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Spring Old Court Days

Nothing runs like a Deere
for this Indiana Farmer

Brawner’s love of tractors
grew with his dairy operation

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(May 2011) – Paul Joe Brawner belongs to a generation who remembers farming the old-fashioned way.
His father, B.T. Brawner, worked on the Vawter Irvin farm north of Madison, Ind., on State Road 250 for 17 years, starting at 75 cents a day. Although he liked working for Irvin, he longed to have his own spread. He bought his own 80-acre farm south of Hanover in 1947 or 1948, when Paul was about 10 years old.
Paul Brawner well remembers walking behind a team of horses as they pulled an iron plow to furrow the fields on his father’s farm.

Paul Brawner

Photo by Laura Hodges

Paul Brawner poses beside his 1949
John Deere, the first tractor his
father bought new. “This has got a lot
of sentiment to it,” said Brawner.

In addition to the iron plow, his father started farming with an F12 International tractor. It was destined to be his last International, however.
When it came time to buy a new tractor, his former employer, Vawter Irvin, made sure he made his best deals at Irvin’s John Deere dealership.
Once the Brawners acquired their 1949A John Deere, there was no other brand of tractor for them.
“This country couldn’t run without John Deere tractors,” declares Paul Brawner, 72.
A sign in his garage says, “God didn’t make everything green and yellow. Just the best”
“If you cut me, I bleed green,” said Brawner, who houses a large collection of John Deere tractors and memorabilia in a barn near his home on New Bethel Road, Lexington, Ind.
When not on the farm, he tends to his other hobby of selling Holland Grills and each spring sets up his grills at Old Court Days. The annual festival is organized by the Pilot Club of Madison and is scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29 in downtown Madison. Brawner will be grilling, as usual, at Main and Jefferson streets.
But his true passion is farming – and John Deere tractors.
Brawner and his wife of 51 years, Janet O’Neal Brawner, are pleased to look back on a long life of raising children, milking cows and farming with John Deere equipment. They have six children. One of them, Greg, operates the Brawner dairy farm today with his own son, Gregory. That makes four generations who have been farming the land on South Hanover-Saluda Road, which has expanded to encompass 1,220 acres.
Brawner’s father started out with seven dairy cows at the Hanover farm. The herd increased to 30 by the time his health failed and he sold the farm to Paul. Before long, Paul was milking 60 cows and the dairy just kept growing. Today, Greg, 48, and Gregory, 24, milk 163 cows and raise heifers at another farm near Kent.
“Our boys drove tractors when they weren’t old enough to reach a clutch pedal. We used a hand clutch,” says Brawner.
Increased acreage meant more equipment. As the farm prospered, the Brawners have built their fleet of John Deeres.

Paul and Janet Brawner

Photo by Laura Hodges

Paul Brawner and his wife, Janet,
have been married for 51 years.

Paul Brawner is sentimental about his father’s 1949 two-cylinder tractor, however. It now has a prized position inside his garage on New Bethel Road. It is shiny with new green paint, new gauges, new wire harness – the works.
“It’s like new,” says Brawner, who lovingly rebuilt it himself. “It’s on its fifth set of rubber tires.” He displays a certificate he obtained from the John Deere Co. authenticating that this Model A machine, serial number 634654, arrived at the Indianapolis warehouse on May 3, 1949, and was shipped from there to Madison.
Brawner also displays the John Deere plow that he walked behind as a boy. He has replaced the wooden handles and repainted the iron. It was made in 1884 and is marked No. 376, one of 400 that was made.
Also in the barn, he has an impressive array of hand tools passed down from his father and grandfather. “They have a tour of homes, but I wish they had a tour of barns,” says Brawner, who loves to talk about these items with others.
In order to make a nicer looking backdrop for his collection, he has lined the inside of his display barn with barn siding.
“My Dad always told me there’s two ways to do things: the right way and the wrong way,” says Brawner.
His wife says, “Paul Joe is very particular. He has never taken a piece of equipment out into the field that he hasn’t waxed it first.”
“When I look down a clean hood, it makes me do a better job,” says Brawner. These days, he uses a miniature John Deere to mow three acres around the Brawners’ retirement home.
Come Memorial Day, if you see Paul Joe Brawner, or “P.J.” as he is known to his friends, grilling on the sidewalk in downtown Madison, walk over and strike up a conversation. He’ll be glad to share some stories about farming over the past 60 years.
You can’t miss him. He’ll be in the one in the John Deere cap.

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