Star Route 7, Box 35A, Pueblitos, NM 87002
The show at Bird City, Kansas once again came alive with the
whirl of wheels, the flapping of belts and the distinct aroma of
burning coal. The clatter of gears resounded as the Tri-State
Antique Engine and Threshers Association held its crowd-gathering
excitement-filled rally. The four day event lived up to its
reputation by getting a little bit bigger and a whole lot
The wide assortment of steam traction engines consumed about 35
tons of coal while they put on their day-long demonstrations and
antics. Anyone can get a ride on a coal burner at Bird City. These
engines stayed busy with fast and slow races every morning, parades
in the afternoon, and on going demonstrations of threshing,
plowing, and horse power testing.
The folks of Tri-State work hard to put on a good show. The
steam masters always have time to help a novice like me to get to
know the working of an engine and how to care for them so that the
Tri-State tradition will carry on forever. This tradition started
in the early fifties as a gathering of old friends at the farm of
the late Roy Kite. Being a newcomer, I wasn’t around then, but
I know the friendships grow each year as the show continues its
This 1922 Buffalo Springfield road roller #11188 belongs to the
Tri-State Association. Don Wright is rolling the track for the
Friday night tractor pull. Don says she is easy to fire and handle.
When Don finishes, you can just about roller skate on that
Hal Sager, the M. C. and announcer comes from McDonald, Kansas.
Hal keeps things moving on schedule and he’s always ready with
a happy remark that adds smiles and laughter to the excitement.
Rod Young, the group’s secretary-treasurer, keeps track of
the addresses for the over two thousand people that receive the
mailings plus he does all the bookkeeping that accompanies his job.
Rod has his hands full all year long helping with the show.
Hours before the engineers begin stirring their fires the ladies
of Bird City are working over their own fires preparing the
wonderful meals that keep everyone well fed. Those fabulous world
famous fresh baked pies are still the main attraction of the show
for me. Thanks again ladies, I love those pies.
Leo Wilkins the threshing master is well adept for the job. Leo
started in threshing with his father and uncle. Soon after his
return from Europe at the close of World War II, Leo took over the
custom threshing business working mostly barley and oats. He
charged about 10 the bushel in those days. Leo says with a good
crew he could thresh 1500 bushels a day.
Harold Norton of Brewster, KS adjusts his 4 HP upright
Fairbanks-Morse; behind him arc some one-lungers that come every
Running the John Deere corn shelter with a 3 HP JD Type E engine
is Wayne (Tom) Sawyer. Tom is one of the hardworking folks who put
out extra effort several weeks before the show as well as during
and afterwards, too. Thanks, Tom, we really appreciate it.
1987 Thresher Princess Sarah Ochsner, left, and Thresher Queen
Vivian Reade Lanham. 17-year-old Sarah is a senior at Saint Francis
Community High School. Mrs. Lanham of Bird City was born in a stone
farm house near Ruskin, NE, and is 91 years young. Congratulations,
Gerald Wright of Bird City with his 16-30 HP Advance Rumely Oil
Pull #8921. The 2 cylinder, 1919 Model Type H has a water tank for
mixing water with the kerosene to cool her down when she’s
The pioneer exhibits of early life on the high plains depict how
it once was on the farm, in the home, and around town. Don Kruse,
an engineer and tool collector from Kansas City (formerly of Bird
City), brought along an antique sock knitting machine which he and
his wife demonstrated for the crowd. There are always new old
exhibits to learn about.
The small engines are probably going to need more space in the
coming years as I noticed they were squeezed in a little tighter
this year. Added to their hissing and popping were the melodious
notes of a steam calliope.
Near the small engines are the sod house stocked with period
furnishings, the one-room school house where the old-fashioned
literary was held, and the country church with its antique pump
organ where services were held Sunday morning.
The sign on the front of this 25 HP engine says she’s
‘The New Huber’. Well, maybe she was new when the sign was
painted. Her engineer is Ted Luhman of Arapahoe, NE, who’s been
coming to the show for about 12 years. The engine is owned by Edgar
Robertson of Bird City.
The Tri-State Antique Auto Club joined in the fun and frolic of
the 1987 show with its parade and museum. I believe there was just
about everybody’s style of car or truck represented this year.
These old vehicles make quite a show of their own as they parade
about the grounds.
There are now almost two hundred antique tractors at Bird City.
Everywhere you look there’s something going on. The folks of
Tri-State at Bird City are what make the things go and keep things
happening. Next year’s show is already being planned when once
again the ground will shake and the earth will move under the
awesome display of horsepower.
Providing the power for the Oliver thresher is this 50 HP Case
#31885, owned and operated by Melvin Wright of Bird City (at the
controls). Melvin has been participating in the show since its
beginning. Seated is Harold Nelsen of Bird City. Harold is vice
president of the Tri-State Association, and steam master of the
show. Standing by the bunkers is Harold’s son, Daryl.
Wes Pitman and friends win his Case. Wes comes each year with
his engine from Scott City, Kansas. We sure enjoy Wes’s taking
Gerald Wright was much too busy with the controls of his 65 HP
Case #32723 to smile for my camera. Someone told Gerald that a 2
cylinder engine was so easy to control that it could poise on top
of a pyramid block. He decided to show that a good engineer can do
the same parlor stunt with a Case. That’s showin’ ’em,
The Russells of the late Fred Brubaker of Bird City, KS. In
1970, Fred finished building the 3/5 scale model of his 1919 16-48
HP Russell. She’s been tested at 17 HP and is owned and
operated by grandson Stan Wamhoff of Fort Collins, CO. The larger
Russell now belongs to Fred’s sons Bob and Rich of Bird City,
where both of these engines run together each year. For more about
the Bird City Show.