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Country Echoes


R. D. 2, Brandon, Wisconsin

Ah, at last we are on our way to the Fond du Lac Steam Engine Show. It is surprising that we are on our way by 12:30 but children can really be helpful when there is an urge to go places. I can well remember my lather commenting on the same thing so it must be a recurring experience of every generation. Our back seat is slowly getting less congested. Where there used to be six lively children in the car today we have only three and the youngest of these is almost eleven. Times marches on and no man can stay it's hand. Now and then, however, we can recall a bit of yesterday and as we approach the fairgrounds we see many people who may have been firmer of step at one time making their way through the gates. The gleam of youth returns to their eyes as they hear the first steam engine whistle give that sharp resounding echo from the past. Surely THIS is a COUNTRY ECHO.

As we set foot on the race track our eyes are drawn to the row of shiny old time cars, the oldest of these is a beautiful Model T Touring Car complete with brass radiator and what we decided might be carbon or gas burning lights. This beauty is owned by Bernhard Kleinschmidt of Fond du Lac. There were about twelve interesting old cars on display.

By this time the announcer is urging us all to the grandstand. A bunch of happy boys are following a red-nosed clown all over and copying his antics. The parade soon starts and a good description is given of each entry. We are treated to a whistle from almost all of them. The shiny cars bring up the rear and again we start investigating all the things there are to see. We see an interesting modified model of the second Tom Thumb built in 1830. This model was built by Don Denzin of Ripon in 1956. He operated this on a track about three feet from the ground. It is capable of pulling a flat trailer carrying a full-grown man. Before we leave the vicinity of the parade we watch a veteran operator, Ray Klinger of Hartford, make a quick setting for threshing and without any unnecessary manipulations he gets the belt on properly in no time. He is driving Harold Jen's machine, a Case 50, and he brought it down from Elkhart Lake.

The announcer urges all men to gather round for the tug-of-war which is to follow. The rope is quickly grasped by all the grandsons of their steam enthused grandpas. After considerable coaxing some reinforcements are gathered from the crowd and the battle between the Case 50 and the men and boys begins. Ah me! The rope breaks and everyone lands in the dust and dirt. 'Double the rope,' is the shout and the tug is resumed. Of course you know who wonthe Case 50!

Ten-year-old Mary spies the popcorn wagon run by steam power. We must have some popcorn! FRESH ROASTED PEANUTS WARM BUTTERY POPCORNdoesn't that make you hungry? We make our way over to where the threshing machine is spitting straw out of it's dusty blower. Happy thoughI can watch without worryNo crew to feed. Too well I remember feeding twenty-two men dinner and supper when I had been home from the hospital just five days following the birth of our second son. The other little boy was fourteen months old so here we were with two babies and twenty-two men. This was back in 1936 and it was quite a new experience without Mother to guide. She had threshers the same day but early next morning was right there to see I stayed down in bed resting most of the day. My only help had been a sixteen-year-old girl who was less experienced than I. they had good meals though I am sure.

The whistles began to blow on every side. All the different pitches are so intriguing. Twelve-year-old Dan says the loudest and deepest is a steamboat whistle on the Advance Rumely owned by Herbert Moerke of Sheboygan. I will not voice an opinion on that. Little boys are everywhere. One cute little guy is wearing an oversized cap. I noted him first pulling with all his might in the tug-of-war. I learn that a Mr. Seefeldt drove the engine for that event. Then there is another sweet little fellow running around with grandma's oversized sweater draped around his shoulders. The day was quite cool for June, but so lovely.

Over to the left of us we hear a bit of hammering and here we find Ray Klinger with a blown head garket on his Port Huron. Poor man-he missed getting her in the parade.

We then run into Otto Leuzendort of Poynette who introduces us to a man who is a veteran with steam engines His home is Hampden Township, in Columbia County. His name Louis Trapp. He has been working with steam engines for 58 years. His father before him was a thresherman. Even before this, when he was only seven years old he helped fire an engine and could shut it off but could not start it. At eleven years of age he operated an engine on a sawmill. We then walk over and watch Ernest Ahner's 18 horse power Advance Rumely on a sawmill. Mr. Ahner is from Juneau. Also there were shingles being sawed. This was new to all of us. Never in my life have I seen so many grown-up little boys having such a good time. However, I thought I had better look and see how the grown-up little girls were doing at the hobby display.

Two especially interesting thing-I find here. One is a pencil display of approximately 8000 pencils. Most all of them carry advertising on them. Many are from other states, and I noticed some from foreign countries. The lady's name is Louise Graham and her sign is unique indeed. Pencils were sawed into short ends to make it and were neatly formed into letters glued onto bristol board. They have a rustic appearance. There is a cross of pencils lettered with names and addresses of churches or Bible texts. Her collection was only five years old so I thought she had made real progress.

The last stop featured the best dress-doll in Fond du Lac. She has made one hundred dresses for her. The bridal gown is decorated with 410 beads and 20 yards of lace. It is beautiful. She had on display also two pictures made of human hair. These were 92 years old. They were in natural hair tones and contained elaborate flowers. Her husband, she told me, ,has a large arrowhead collection. They have a daughter Josephine, who is not well, and these hobbies are of great interest to here So friend if you ever come to Fond du Lac hunt up Marggi's Gift Shop. Just off Highway 41 and you will perhaps meet Mrs. Martin Marrgi and see her interesting things.

All told, the day was a great success for us and we think the Wisconsin Steam Antique Engine Club is to be congratulated.