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7/10/2015

Winter? Who remembers winter?!? It’s show season! And that means a happy jumble of collectors and collections, relics restored and unrestored, new discoveries and warm reunions.

While the general idea of an old iron show is the same from coast to coast, clubs naturally put their own spin on the events, often showcasing local flavor of one kind or another. From the choice of feature tractor or engine to the menu at the concessions stands, regional differences give shows unique flair.

Shows often afford the opportunity to get acquainted with a splinter group of collectors. The Spark Plug Collectors of America, for instance, have an enthusiastic, permanent presence at the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show in Portland, Indiana, every summer. The Fuller & Johnson Museum at the Badger Steam & Gas Engine Club in Baraboo, Wisconsin, serves as a clubhouse for F&J fans. Then there’s the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Museum at Antique Powerland, Brooks, Oregon … the Connecticut Antique Machinery Assn. is adjacent to the Sloane-Stanley Museum, home of an incredible display of Stanley tools … antique cars, trucks and scooters (and antique construction equipment) are a big sideline at the Florida Flywheelers show. The list goes on and on and on.

If there’s any common denominator among old iron enthusiasts (beyond an abiding affection for ice cream!), it’s their inability to say no.” Engine collectors get interested in antique spark plugs and then make the leap to paper collectibles and suddenly they’re eyeing century-old advertising lithographs and watch fobs.

But you can’t beat that kind of cross-pollination. There’s a real satisfaction that comes in fitting together all the pieces of this hobby’s puzzle. We are drawn like bees to a diverse garden. Before you know it, you’ve learned about a specialized niche, and that can help you connect the dots representing advancements in time, evolving technology and changing needs.

And that’s important, because this hobby is about more than merely preserving machinery. All of the collections, all of the shows, the restorations, the museums, displays and demonstrations – they’re keeping a way of life alive. This country’s agricultural traditions are an essential part of our American heritage. Celebrate that heritage this summer. Check out a new show, a new display, a new museum. Keep the tradition alive! FC


Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com or find her on Google+.



6/9/2015

While ambling down an aisle of gas engines at a recent show, I saw a little girl, maybe 3 years old, strolling happily along with her parents. During the split second that her parents turned to look in one direction, the child zeroed in on a running engine in the other direction and advanced at a trot, reaching for the flywheel.

It’s about impossible to yell over the cacophony of an engine show. Strollers, golf carts and groups of visitors clogged the aisle. But despite the innumerable distractions that exist at a show, several people saw what was happening. In a reaction so synchronized it might have been choreographed, onlookers and mom sprung into action and the little girl was scooped up just in time.

In this country, every business of any size commits extensive resources to the topic of safety. Those with the highest exposure allocate enormous sums to ensure safety protocols are rigorously observed. Why? Because they know that in the vast majority of circumstances, accidents can be prevented.

It is a lesson we in this hobby would do well to learn. Antique machinery is massive, cantankerous and sometimes unpredictable. Spectators often have absolutely no idea of potential hazards. At every step of the process – from the time you load your trailer to go to the show, to the time you strap the load down for the return trip, be extra careful. When you’re with your display, keep an eye on spectators. When you’re driving on the grounds, keep an eye on spectators. Accidents happen when we’re tired and when we get in a hurry. Think, think and then think again. You cannot be too safe.

We need your help! We’re working on an article on the scrap metal drives of World War II. If you have memories of a drive or if your dad or uncle or granddad or somebody shared firsthand experience of a scrap drive with you, we’d love to hear about it (same goes for photos). Please write or email me at the address below!

And finally, there’s no new editor here – just a new picture. After 12 years, the old one was about wore out! Picture, that is: The editor is good for another 100,000 miles. Hoping to see you this summer as I rack up a few of those myself! FC


Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com or find her on Google+.



5/7/2015

Most of the freelancers who write for Farm Collector have some connection to agriculture and Jerry Schleicher was no exception. Raised in western Nebraska, Jerry grew up riding horses, branding cattle, milking cows and stacking hay. After college, he built a career as a writer for a variety of farm, livestock and dairy technology magazines. In retirement he contributed the occasional article to Farm Collector.

