Tractors rumble along country roads for juvenile diabetes research

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Nico Savidge
Monday, September 9, 2013

FOOTVILLE—The first thing you saw coming over the hill on Marsh Road Sunday morning was an American flag, then the red Massey Harris tractor to which it was attached.

Behind the first tractor was a line of 83 others. The procession rumbled along the rural roads and quiet villages of Rock County to raise money for research to combat juvenile diabetes.

Leading the way at the wheel of that 1952 Massey Harris was Ed Cook, a town of Porter man who has organized the Team Cody and Ethan Annual Tractor Drive for the past four years to benefit his two grandchildren with Type-1 diabetes.

One of them, 8-year-old Cody Gilman, rode up front with Cook.

Gilman's mother, Sarah, still remembers the day she found out her 10-month-old child had diabetes. “D-day,” she calls it.

Since then, she has tried to make something good out of that diagnosis. The more than $8,000 raised Sunday will go toward Cody and Ethan's team at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes in Madison later this month.

Ethan's mother, Betsy France, marveled at the turnout.

“Every year we seem to have more and more people help us,” France said. “It's amazing to see everyone's generosity.”

The ride started at the American Legion post in Orfordville.

Mike Eggleston, the post's first vice commander and an organizer of Sunday's ride, also has Type-I diabetes. Many of his family members and the people involved in the tractor drive are “on the needle” too, he said.

“Virtually everyone here—everyone here—knows … what a good cause it is,” he said.

It also was an enjoyable trip for more than 100 people who participated, Eggleston said, whether they were driving tractors or riding on haulers outfitted with benches.

The tractors rolled slowly along a route organizers pegged at 30 miles, through downtown Orfordville, Footville and Hanover, past silos and cornfields and the rusting hulks of old farm equipment parked in yards along the road.

It was a new way to see their county, Eggleston said.

“I've driven down these roads hundreds and hundreds of times, and I'm seeing things that I haven't seen before,” he said.

Just after noon the convoy rolled into Footville for the ride's midway “relief stop.”

Tractors parked four-wide across a closed block of Depot Street, where bartenders from the Toe Town Tap sold beer and hot dogs for $2 apiece.

Cook climbed down from his tractor, wearing a hat screen-printed with a photo of him with Cody and Ethan and, as you might expect, a red tractor.

He organized the drive because he wanted to help his grandsons and other young people with diabetes, so they might not have to spend their entire lives “on the needle,” as Eggleston would say.

When he's asked how it feels today, though, driving his tractor down country roads with his grandson at his side, Cook says “that's amazing.”

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