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Tractor buff receives heart-warming surprise during Mighty Mac crossing


This was the ninth year for the historic Mackinac Bridge Antique Tractor Crossing event; organized and sponsored by Owosso Tractor Parts. A record number of 1,326 tractors, all at least 40 years old or older, ventured across the Mighty Mac on Sept. 9, after parading thru downtown Mackinaw City. Representing the Saline Retired Iron club were 36 tractors, 3 buddy riders and a semi-truck. Paul Marion is one of the founding members of the club, and has participated in all nine crossings. This year, along with several other friends and family members, Paul’s 93-year-young mom Doris made her 4th crossing as his buddy rider on the 1955 Massey Harris 44 Special. Also crossing this year was a beautiful “surprise” semi-truck trailer, driven by Paul’s son Melvin, which holds special meaning for the Marion family.

Getting the trailer and designing the beautiful wrap took Melvin Marion a little over a year to pull together as a surprise for his parents, Paul and Connie. “The project started last September with a trip to Phoenix Arizona and Los Angeles California to get the trailer home -- then trying to figure out what to put on the trailer”, said Melvin. He stored the blank trailer at his friend’s Bob and Marie Rasch's place. “The biggest challenge was trying to keep it a secret, especially the week before the crossing,” Melvin said.

The 1973 International 666 tractor depicted on the semi-trailer resides at the Paul Marion farm. It was purchased by Paul’s son, Matt, who was devoted to repairing it; even covering it with a tent during the winter to keep it warm while he repaired the engine block. Matt was killed 10 years ago this June in a tragic vehicle accident at the family farm. After Matt’s death, the Marion boys finished restoring his tractor with new fenders, and it remains in active use on the farm. On both sides of the tractor are angel wings that say "In Loving Memory of Matt Marion 1978 – 2006." His brother Mark has driven it across the Mackinac Bridge in his brother’s memory the last four years.

Melvin sneakily loaded 5 family tractors headed for the bridge crossing onto the new, blank trailer when his dad wasn't home, and took it to its hiding place. That reportedly made his dad “grouchy for days”, because Paul likes to check everything over before the haul north begins. Melvin then took the loaded trailer to Steve's Custom Signs in Ann Arbor to work their magic. They had a very tight schedule as Melvin had inadvertently given them the wrong date. Within two days, however; the trailer was wrapped, and looked great.

The trailer "reveal" took place at the pit area in Mackinaw City. Melvin tried to coordinate with his sister Marcia to have their mom and dad in the same place at the same time when he pulled in. “That didn’t happen”, Marcia explained, because her dad was helping others in the club get their tractors unloaded. “My sister Marie was with mom and Grandma Doris when Melvin pulled in. They didn’t realize it was Melvin until Marie pointed it out. “With tears streaming down her face, mom said she was expecting the flatbed he always brings, and when dad finally saw it; the smile on his face was priceless!”

“It was a huge hit”, said Melvin. “Thanks to Bob from Owosso Tractor Parts for going way out of his way to accommodate what I wanted to do, and Anne-Marie Rasch for the use of a truck, not only to get to the bridge, but also to get the trailer home from Phoenix.

For the Marion clan, the tractor crossing, and preparing for it, is filled with meaning and special moments that continue to make this annual pilgrimage north a special family time. It’s even more special, now, with this beautiful, rolling memorial to their beloved family member, Matt.

Members crossing this year from Saline Retired Iron were: Scott Ackling, Rocky Adams, Dan Blumenauer, Mark Blumenauer, Mitch Bogi, David Bohnett, Steve Bohnett, Felix Burdo, David Czuj, Larry DeJonghe, LeRoy DeJonghe, Adam Dusseau, Scott Feldkamp with buddy rider Julie Feldkamp, Anthony Finkbeiner, Gary Girbach, Sara Girbach, Lloyd Guenther, Tom Hammond, Tim Ireland, Paul Marion with buddy rider Doris Marion, Marcia Marion, Mark Marion, Melvin Marion with the semi, Mike Marion, Milton Marion, Carrie Roehm, Ron Roehm with buddy rider Colin Roehm, Orman Roehm, Jim Schnearle, Grant Smith, Mark Stevenson, Paul Stevenson, Kyle Toteff, Terry Wain, Richard Weisenreder, Tiffany Weisenreder and Tom Wilcox.