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Past is future for collector

Staff writer

Bud Radtke of rural Marion doesn’t worry about things to do now that he is retired. A walk through his shed and yard reveals many things that he sees as possibilities for items people might want to use as décor in their yards and gardens.

The 68-year-old Radtke looks the part of an old-timer himself, with his oil-stained felt hat, curled-up white mustache, and white sideburns.

“I’ve got to have something to do,” he said.

Beyond that, he thinks it is important to preserve the past and to remember the industriousness of those who settled the land and used their ingenuity to make things work.

He owns eight acres at 1838 Wagon Wheel Rd. that are filled with antique equipment. A shed on the farmstead is filled with an indescribable amount of items he has collected during the past 40 years, most of them purchased at farm auctions.

To make sense out of it, one needs to focus on just one area at a time to see what stands out.

Collections of wrenches, for example, and other items specific to equipment brands such as International Harvester and John Deere are mounted on boards hanging on walls. Old gas cans hang from the ceiling.

A collection of branding irons and other items used with cattle many years ago includes handmade halters that were put on calves to wean them from their mothers’ milk. Sharp points on a rim of iron that fit around the nose would poke the calf when it tried to nurse, or the points might poke the cow, causing her to kick.

“People used to have small herds, and calves stayed with the cows after weaning,” Radtke explained.

He uses old discs from tillage equipment as bases for plant holders or decorative items. He creates longhorn heads out of old spades and pipe.

He also builds wooden ladders that people can use in their homes to display quilts or other items.

Radtke can identify where he got a particular item, such as a little wooden rocking chair hanging in the rafters.

“I bought that in south Texas for my son,” he said.

Given his interest in preserving the past, it’s no surprise that Radtke has an association with Bearly Makin’ It Antiques in Marion.

He often sells things to the store, and sometimes store owners bring items to him for repair.

“They’re more organized than I am,” he said.

Radtke doesn’t have a website but he has a business card he gives to other collectors. People hear about him through word of mouth and come to his farm to look for items.

He worked in rock quarries for 25 years and helped auctioneer Roger Hiebert organize farm sales until he retired about two years ago.

“I just didn’t want a schedule anymore. I just like playing around with this stuff,” Radtke said.

He grew up in North Dakota and moved to Kansas in 1972, at age 22. He and his wife, Chris, have been married 41 years and have lived at their present location all of their married life. Their three children — Travis, Trent, and Tracy — and their families live in Marion. Radtke’s mother lives at St. Luke Living Center.

Last modified July 12, 2018

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