425 Shuford Circle Drive Newton, North Carolina 28658.
The most extraordinary 'Early Farm Days' show we've attended was staged this past June near New ton, North Carolina. It was an engine show on a horse farm! To us who are old steam buffs, the combination of steam engines and horses is a natural. We delight in our recollections of horses pulling wagonloads of shocked grain to a threshing machine while a steam traction engine reaches out to that thresher with its long flowing belt that turns that mysterious machine into a throbbing monster that separates seeds from the stems they grew on. Working together, men, engine and horses convert a field of grain shocks into bags of seeds and a pile of straw.
Or, near the base of a tall silo, the same men and engine and horses convert a field of corn shocks into a silo full of ensilage. (Today's kids will never know both the joys and hazards of stomping down fresh-cut cornstalk missiles as they come screaming down from above inside a slowly filling silo with its inside air so thick with dust that the stompers must wear bandanas over their faces and hats to cover their ears.)
Sigmon's handsome Belgians provide a spectacular additional dimension to Windmill Acres' annual shows.
Edd Sigmon's restored Lansing 4-wheel drive steam traction engine the only one of its kind: 24 HP, built before 1898.
In the long contest between steam engines and horses, who can say that either is the winner? Or ever will be?
Spectacular Six-Horse Hitch
The show we refer to was the 5th Annual Early Farm Days on the Windmill Acres horse farm of Edd and Velma Sigmon, who breed and train beautiful big blond Belgian draft horses. They are trained as show horses to perform at fairs, horse shows and in parades. The Sigmons have more than thirty of them in their herd, and they have a small staff of highly skilled horsemen and horse women to raise them, train them, care for them, and put them through their performance paces. A six-horse hitch of these handsome animals dressed in resplendent harnesses and pulling a big parade wagon is a spectacular sight even for an old engine lover.
Popping and Shuff-Shuffing
While the Sigmons produce beautiful Belgian draft horses, and do it with considerable distinction as shown by the contents of their enormous showcase of award ribbons, Big Edd, as his close friends call him, also has a consuming interest in most things mechanical. He has accumulated a collection of both steam and gas engines that most other collectors we know would rate as remarkably good. And, by invitation from Big Edd, dozens of other engine buffs from as many as nine different states bring show pieces to Windmill Acres for this once-a-year event.
85 HP Frick Eclipse engine powering a Turner sawmill. Engine was the last one to be manufactured by the Frick company. Ivy Lowman of Valdese, NC operates engine; Paul Mullins of Lincolnton, NC is the sawyer
In addition to the nearly 400 gas, oil and air engines we viewed at this show, there were some very impressive steam rigs. Edd owns, and has restored to running condition, the only existing Lansing four-wheel-drive steam traction engine. A number of other engines, including a Kitten, fired up periodically and paraded around for all to admire, some newcomers in utter disbelief.
One field display of dozens of old farm implements, including everything from early horse drawn reapers and balers to old tractors, also contained a portable steam engine belted to a restored grain thresher; and an upright boiler and upright steam engine powering a cordwood saw rig.
One of the most popular and fascinating elements of the steam show was a full-size sawmill, powered by an 85 HP portable steam engine. It was making beams and boards from oak logs (some of which had been brought in on a trailer pulled by a shiny Cadillac car. We assumed from that sight that old sawmill hands are likely to engage incredible means to gain their traditional ends).
In the shelter of a large shed, Big Edd also houses other miscellaneous steam equipment: boilers, engines and pumps. One occupant of the shed is a monstrous 200 HP Corliss steam engine. It had been removed, piece by piece, from a mill twenty-five miles away, and then reassembled on this nearly unbelievable horse farm.
A 10 HP Lookout boiler pressures an upright steam engine to turn an old-time cordwood saw, being operated by owner John Link of Hickory, NC.
Kids find many joys at Windmill Acres. They watch the hundreds of engines in operation, including the big sawmill and the shingle mill. And they find animals and birds smaller than horses to pet or just talk to. There were organized games and contests, and a large fishing pond. We observed that while a horse was being shod at the blacksmith shop at least half of the fascinated onlookers were kids, most of whom had never before watched a horse being fitted to a set of new shoes. And, the kids were welcome on the horse drawn wagons that circled the grounds all day long.
Smoke Rings 1987
The next Early Farm Days at Windmill Acres will be the 6th Annual, on June 13 and 14,1987, and Edd and Velma say they are planning to make it even more interesting by adding some innovative characteristics that will continue to make it an extraordinary mix of horse flesh and horsepower.
Edd and Velma welcome guests to Windmill Acres the year around. It is located on US-321, a mile south of Newton, North Carolina 28658. For more information, write to them, or phone them at 704-465-2232.
24 HP Kitten engine with return-flue boiler. Manufactured by Kitten Iron Works about 1924. Operated by J.T. Hansen of Haines City, Florida, assisted by William Smith.