Parade honors Whidbey’s past, present

Across the country, Memorial Day observances have become rare. But Whidbey Island maintains Memorial Day traditions with programs at cemeteries and a parade in Coupevaille.

This year, beneath the red, white and blue, the heart of Whidbey will beat John Deere Green for Memorial Day.

During the parade Saturday, May 28, veterans groups, bands and marchers will be augmented by Central Whidbey residents rolling along on vintage tractors.

This salute to Whidbey’s agricultural heritage honors a desire of Val Arnold, 60, a longtime island resident.

Arnold remembers good times on her family’s farm, playing in barns and henhouse and driving a tractor.

She drove a John Deere Model D at her father’s farm and at her uncle Bob Arnold’s place where Skymeadows is today.

The machines were general purpose tractors, Val Arnold explained.

“They towed machinery and helped put in crops — whatever work needed doing,” she said.

Four years ago, Arnold purchased a 1940 Model D John Deere tractor from a Camano Island estate.

Notes she received indicated the tractor had not run in 10 or 11 years. Until recently, the tractor sat in a barn at Arnold Farm on Arnold Road where Val Arnold grew up.

In the last few weeks, family friends Malcolm Bishop and Fran Einterz have put the tractor back in field condition in time for their objective — Coupeville’s Memorial Day parade.

Bishop said the tractor wasn’t in bad shape, considering its age and the many years it sat idle.

His hobby of collecting and rebuilding antique engines, however, gives him a different perspective than that of other mechanics.

Bishop and Einterz drained old fluids from the engine and transmission and refilled the cases. They readjusted the valves and worked through the ignition.

“The valves were so far out of adjustment, I don’t know how the tractor ran even 15 years ago,” Bishop said.

He estimated that he and Einterz spent no more than 12 hours working on the old farm workhorse.

Bishop spent one evening rebuilding the carbuerator but he shrugged off the work.

“It felt good to see Val get to enjoy the tractor,” Bishop said. “She was all smiles when she drove it.”

Friends tow-started the tractor last week and Arnold drove it around a field. The seat is a scoop of metal mounted on a metal rod. A coiled spring allows the seat some movement. Except for that nod to ergonomic design, there are no other comforts. There’s no cab so the driver is exposed to weather.

Arnold isn’t sure who will drive the tractor during the parade. Einterz or Bishop might if Arnold doesn’t feel up to the route.

In December, Arnold was diagnosed with brain cancer, a disease which killed her mother. In January, she had surgery to remove the tumor.

Seeing the old tractor run again has been a dream of hers.

“It’s been one of my projects,” she said.

This year, look for the essence of Memorial Day gleaming John Deere Green.

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