When Jerry died this winter after a long illness, he was working on an article for us about a traditional sugar beet harvest at the Farm And Ranch Museum, Gering, Nebraska. One of the things I always enjoyed about his work was the context he contributed from personal experience. As we emailed back and forth two weeks before his death, he was unusually expansive in recalling a time largely forgotten.

“I was born in 1946, one of the early baby boomers,” he wrote. “I remember my dad using a 1-row International Harvester beet harvester. Also, going with Dad to the railroad depot in the little town of Lyman, Nebraska, early each summer to claim the four or five Mexican nationals who’d signed up to block and thin our sugar beets with short-handled hoes. We housed them in an old railroad car that had been converted to a labor house, with a hand pump out front and a privy out back. Once a week he’d take them into town to buy groceries. They’d stay two months or so, then Dad would take them back to Lyman to catch the train home to Mexico. They were hard workers given a hard job, but I never heard any of them complain.”

He went on to elaborate on the unusual confluence of events that breathed life into western Nebraska’s sugar beet industry in the early decades of the last century, and I was thrilled as I pictured what would be an uncommonly well-rounded article. The deadline for that piece was probably the only one Jerry ever missed.

Jerry was a cowboy poet (read his work at Cowboy Poetry). In “The Old Walking Plow,” he considered an old plow recycled as yard art. “The calloused hands that tilled these lands live on in our memories. Recalled, somehow, by the walking plow that rests beneath the trees.” An old plow, as it turns out, makes a fine monument – especially for a Nebraska farm boy. FC


Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com or find her on Google+.



4/7/2015

Once again, my boss — who operates with a certain maddening consistency — has denied my proposal for a trip to explore the fascinating history and heritage of old iron in the Hawaiian Islands. But he offered an acceptable compromise, so my 2015 show season began in Apache Junction, Arizona, at the Arizona Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show in March.

Several years had passed since my last old iron foray into the Southwest and it was a thrill to pick up where I left off. We all have favorite shows and it is a sweet homecoming to return to those every year. But when you stretch your legs and get to a different part of the country, that’s when you begin to see the big picture of America’s agricultural heritage.

Unique conditions demand unique equipment. Track-style tractors were developed to navigate bog land in California’s Sacramento River delta. Self-leveling combines work their way across steep grades in Washington. Hi-crop tractors glide over fields in Florida. Orchard tractors are of little use in Oklahoma, but indispensible in Oregon. Garden tractors are especially big in the Northeast, Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest.

Regional differences extend to lines of machinery as well. In the 1920s, heavy equipment only rarely travelled cross-country. Rumelys were uncommon in the West; Holt and Best tractors were unknown in the East. Take in a show in the Southwest or on the West Coast today and prepare to be dazzled by the variety of early crawlers showcasing a fascinating heritage of industrial design.

Implements vary according to topography and crop. Stationary engines tackle different jobs in different parts of the country, providing power for everything from mining to grinding corn to pumping water. Memorabilia often reflects local manufacturers and industry. Prevailing weather conditions also play a role. Original pieces from the Southwest and the High Plains are likely to have a sun-baked patina; those from the Southeast can be gnarly with rust.

Plans can change, but I expect to take in the Half Century of Progress show in Rantoul, Illinois, this August, and the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, in September. And if you have a minute, drop a line to my boss. Let him know of your deep interest in old iron in Hawaii. Let’s get something rolling for next winter! FC


Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com or find her on Google+.



3/10/2015

“The past,” a writer once noted, “is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” That observation resonated for me as I learned about the Blitz Fogger, an after-market device used in the 1960s to disseminate a cloud of pesticide from a mower (read more in Blitz Fogger Devices) . It is hard to remember a time when clouds of pesticide were not considered a threat to anything but insects, but that time surely existed, and most of us have at least vague memories of it.

Clay Brown’s interest in Blitz Fogger products is a fascinating sidebar to the garden tractor collection he and his daughter ride herd over. The Blitz devices and memorabilia he’s gathered capture the essence of the 1960s as surely as steel wheels describe the days before tractors had rubber tires.

