Some prepare for winter's chill by canning tomatoes. Others caulk windows or cut wood. But if you're looking for a good way to warm up a cold night, you might tune in to a couple of new videos produced by Spinnaker Home Video.
The pair from Spinnaker's 'Machines of Iron: America's Show Classics' series include a video on the Tulare, Calif., show and one on the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum at Vista, Calif.
Pop either of these videos into your VCR, and you'll be on the front row of the reviewing stand on a warm summer day. The camera focuses in on parades, but also takes you 'behind the scenes' to learn more about the most unusual pieces on display. (The Vista video, for instance, includes a segment on the history of a 1937 Power Horse tractor steered by reins.)
A tractor pull figures prominently in the Tulare video. Footage of top contenders' pulls is interspersed with a tour of the show grounds, parade highlights, a quick look at an auction, interviews, and even a dash into one of the exhibition halls, where you'll see everything from decorative chimes to belt buckles to toys to a performance by a men's choir.
The narration is kept simple, but informative. Mostly, it's the PA announcer calling out parade and tractor pull entries. First-person observations and
commentaries are provided by collectors and exhibitors. Those passages are the real gems of the videos: More than a sound bite, less than an interview, they give a real sense of the passion and affection these collectors have for their hobby.
When you go to a show, there's no telling what you'll see as you make your rounds. The folks at Spinnaker have duplicated that experience: in the Tulare video, you'll go from tractor pull to parade to kiddie tractors to earthmovers to motorbikes (including a 1911 Honda that could be operated manually in a pinch). You'll see a crawler modified to work cauliflower and broccoli fields, a 1936 McCormick Deering vineyard tractor, and a John Deere bicycle. The Vista video gives you a bird's-eye view of a 1950 Bucyrus Erie, terifle close-ups of steam traction engines, a rare 1939 General tractor, and a Fageol with vaguely menacing iron spike wheels.
For a touch of whimsy, there's the 'Do Nothing' Machine. This machine's name is technically accurate: a Rube Goldberg-like hive of dozens of whirring gears, it does nothing. But it generates smiles and interest non-stop.
The nation's largest shows are known for elaborate living history demonstrations. Still, you have to be at the right place, at the right time, and in good visual position, or you'll miss the action. Not so with video: The Vista video, for instance, gives a great examination of steam equipment, and a close-up look at something you'll only rarely see, even at a show: A working road grader pulled by 16 horses hitched four-across. Anyone who's ever been on the back of one horse will have full appreciation for the skill required to drive 16 of 'em at once.
Part of the charm of these videos is the authentic show flavor they deliver. The tractors, engines and equipment shown are not all thoroughbreds. Some of the pieces are rare; others are garden variety. Some are restored to 'better than new,' with paint so shiny it looks like it was just brushed on. Others, well, others are pieces only a mother could love. But they're all tossed in the bag together, with no judgment or ranking, just the way it'd look if you had walked the grounds yourself.
Machines of Iron: America's Show Classics, Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum, Vista, Calif., approx. 57 minutes, $19.95; Machines of Iron: America's Show Classics, 5th Annual California Antique Farm Equipment Show, Tulare, Calif, approx. 90 minutes, $19.95 ($5 shipping and handling per order); Spinnaker Home Video, 2607 West Olive Ave., Burbank, Calif. 91505. FC