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COUNTRY ECHOES

October begins the six month period which many of us consider the quieter months of the year. The Steam Engine Brothers are dreaming about new additions to their engine, the hobbyists are enjoying their collections even more, mostly because they can get them inside their house or at least a warm building. The Gas Engine Men are moving around the ones on which they want to tinker for a time, but what can you do with a froze-up steam engine I ask you? Somehow they look especially cold when the weather becomes chillier than chilly. But at least they aren't spitting grease all over me.

I had the dubious honor of riding on my husbands Minneapolis in the parade at the Beaver Dam show this year. It was a first experience and a wet and a greasy one. The bunker was full of water and the cover wasn't too tight. This is where I chose to perch. I came off of that engine looking as if I had backed into a tub of water. It was a nice warm day and that soon dried up. But when I got through worrying about the back of me I took a close look at the front and side of me -- and -- I was full of little black grease spots. I had worn a new green cotton skirt and a flowered sleeveless blouse.

To make a long story short I spent two hours getting most of that grease out and never will get all of it erased. Perhaps it should remain as a lingering reminder of a most enjoyable day. The air was filled with that reminiscent odor of coal and steam that one finds only at a steam reunion these days. And such happy men as they play around with their oversized toys! Somehow some of the years roll right off their backs as they chug up to the water supply station and wheel their engines back into each assigned place. Who has the best engine? Don't ever dare to ask if you want to keep your head.

The engine which looked the neatest and fanciest that day was a Buffalo Pitts made in 1915. James Johnson of Dane, Wisconsin bought it when it was fifty years old. Since 1965 he has been busily working on his engine. I heard our daughter ask him quite frankly what his wife thought about him spending all that time and money. He soon told her that he didn't have a wife so could do as he pleased. Do I hear a sigh from some of the married steam men? He has a beautiful water wagon too.

Then I talked to Kenneth McFarland of Milwaukee, one of our readers. Then met Glenn Gillen of Reedsburg who owns a 50 Case but did not have it at the show: His additional hobby is arrowheads of which he owns 700.

Next I came Across Loui Trapp who has just turned 81 and doesn't look a day over sixty five. He was attending his Nicholas Shepphard with expert care.

Some of the engine men were so busy I didn't get to talk to them but the gas engine boys seemed to have more time. There was John Stadler of Belgium with 5 small engines, Roland Buslaff of Waukesha with 6. This man has also built a steam engine and is now working on a replica of a David June Engine. It will be one fourth the size of the original 10 horse. The engine he is copying was built in 1898. He said he was almost finished.

Bob Vilwock was tending one small engine on the grounds. But then I came to Wilbur Lanzanford, the only son of our Otto, the steam man. He had a show of his own -- 30 gas engines - name brand engines. We had a most interesting conversation.

Then my attention was drawn to a table display put on by Elmer Kranz of Beaver Dam. It would have been worth going to the show to see this alone. There was one portable boiler feeding five miniature engines. And they were beautiful. Some antique engines, some machined from raw casting. He does most of the work himself. I was fascinated by the 2 miniature 1914 Case engines, some styled after the 80 Case, the other one smaller. There are two threshing machines to go with them. Beside this runs a Wallis tractor and a nicely painted siol filler. Every machine is clean, and shiny with good a coat of appropriate paint.

I took one last look at the Reeves miniature in this group and the beautiful Avery Yellow threshing machine it was running and remembered the remark of one steam man in Wisconsin. On one of his more exuberant days he told my husband this. 'Ah! I wish I could set that wonderful big engine of mine in the corner of my bedroom, so that when I woke up in the morning that would be the first thing I could look at.' Frankly I thought he was getting his sense of values a little out of focus. Of this one sees so much these days. Hobbies are fine in their place but they are never God, or family, or friends, or any of this.

Joe Albright of Milwaukee displayed some portable steam boilers which were interesting. We visited for a few minutes. The Tom Thumb Carnival had the coolest place on the grounds. Happily I sat down on one of the chairs Virg Gilbert had set up in the building where he displayed his tiny merry-go-round, (complete with music) ferris wheel, and the cutest little jigging man you'd ever hope to see. Children must have loved this.

Ray Bartlet of Juneau furnished more music for the show with a busy accordion. He said he was a welder, and engine doctor. There was a time when he owned engines, large and small, of his own. Today he was keeping the ladies entertained as they sold cookies, lemonade, rugs, aprons, little red laterns, hats, and all kinds of knick-knacks. Again it was time to sit down (the day was wearing out) and again I found good company, Elinor Steinbrecker and Sara Sladky, Elinor is a teacher and the wife of the club president, Gilbert Steinbrecker. Young Steven Sladkey was running around getting himself just as dirty as any three and half year old loves to get. He even sifted dirt through his fingers down over his head. He told us he liked the puff a puffas!

Steven, I like the 'puffa puffas' too. I liked Herb Moerke's Advance with the flags on the front of it. There were also flags on August Kuduk's machine, Ray Klinger's and Loui Trapp's. It was a good day, Stevie, a good day. But I still am not going to put a ''puffa puffa' in my bedroom. Elinor, Sara, and I talked of other things, too, even poetry. Yes, it was a good day.