1026 Kearney, Manhattan, Kansas 66502
The last Thursday of July once again found Bird City, Kansas
bustling with the clatter of gears, the hissing of steam, and the
flapping of belts amid the billows of coal smoke rising in the
morning sun. It’s all fun and excitement between the sunflower
and grain fields of downtown Kansas, as the Tri-State Antique
Engine and Threshers Association Show begins its four day
One thing you can count on at Bird City is there’s always a
steam engine to ride on. These engines are always kept clean so a
visitor won’t get his duds all sooted up. An engineer licensed
in Kansas is required on the engine at all times while it’s
under pressure, but if you’re tall enough to reach the throttle
you can get a chance at driving. Some of the shows don’t seem
to have enough time or room for such things, but at Bird City
there’s always a ride.
The members of the Tri-State Antique Auto Club were at the show
as usual. Their museum is full of polished up vintage autos and
their parade of cars, trucks and other assorted vehicles is more
impressive than most I’ve seen in large cities.
The indoor antique exhibit of life on the high plains got a
brand new building this year but, as the show grew, it took no time
at all to fill. The collections and exhibits pertaining to indoor
life during the Pioneering Days just seem to get bigger and more
interesting each year as more people participate. If a person wants
to know how something was done or what it was done with, it’s
all here. Almost every trade or professional skill is represented
along with items of household chores, leisure and
Well it seems every year I sleep a little later, and some of the
guys wonder if I’ll get the Russell warmed up in time for the
morning races. Well, I’ll tell you one thing, that Russell is
one easy engine to fire and I may be the last to light a match in
the morning, but I haven’t been late for the morning races yet!
The afternoon parade, however, is another story. When the kitchen
is open, you can count on old Ralph being in the dining hall firing
his personal boiler with that world famous home baked Bird City
pie. The only kind of pie I don’t eat is magpie, and the ladies
don’t serve it anyway! It seems the parade is well underway
when I hear a whistle and I go off toward the firing line with a
slice of pie in each hand.
The tractor pull this year went on without the pleasure of young
children helping out on the sled.
It seems the insurance people disallowed the participation of
children under 18. Some years back an insurance man was bragging to
me that insurance companies were going to raise rates and lower
coverage to where they would extract whatever profit they wished
without fear of competition. It seems to me that antique engine
people have a far better safety record than amusement parks or
state fair carnivals and it just doesn’t seem right to me that
this type of price fixing and big company manipulating should be
allowed to control old fashioned safe fun.
Frank & Rita Benkofske of Lake wood, CO have helped out at
the show for 3 years. They’re pictured with Maynard
Wright’s 1/3 scale Case 65 HP.
In January this year we lost one great engineer, helper and
friend when Wesley Pitman passed away. Wes was a guiding hand and
inspiration to us all. We’ll miss Wes, but we can be sure his
spirit will be with us wherever wheels are turning.
Allen ‘Bus’ Wurm of Oberlin, Kansas told a little about
the early days of Bird City’s Huber. It seems that around 1929
Bus’s family lived near Trenton, Nebraska where a threshing
crew had abandoned the Huber in a field and no one seemed to want
her. Bus’s father fired her up with corn cobs and drove her
home where it was used for a few years to thresh wheat.
Bus says that when he was in the sixth grade (1932) he hid some
cigarettes and a cigar in the fire box. He’d go out there at
night, stick his head in the fire box and light up. Then one night
he and his cousin were puffing it up, but his cousin couldn’t
keep a secret and his dad found out and soon Bus lost his smokes.
The engine stayed a while in the yard with kids playing on and
The stationary engine yard continues to pop, hiss, and whirl. It
sure amazes me how smooth these engines run. I don’t know much
about gas engines, but it sure seems to me that those car makers
could learn a little about quality by strolling through the
exhibit. Some of these engines have driven machinery or well pumps
for over fifty years while I worry if my car will make it home from
It’s half past April when I’m writing this and the
show’s leaders have most of the ’90 show planned already.
Come on out to Bird City in downtown Kansas where it’s always
‘sunny skies and continuing mild.’ Here in the sunflower
state, there’s something for everyone at the Tri-State Show,
when once again the ground will shake and the earth will move under
the awesome display of horsepower.