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A Valley Hallmark Becomes a Piece of History

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Written by Valley Irrigation |

Reposted from the Fall 2015 edition of Valley PivotPoint Magazine.

A Valley Hallmark Becomes a Piece of HistoryTwenty-five years of center pivot irrigation for $2,800 – now that’s a wise investment and some serious dependability.

But as with all good things, this too must end. This Valley Water Drive 1260 – one of the last operating in Nebraska – retired last year.

Brothers Norman and Marvin Brugger of Albion, Neb., struggled with the decision to put their Water Drive out to pasture.

“It’s a little tough to take it down because, man, it’s been there a long time,” Norm said. “Our sons are not real happy with us. They said, ‘Are you kidding? We wanted to run that pivot someday.’ I told them, ‘Guys, stuff just doesn’t run forever.’ We tried really hard to make it run forever, but it’s not going to.”

Actually, the old water drive still works, but it was becoming more difficult to find parts for it. Fortunately, the Brugger family’s affinity for old stuff means part of the machine will be donated to the Boone County Historical Society Museum in Albion, and that’s good news for everyone because this old pivot has a great story.

“My brother and I bought our first farm in 1990 and it was a gravity irrigated farm,” Norm explained. “We wanted something that was a lot less labor intensive and gave us a little savings on water, but since this was our first farm, buying a new pivot wasn’t really an option.”

The brothers rented a farm the previous year with a Valley Water Drive on it, so they had experience operating one. They thought the Water Drive was a neat machine, so they searched out one for their new farm.

“It was bought new in 1967, so it would have been 23 years old when we bought it and we’ve had it now 25 years,” Norm said. “Time goes by pretty fast.”

For those keeping track, that’s 48 years of irrigating. The Brugger brothers ran it an average of 10 to 12 circles a year. Other than routine maintenance and replacing parts now and then, it’s been a solid performer.

“It’s a good old pivot,” Norm said. “It just goes and goes and goes.”

The Water Drive stopped once in a while, Marvin said, but often it just needed to be restarted and off it would go.

“There wouldn’t be anything really wrong, just a glitch,” he said. “Sometimes a good kick helped.”

But seriously, it’s been a great pivot, Norm said.

“We’re diehard Valley people,” he said. “We like our Valley pivots. If it’s got a Valley on it, it’s got to be good.”

Their father, Don Brugger, is a Valley guy, too. He bought his first electric Valley center pivot in 1981 with his brother, Paul Brugger. Marv and Norm farmed with their father and uncle for several years.

“We’re thinking that Valley pivot has close to 16,000 hours on it – 16,000 or 17,000 – and we can honestly say it’s probably stopped six times,” Norm said. “No flat tires, no gearbox trouble, no center drive trouble.”

The Bruggers, customers of Tri Valley Electric dealership in Neligh, Neb., own seven other Valley pivots and farm 1,700 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Plus, they raise a spring cow herd and a small fall cow herd, feed cattle and sell some seed.

Their Water Drive was originally purchased by Leo Dwyer in 1967, who replaced it with an electric pivot in 1990. The Water Drive was a low-profile pivot, so the Bruggers told the salesman that if he could find some extensions they would buy it for $1,400. The corn grows higher in Boone County than in Wheeler County where the pivot came from.

“He said, ‘OK, just give me some time,’” Norm said. “He looked around and by golly up by Atkinson (Neb.) he found several pivots that had those extensions. So he said, ‘Boys, I found you some of those extensions, the deal’s made.’”

The Bruggers took the pivot apart – completely apart – put it on a truck, hauled it to Albion in pieces and put it back together.

“And that cost us 1,400 bucks,” Norm said. “It cost us just as much to move it and set it back up as we paid for it.

“Our banker looked at us and said, ‘what kind of pivot did you guys get for 2,800 bucks?’”

Norm told him not to worry.

“It’s good. It’ll work,” Norm told the banker. “We’re renting ground that has one on it and it goes and goes. I know this one will too. And it did.”

But, just as parts are becoming more difficult to find – making the machine harder to maintain – an unexpected opportunity to replace the old pivot surfaced.

“We just stumbled across a used electric pivot,” Marvin said. “It’s the same length. It’s just one of those deals where we found a used Valley to fit the spot, so it’s time to retire it.”

Although busy with their operations, the Bruggers made time earlier this year for the wistful task of dismantling their trusty Water Drive. The end tower went to the museum, and nostalgia led to a couple towers remaining on the Bruggers’ farms as elaborate hose holders. The rest of this sturdy machine? It went for scrap iron. But whatever the metal is repurposed as, it will be hard for it to be as invaluable as it was in its Water Drive form.

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