By Jan Swoope
The Commercial Dispatch
Growing up in Webster County, Mitch Sisson wore more than the knees of his britches out pushing toy tractors around. He wore the tractors out, too. Decades later, he’s still playing with farm toys — and he’s not the only one.
Sisson is one of a dedicated group of farm toy enthusiasts in the Golden Triangle area. By day, they may be engineers, professors or research technicians. But free time may find them tracking down an elusive 1/64th-scale John Deere cotton picker, restoring a child-sized pedal tractor or swapping tales at a farm toy show with other folks with “mad plow disease.” For many of them, the fascination is rooted in nostalgia.
“That sentimental connection is driving this, I think,” said Sisson, who lives near Maben and works with Pritchard Engineering Inc. in Starkville. “Somebody wants a toy tractor just like the tractor their granddaddy used to drive. Or they’ll have one they had as a kid that’s broken, and I’ll fix it for them,” said the drafter who repairs, restores and customizes farm toys. It keeps him connected to memories of driving a tractor on his uncle’s farm, and hours spent in his daddy’s small country store in Bellefontaine that was “full of farmers.”
Thanks to the enthusiasm of people like Sisson, John Byrd Jr. of Starkville, Harry Collins of Tupelo, and Extension Service agent Scott Cagle, the Mississippi Farm Toy Show got its start 13 years ago in Starkville. It annually attracts collectors, vendors and the curious from not only the Magnolia State, but from Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and beyond.
In recent years, Greg Flint of Sturgis and Billy Self of Kosciusko have been active in putting on the show that outgrew its original home in the Mississippi State University “Bull Barn” and moved to the Mississippi Horse Park.
It’s not just tractors, of course. Model combines, cotton pickers, pickups, discs, bush hogs, hay balers, cultivators, and cattle and horse trailers are high on the list, too.
“Eighteen-wheelers are getting popular, and logging equipment, skidders, log loaders and even construction equipment,” said Sisson. “It’s something to see (at a show), even if you’re not a collector or into it. We have a pile of fun.”
The future popularity of farm toys may lie in the hands of children like 10-year-old Maggie Sisson, who likes to help her dad work on toy tractors.
At the show held Feb. 14-15 at the Horse Park, she set up her own farm display. One day she just might be entering the diorama display contest at the national show, one of a new generation with its own tales to swap about riding a tractor with dad.
Editor’s note: For more information about farm toy collecting or next year’s show in Starkville, contact Mitch Sisson, 662-769-3107, or Greg Flint, 662-418-9101.