Show Season Is a Family Activity

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Ralph McDonald and his grandson, Les McDonald, at a show in Lathrop, Mo., in 1985. The International Model LB was a gift to Les from his grandfather. Originally, the McDonalds used the engine to run the hayloft on their farm near Cameron, Mo.

My father, Gayle McDonald, and I go to a lot of shows in northeast Kansas, northwest Missouri and southwest Nebraska. My interest in the hobby stems from his, and it really took off for me when I began running his 16-30 Model H Rumely OilPull 20 years ago, when I was 11.

The 2005 show season proved to be an interesting and enlightening one for me. It really made me appreciate our hobby and the great friends, family and fellowship that come with it.

Mid-June generally finds us at the show at Lathrop, Mo. My dad and I are not active in that club, but we have many great friends there.

Lathrop has always been special to the “boys” of the family. Dad grew up 20 miles north of Lathrop in Cameron, Mo. Cameron is still home to my grandmother, uncle and, until three days before the 2005 show, my grandfather. The Lathrop show was always the “boys weekend,” as Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday generally coincided with it.

In the past, three generations spent the weekend together: Granddad, Dad and my uncle would reminisce, telling me how it used to be in the old days. I couldn’t get enough. But Granddad’s passing just before the show left a huge void in my spirit that year. I went because I thought Dad needed me there, not because I really wanted to go. My uncle came and we started talking. It was more than I could take at times. I found myself choking up on more than one occasion. A lot of the enjoyment of the show was gone for me now that the senior member of the group was no longer with us.

A couple months later, I gained some perspective on what had happened. We always spend the first weekend of August at a show at McLouth, Kan. I grew up around that show, and while I was in college I served as a director for three years. This particular year, I didn’t get to the show until Sunday. I really didn’t want to go. I was tired from a long week at work. I had spent Friday and Saturday nights out with friends, and was exhausted. It was a 200-mile drive to the show, but I thought Dad could use my help and I could use a couple days away.

When I got there, I decided I was going to play and have some fun. So, 45 minutes later, with the grease cups and lubricator filled and priming fuel in the cylinders, I cranked up the 16-30 Rumely.

In the past, three generations would spend the weekend together: Granddad, Dad and my uncle would reminisce, telling me how it used to be in the old days.

After an hour, I’d taken the Rumely on a fairly extensive tour around the grounds and decided to take it back to where it rests and shut it down for a while. I usually back it in to its spot and let it run for a bit, which gives me a chance to talk to folks who have been watching it and have questions. This day was no exception. An older gentleman, probably in his mid-80s, stopped to visit. He told me of his upbringing and said his family had owned three Rumelys: two 20-40s and one 16-30. He said it had been a long time since he’d seen a 16-30 running, and was genuinely grateful to have seen this little tractor on this day.

As we talked, I offered more than once to let him run it. I told him I’d go with him and I wouldn’t let it get away from him. Each time, he declined the invitation. Finally, after 20 minutes, I convinced him to ride with me. Off we went for about 10 minutes. I swear I’ve never seen anyone smile like that in all the time I’ve been doing this. You could really see the wheels turning in his mind. As we went back and parked the tractor, he told more stories of the Rumelys in his past. He really lit up as he spoke. He began to remind me a lot of my grandfather and the stories he’d tell, the stories I’d missed out on two months earlier.

I gained great perspective on life that summer. I realized what was really important to me and why I load up after a long week, drive 200 miles and spend the weekend in blistering heat. It’s not to show off our freshly restored winter projects: It’s to spend that precious time with family, friends and fellow enthusiasts. It’s about making new memories and helping revive old ones. At least, that’s why I do what I do. FC

For more information: Les McDonald, 2525 Jameson N., Lincoln, NE 68512; email:

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