Plowing in Paradise

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Kevin Miller pulls a three bottom

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The folks who live on this west-central Pennsylvania hill call it paradise. In fact, it's locally known as the Paradise section of Jefferson County, even though the nearest town is Sykesville and not Paradise, Pa. Most locals live on the land their forefathers settled as far back as six generations ago. Some still farm, but many are engaged in other work.

In the center of Paradise sits the hill first settled by John Pifer in 1848. Five generations later, descendant Lois Pifer, and her farm tenant, Fred Reed, invited the Past to Present Machinery Association to use her ancestral farm in the heart of Paradise for the association's second annual plow day, held April 27. Organized by 53 local residents in 2001 to celebrate old machines and bring people together, the PPMA's charter is based on fellowship instead of competition and is open to all who love old farm equipment. To make the second plow day special, the PPMA invited an online tractor community, the International Harvester Cub Cadet Registry organization, or IHR, to share a weekend in Paradise. The club accepted the offer and sponsored its first ever Cub Cadet plow day and tractor pull on April 26.

The Cub Cadet Registry is the brainchild of Mark Bowersox of Lewisburg, Pa. He developed the online resource for vintage IH Cub Cadet enthusiasts, which allows Cadet owners to register serial numbers, access production data and maintenance information, and offer support with restoring, using and collecting the little tractors. As with the PPMA, the registry is based on sharing and caring, not on competition. Although the Web site is a 'dot com,' Mark accepts no money from members or sponsors. Some members of the PPMA are also members of the IHR, and since they're both forged from the sturdy steel of old-iron friendship, it was natural for them to share the weekend on Lois's Paradise hill.

The fun began at 9 a.m. when Steve Spencer from Gillespie, Ill., won rights to cut the first furrow. Steve and his friend Rick Porter brought a pair of Model 782 Cub Cadets from Illinois. The ground contained quite a bit of shale, but within a few hours Cub Cadets sporting Brinley single-bottom plows from Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, California and Ottawa, Canada, turned about 8 acres of corn stubble.

The plowing was finished by mid-afternoon, so Scott Cross, Todd Markle and Rudy Oblak disked and graded a pulling track at one end of the field using their Cub Cadets. Ted Rake, president of the PPMA, kindly rolled the track with his Super A Farmall and homemade roller. Cub Cadet, Speedex and John Deere operators lined up well into the evening to drag the pull sled. Chris Westfall even brought his 'White Buffalo' 19-plus-hp Cub Cadet Model 102 puller and let many folks take the wheel. No prizes were awarded, but everyone had their fill of fun and friendly banter. More than 50 total Cub Cadets were in attendance, and more than half of those showed their plowing or pulling prowess.

On Sunday afternoon, Lois's hill bus tied with action again when nearly 20 full-sized tractors and plows rumbled up the narrow road. This time, single-bottom plows were the exception, and there was even enough horsepower for a four-bottom, semi-mounted plow pulled by Bill Harvey's nicely restored 1976 Farmall 766. International Harvester, John Deere, Oliver and Allis-Chalmers tractors were all represented, along with plows manufactured by Syracuse Chilled Plow Co., International Harvester, Allis-Chalmers, John Deere and Oliver. They used trailing plows on steel and rubber, semi-mounted plows and mounted plows, and turned more than 30 acres of ground in only a few hours.

Not to be outdone by gasoline power, Emory Miller demonstrated a Syracuse Chilled Plow Co. walking plow with the help of Bill DeLarme and his team of Haflingers, Buster and Barney. 'That's how we used to do it until I was 13,' Emory recalls with a chuckle after plowing a row.

For those curious about why people would gather to turn the soil, PPMA board member Kevin Miller laughs and says, 'We are all about having fun. You can cheat at the pulling contest, but there are no prizes, so what's the point?' Judging by the smiles on every face, no one left wondering why the area is called Paradise - they just know they'll be back for more at next year's Plow Day. FC

- For further information on the IHR, contact Mark Bowersox at (570) 523-1767; e-mail: webmaster@ihregistry.com or on the Web at www.ihregistry.com To learn more about the PPMA and its events, contact President Ted Rake at (814) 427-2311; Boyd Wachob, (814) 427-2311; Kevin Miller, (814) 583-7850 or Dave Daugherty, e-mail: docsez@usachoice.net

Oscar 'Hank' Will III is an old-iron collector and restorer who retired from farming in 1999 and from academia in 1996. He travels coast to coast and writes about the machines and people he meets in between. Write him at 13952 Summit Drive, Whittier, CA 90602; or call (562) 696-4024; or e-mail: owill@mail.whittier.edu