Southeast Kansas Gas Engine & Tractor Club Impresses at Annual Show

Southeast Kansas Gas Engine & Tractor Club showcases variety, including David Bradley walk-behind garden tractors and Hercules engines.

| September 2013

For sheer spectacle, there’s nothing like an enormous, sprawling tractor show. But don’t underestimate the appeal of a small local show. Hometown shows have their share of gems, and there’s nothing the local folks would rather do than show them off.

The Southeast Kansas Gas Engine & Tractor Club’s annual show is a classic example. Held the third weekend of June in Pittsburg, the show offered a surprising mix of antique farm relics big and small wrapped up in a bear hug of warm hospitality. Adding a celebratory touch to the club’s 25th annual show, a bluegrass concert was held on the lawn Friday night. Other special events included a rolling pin contest, women’s skillet toss, a car show and baling demonstrations.

Feature tractor: David Bradley

Kenny Wilson, Carl Junction, Mo., is a big fan of collectible garden tractors — and that’s pretty understandable, especially once you hear his story. “When I was growing up, we mostly farmed with horse power,” he recalls. “We had a truck patch and it kept us kids busy, pulling weeds and picking off potato bugs. Mom canned all summer. The house would be super hot all summer, but if we wanted to eat that’s what we had to do.”

The advent of walk-behind garden tractors — like those built by David Bradley Mfg. Co. — was a major leap forward. “It was such a big boon to the farmer,” Kenny says. “David Bradley had no trouble selling those. They were economical; just about anybody could afford one.” Equipped with a 4 hp Briggs & Stratton engine and 16-inch wheels, the early walk-behind unit was also easy to handle. Kenny recently acquired a walk-behind David Bradley unit. It is scheduled for restoration in his shop, and if an already completed David Bradley Tri-Trac is any indication, it will be a gem.

The Tri-Trac is a remnant of the era when Sears, Roebuck & Co. owned David Bradley Mfg. Co. Produced from 1954-’57 by David Bradley at Sears’ behest, the Tri-Trac was an idea after its time. “They just didn’t go over,” Kenny says. “If they’d made them before or during the war, they would have sold a lot of them. There was a big demand for garden tractors then because everybody had a ‘victory garden.’ But by the 1950s, the troops were back home and they were farming on a big scale.”

The Tri-Trac had a 6 hp Wisconsin engine and a bore and stroke of 2-7/8 by 2-3/4 inches. Sears offered 10 pieces of equipment for the Tri-Trac. “Those are hard to come by now,” Kenny says. The Tri-Trac had forward, reverse, neutral and a speed changer; it weighed 894 pounds. “It was heavy compared to its competitors,” he says, “but it was relatively easy to turn.” A versatile unit, it also had an adjustable front wheel to accommodate row widths from 48-72 inches.