A LUST FOR RUST

Jumbo Engine

John Rohm

Content Tools

Editor, Texas Agriculture. Sent to us by Erwin Kretzschmar, R #3, Box 157, Floresville, TX 78114.

This cover photograph taken by John Rohm of San Antonio, Texas, shows Richard Koepler, also of San Antonio, engineering a 'Jumbo' engine. The engine was manufactured by the Harrison Machine Works and is owned by Erwin and Tillie Kretzschmar of Floresville, Texas. For the story on Kretzschmar and his 'lust for rust,'

Erwin Kretzschmar has a lust for rust.

Old tractors, engines, combines, grain drills, implements, tools-you name it-the older the better, these are the things Kretzschmar has spent years collecting.

The rumble of an old engine coughing to life is sweet music to this 77-year-old collector, who lives near the Black Hill Community in Wilson County. Acquiring relics of the past, he says, reminds him of his younger years.

'I guess it goes back to your childhood a whole lot,' this 77'-year-old gentleman, white beard flowing, says with a slight German accent. 'Because we used to have an old Sears Roebuck 2-1/2 HP Economy engine where we would grind feed for the chickens. That was my job, always, to grind feed. Then we'd pump water. Then finally we got into tractors, you know, the old F-12 Farmall and stuff like that.

'Then in later years, well, you know, that brings back memories. Then you like to have some of that old stuff and that's where it started.'

Kretzschmar today has memories by the barn full-several barns full in fact-at the Ole Tic Toe Ranch Farm and Museum, so named for the vast clock collection Kretschmar and his wife, Tillie have acquired from all over the world.

A tour here is like a trip back to the early days of mechanical agriculture. Kretzschmar proudly shows an Advance Rumely Oil Pull tractor, a 10-20 Case, several Farmalls including Models F-12, B and 20, old John Deeres, a Huber Super Four and then fondly pats a 1914 Allis-Chalmers.

'That thing's 75 years old, it should have its diamond jubilee, huh?' he says with a smile. 'Showed it recently at Speegleville. Got a plaque for it being the most outstanding tractor at the show.'

Outstanding is an understatement for Kretzschmar's collection of farm antiques, probably the largest in South Texas. Not only does he find old tractors, engines and such, he restores many of them. And it's not always an easy job.

'It was in terrible condition,' Kretzschmar says of an Allis-Chalmers 10-18 tractor he found near Karnes City one day that now sits fully restored in his barn, ready to run. ' It was down on the river bottom and the trees had grown though the wheels. We took a chain saw and sawed all the branches out and then the front end had fallen down. The frame rusted through. It was a mess. But it's in pretty good shape now.'

Or take the case of an old cotton gin he found at La Grange. It took Kretzschmar 300 hours and 30 days to move the massive engine and structure to his place. It also took three pairs of gloves, now displayed by the gin.

Then it took another 90 days or more, based on 'man and woman hours,' and another three pairs of gloves worn out to rebuild the structure.

' 'My wife helped me on this, that's why I based it on man and woman hours,' he said.

The Kretzschmars have traveled untold thousands of miles across the country searching for old tractors, but one of his worst deals, which eventually turned into one of his best, was close to home near San Antonio.

One day Kretzschmar found an old Stroud tractor, made in San Antonio, in the Alamo City. The owner wanted $300. Kretzschmar offered $250, and went home to think about it. The next day he decided $300 wasn't so bad after all, and went back to the owner-only to find she had already sold it. Years later Kretzschmar bought the tractor from a dealer for $2,500.

But that's not the end of the story. Kretzschmar rarely sells any of his antiques, but recently a man from San Antonio saw the old Stroud, fell in love with it, and made Kretzschmar an offer he couldn't refuse.

'It brought me enough money to buy the steam engine and golly, I sold him another engine and bought a new pickup, too. So you couldn't turn that down.' he says.

Kretzschmar has toned down his collecting urge the past few years. The cost of the old machinery keeps getting higher and his barns are overflowing as it is. But he still keeps his eyes open.

'Well, if it's something really rare and I can afford it, I'll keep on,' he says, 'if I need something or want something bad enough. Just like that steam engine. I figure that would about top it off, I hope.

'But then if I ran into something that was rare enough or cheap enough I would buy it. I'm sure not going to put up anymore buildings to put it in I don't think.'

In the end, Kretzschmar terms his lust for rust as an addiction.

'Well, if you get a good drink of whiskey or something and you like it, what do you do then?'' he asks.' 'You keep on. It's just the pleasure of hearing that old machinery run again.'