And that is the beauty of “add on” or “goes with” collections. They set the scene; they fill in the gaps. At the 2014 Red Power Round Up, for instance, a display focusing on International’s Electrall system spoke volumes about the final days before the independent PTO became common. What would otherwise have been a rather dry display of handsomely restored tractors suddenly became greater than the sum of its parts.

Collectors like Clay Brown are driven. Once they’ve zeroed in on a given item, they simply have to have every related relic they can put their hands on. Passion like that creates context for the rest of us, especially when all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled at a show. Surround a tractor, engine or steam engine with relevant memorabilia, and the past snaps to life.

It may take a bit of doing. Clay, for instance, had a vinyl banner produced from a fragile paper collectible. Small items may need to be put under glass. But it’s only March: You still have time before show season 2015 gets underway. Chances are, you already have pieces that would complement your display. With spring on the way, it’s the perfect time to start poking around in the shed. Happy hunting! FC


Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com or find her on Google+.



2/11/2015

Man on a flying machine

Relax: The gent in the photo is not the new editor. But he is a sort of mascot for this issue. We’ll call him the Chairman of the Fun Department. He’s here to remind you that your hobby should be fun! It should be that tantalizing imp of an idea that skips around in your subconscious when you’re doing the things you have to do.

That said, not everything you do in your hobby will be like a day on the beach. Old iron is notoriously demanding. I have yet to meet the person, for instance, who becomes giddy at the prospect of sandblasting tractor parts. But if an accounting of your fun ratio turns up more dread than delight, it might be time for a change. If the mere thought of your inventory of works in progress makes you shudder, it may be time to do something different.

In this issue, you’ll meet folks who are having fun with their hobby. Woody Cone enjoys the challenge of restoring implements. His first step? Research. He learns all he can about the piece before he puts a hand on it. He doesn’t have space to house a big collection, so the pieces he works on often go to other homes, but he’s still having fun.

The Mitchell family of Kindred, North Dakota, pours considerable time and effort into getting a 1913 Gaar-Scott steam engine ready for a show every summer – and it’s not even their engine. It’s clearly a labor of love, but they wouldn’t do it if they weren’t having fun.

And there’s no doubt that collector Ronn Dillavou is having fun. Amassing a broad collection of farm relics, he has fun with the hunt, the restoration and the display. And he does it his way; he makes his collection meet his needs, not the other way around.

Looking for a way to boost the fun factor in your hobby? This issue of Farm Collector is a good way to start! FC


Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com or find her on Google+.



1/13/2015

At this time of year, many of us cap off a season of excess with infinitely well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions, some of which actually remain in force for a week or more.

In a tradition that presumably connects us with our Puritan forebears, New Year’s resolutions invariably speak to our better but generally little known natures. This year, we announce in brave tones, we will give up all bad habits and embrace habits that are good for us but which have little or no appeal. We will lose weight. We will exercise. We will save more and spend less. We will clean up our language, our sheds, our behavior. In short, we will do that which we do not want to do. Ha! Like that’s going to happen.

There is always more than one way to skin a cat. To heck with weight loss and exercise. Why wouldn’t we resolve to do more of the things that make us happy? Instead of a list of grim dictates that are as likely to succeed as a snowball in hell, consider resolutions that might actually produce results.

Resolve to have more fun this year. Acquire more old iron, even if it needs massive amounts of work. Just think what you could accomplish if you spent as much time on your hobby as you would on a resolution-driven exercise program!

Resolve to do more of the things you enjoy doing. When you’re at a show next summer and 2 o’clock rolls around, go directly to the ice cream stand. Those vendors depend on your support: They have bills to pay and kids in college! Have some ice cream and make good on your resolutions, all in one fell swoop.

Resolve to spend more time with the people who make you smile. You can spend hours cleaning a shed, mowing the pasture or painting the house – or you can spend at least some of those hours with people you enjoy. Ten years from now, memories of time spent toiling will not bring a smile to your face.

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. This year, reconsider your resolutions. Here’s hoping the new year is a perfect fit for your very best intentions! FC





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Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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