wear their first christmas without dave. thanks so much for joining us for "strange inheritance." i'm jamie colby. remember -- you can't take it with you. do you have a strange inheritance story you'd like to
share with us? we'd love to hear it. send me an e-mail or go to our website, strangeinheritance.com. >> a letter arrives in the mail with news of a strange and lucrative inheritance. >> the letter goes on to say, "if i got a letter like this, i would think it to be a scam." >> and i was like, "why are we named? somebody's scamming us." >> so, is it a scam? >> i said, "you know, ray, there's a fine between genius and idiot." he'd say, "yeah," and he said, "i cross that two or three times a day." >> who is this mysterious benefactor? >> he was a hidden man. >> he didn't have the family life. he didn't have a friend to talk to. >> he really, truly was a fan. >> but an inheritance? >> that's a strange inheritance and a stranger story still. [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ]