First Things

Making Connections in the Hobby

Leslie C. McManus

This issue of Farm Collector is full of unexpected connections. In an article by J.O. Parker, reporting on the enthusiastic dedication of two Nebraskans, we learn about the way farmers once used rock crushers to create an extra revenue stream. Both for agricultural use as a soil additive and for use in road construction, rock crushers on the farm earned their keep – although the claim made in a 1921 ad for a manufacturer of rock crushers (“Make Big Money Crushing Limestone”) seems perhaps a bit optimistic.

That thread of entrepreneurship finds its way to an article by Jon Fieker. Writing about a business partnership established by his grandfather and great-uncle, Jon shows what two enterprising young men could accomplish a century ago with a traction steam engine. Roadwork (including rock crushing), sawing, threshing and more kept the engine busy and two young families afloat. The engines used in that partnership are long gone, but the brothers’ passion for steam endures two generations later.

Family ties also surface in an article by Bill Vossler, who reports on the Minnesota man who cherishes his daughter’s involvement in his old engine hobby. The two attend shows together, working side by side as they run engines from his collection. Having grown up around engines, Emily Knish tends to the hobby in both a hands-on way and with an eye to the future, telling her friends about old engines and encouraging them to attend shows.

And that’s the thread that leads us to Mutti Ketola, who collects chainsaws, and loves to share that page from the past with others. As writer Jerry Mattson explains, chainsaws are just part of Mutti’s collection. He’s filled seven restored barns with antique hand tools, hit-and-miss engines, chainsaws and more. Mutti enjoys nothing more than giving tours. Indeed, visitors from all over the world have had a look at his treasures.

All of these folks have at least one thing in common: They love their hobby, and they’re pretty sure others will too, if they can just reel ’em in and tell them all about it. They love the history, they love the early technology and they love bringing it all back to life. Enthusiasm like that helps build connections – and connections are what keep this hobby strong. Show season is fast approaching: What new connections can you make this year? FC

Leslie C. McManus

A Place for You in the Community

Leslie C. McManus

Years ago, when I knew everything and routinely felt the need to demonstrate that fact, a wise woman fixed her gaze on me and pronounced words that stuck: “Each day,” she said, “has its own surprises.”

Each year, too. We don’t know everything that’s coming in 2019, but we do know there are some great changes underway at Ogden Publications, publisher of Farm Collector.

As we move into 2019, Ogden will sharpen its focus on the community surrounding Farm Collector, looking for ways to better serve you — and make this business sustainable for the long haul.

Technically, we exist in a relationship of magazine and subscribers. But I’ve long considered Farm Collector more of a community of like-minded folks than a business model. In my mind’s eye, you – all of you! – are always together at a big show, surrounded by others who share a deep interest in old iron, traditional farming methods and early American ingenuity.

When one of you poses a question in a letter to the editor or on our website, you hear from the community. When you’re at a show and your tractor or engine or truck or trailer has a hiccup, others drop what they’re doing to help. When somebody has the good fortune to happen onto a great find, the story cascades from collector to collector.

None of that is going to change – but it will grow stronger. In the future, you won’t simply subscribe to Farm Collector. Instead, you’ll have the opportunity to choose membership in any of the Ogden communities, including communities for vintage farm engine collectors, classic motorcycle enthusiasts, and people interested in self-sufficiency, homesteading and heirloom plants.

Nothing will change with Farm Collector: It’ll still show up in your mailbox every month like it always has. But your ability to access the community will expand. For the same price as your subscription, your membership in this community will give you Farm Collector every month as well as full access to all of our soon-to-be-gated websites, member-only resources and fixed discounts on books and products.

I don’t know what this new year will bring, but my crystal ball shows good things ahead for everyone in the Farm Collector community. When I learn more, I’ll be sure to share details with you. As we strengthen our connections and expand resources, the future for this hobby looks bright indeed!

A Trip for an Armchair Tourist

Leslie C. McManusI love to travel, but I also enjoy the occasional “armchair tourist” experience. When the weather is foul, it’s nice to hunker down in the house and be transported by a book or an article. And that’s what I love about our show photo issue every year.

In the first place, those photos cover events held over much of the continental U.S. You’d be on the go for four months straight if you attempted to take in all those shows in person.

But even if you could just click your heels and be there, you’d likely see different things than these photographers did, and in different ways. You might visit a show on a sunny day and have an entirely different view of it than the photographer did.

Or you might not know anyone at the show you drop in on – so you might miss the 100-year-old steam engines that have been passed down through four generations … or the 80 Allis-Chalmers D-21 tractors in one place at one time… or the sight of a grandson and gramps, scampering around the show grounds happily unsupervised.

I hope you enjoy this year’s selection. The photographers did a terrific job of catching the action, of framing the scene, of telling a story. It’s easy to look at a photo and say, “Well I could have taken that picture” – but when the pedal hits the metal, photography is a multi-faceted challenge of subject, composition, lighting and motion (and better throw in some patience for good measure). Thanks to all who shared their photos!

And finally, yes, the same hands are on the steering wheel here at Farm Collector. When travelling with subscribers, as I did in August during the Farm Collector tour of England, Wales and Ireland, it became immediately apparent — thank you for your gentle suggestion, Cletus! — that the photo of the editor appearing on this page in each issue had aged at a different pace than that of the physical specimen, which is to say, not at all.

Shall we just say the editor has acquired a certain distinctive patina – one that many of our loyal readers have personal experience with – and leave it at that? After all, you never want to pick a fight with the person who buys ink by the barrel!

Cheers to age and experience! FC

Doing the Right Thing for Charity

Leslie C. McManus

This fall, a man decided to sell a couple old tractors and donate the proceeds, with a best-guess value of $5,000, to charity. But when the auction crew gave the tractors a close look, they turned up something out of the ordinary. One of the tractors – a 1928 John Deere GP – was, in fact, the very first cultivating tractor produced by Deere & Co.

Deere manufactured the GP series from 1928 to 1935. The serial number on this one (200211) confirmed that it was Deere’s first regular production row-crop tractor. Suddenly we are talking about what my father would have referred to as “a horse of a different color.”

A tractor of considerable historic significance, this one belonged to a man who probably figured he’d clear out his shed and make a modest donation to a good cause. When one of the tractors turned out to be incredibly rare, nobody would have faulted him for reconsidering that donation and pocketing a windfall.

In the end, nobody had to, because the tractor’s owner (who prefers to remain anonymous) didn’t give it a second thought. The GP remained on the auction, and the church remained the beneficiary. On Oct. 28, the rare tractor would be sold at Aumann Auctions’ Fall Harvest Antique Tractor Auction in Nokomis, Illinois.

After an opening bid of $30,500, the GP sold less than five minutes later for $78,750 (the buyer also chooses to remain anonymous). In an article that appeared in The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Illinois, Rev. James Jones of the Taylorville Christian Church said that the proceeds would go toward an $850,000 building program designed to create a space for large gatherings and house the church’s youth ministry. “It’s just a real blessing to the church,” he said.

The tractor’s discovery hit the John Deere collector world like a brick in the face, auctioneer Kurt Aumann told the Journal-Register. “Tractor collecting has been around for 50 years, and you hear often that all the good stuff has been found,” he said. “Well, this just kind of keeps the dream alive.”

And not just collectors’ dreams. If you’re looking for evidence that integrity and decency and generosity still exist, you’ve found it. As we slip into this special time of year, this story shines like a light in the darkness. From all of us at Farm Collector, our very best wishes to you and yours this holiday season! FC

Driven by a Dream for a Case Road Locomotive

Leslie C. McManusWhatever you do, do not get in Kory Anderson's way.

It's not that Kory is a malicious sort. But words like reverse, retreat, stop and surrender are not part of his vocabulary. Instead, his passion is fueled by a high-octane formula of plain, old-fashioned determination.

For much of his life, Kory has been consumed by the thought of a Case 150hp Road Locomotive. "The 150hp Case steam engine was built as the largest steam traction engine of its time, but all we have left are the stories and a few pictures," he says. "Ever since I was a little boy, I've been fascinated by it."

Few people know much about the largest steam engine Case constructed. Only nine were built from 1904-07 and not a single one is known to survive. Even in the small group of people who've actually heard of the Case Road Locomotive, there were skeptics. Over time, the massive engine began to look suspiciously like a myth to some — but not to Kory.

For most folks, childhood dreams fade quickly. Only rarely do they take root and grow, and even more rarely do those dreams become reality. So when you read in this issue of Farm Collector the story of Kory Anderson's creation of a correct, authentic, working replica of a 150 Case Road Locomotive, you will know you've got hold of something special.

I'm not going to rain on writer Loretta Sorensen's parade. She did a terrific job with this article, and you'll enjoy settling in with it. Nor am I going to ramble on about time and money spent in pursuit of a dream, or the mechanical genius it took to bring this marvelous thing into being.

But I will say a thing or two about dreams. They are as fragile as gossamer and as strong as steel. They are nonsensical to many but set a steady course for others. They cast some onto the shoals; they lift some to unimaginable heights. And it is not all that often you see one realized. With this issue of Farm Collector, I hope you'll enjoy a close look at one man's dream brought to life! FC

What I Did This Summer, Vol. 1

Leslie C. McManusYes, I was that nerd in the fifth grade. When the teacher assigned an essay reporting on What I did on my summer vacation, my fellow students groaned — and I did a happy little twirl. As the proud owner of a Kodak Instamatic (complete with those little square flashcubes), I even had photos to accompany the report.

Decades later, little has changed (other than the technology). I'm still reporting on what I saw this summer. The season started with a jaunt to Lubbock, Texas, to take in the Windmiller's Trade Fair, held this year at the American Windmill Museum. The museum speaks eloquently about the role of wind power in development of the west. It's an unbelievable collection, a beautifully conceived display, and the staffers are so friendly you may suspect they're on the chamber of commerce payroll. If you haven't been, go. There's nothing like it anywhere else.

Museum exhibits focus on everything from windmills to weights, turbines to trains, millstones to memorabilia. Visitors play an active role. Old-timers' recollections, preserved in the occasional display, capture the essence of a time now long past:

Two men who lived next door to each other were feuding. The feud started because one of the men, Mr. Barker, had a squeaky windmill and would not oil it, and it bothered Mr. Whitt's family at night.

Mr. Whitt awoke one morning to see Mr. Barker climbing his windmill tower. Mr. Whitt got his shotgun and, after Mr. Barker stepped to the next step of the ladder, Mr. Whitt would shoot off the step he'd just left. Mr. Barker got to the top of the tower and turned around and yelled, "What are you trying to do, kill me?"

"Nope," Mr. Whitt replied. "Just gonna leave you up there until you oil that windmill."

More about my summer later. In the meantime, where'd your summer travels take you? What interesting things did you see? Let us hear from you: We'd love to read your report! FC

Leslie C. McManus

P.S. The 2019 Show Photo Issue is just around the corner. Be sure to get your photos in by Nov. 1.

Putting a Fix on It

Leslie C. McManusThings I've fixed: chipped pottery, stubborn vacuum cleaners, rips and tears. The kids shake their heads, but some vestige of my forebears' thriftiness and resourcefulness remains intact in me.

At an antique store once, I saw a very old, very beautiful punch bowl, complete with ladle and cups. "Someone really loved that," my friend said, "to take such good care of it for so long."

I sometimes think of those words when I look at the china platter that belonged to my great-great-grandmother. The platter, small by today's super-sized standards, is scarred by a crack running from top to bottom. After some disaster that broke the piece clean in two — jostled in a wagon during a cross-country move? Dropped in a startled response to a snake in the kitchen? Some sudden calamity? — the halves were glued together.

Today the platter hangs on my wall in all its aged and imperfect glory. The glue holds fast but is stained; there's no mistaking the mend. And yet I love it all the more for that. Those who came before me clearly understood things like value and function and making do. This treasure — a broken relic to anyone else – has endured for five generations. It speaks quietly but eloquently of the people my forebears were.

All of that is a long-winded explanation of this: I'm no mechanic. Unlike a farmer forced to make his own repairs, I've never fixed anything of any particular importance. But when collector Dennis Krzyzowski — in an article in this issue of Farm Collector — speaks of his preference for pieces in original condition, I knew I'd found a kindred soul. "When I find something that has an old farmer's fix on it, I highlight it," he says. "I don't try to hide it, because to me, it really does tell a story."

It's an incomplete story, to be sure, but only the first half remains shrouded in mystery. When we see a fix, we know it was almost always grounded in necessity. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."

Many marvel at the early technology that evolved without benefit of calculators, computers and higher education. But there's a lot to be said for resourcefulness and ingenuity, and this issue of Farm Collector is packed full of that story. Enjoy the read! FC


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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