1026 Kearney Manhattan, Kansas 66502
The Northwest corner of downtown Kansas, Buckle on the Wheat
belt, once again played host to four fun filled days of high plains
style of antique engine and threshers show. Bird City came alive
with a puff of steam, a cloud of smoke and the whirl of gears.
Folks gather around every year to play hard, after working hard
gathering in the wheat and delivering it to the grain elevator, and
1990 was a record breaking year.
The pioneer exhibit gets a little more crowded in spite of the
new building, which took no time at all to fill up. One of the
exhibits drawing attention last summer was the wool and spinning
booth. The pioneer exhibit includes vintage home furnishings for
the ranch house, farm house, or even a homestead dugout. Farther
down the long aisles, one can experience early prairie life in
village stores, as well as tradesmen’s shops.
The steam races and parades are every day. Those big old engines
running quiet and smooth, sometimes make you wonder how gas and
diesel ever replaced coal on the farm and rail. I may just be a
hopeless romantic, but those coal burners sure do look better to
me, and they certainly do smell better.
I can never say enough about the older folks. Of course,
‘older folks’, is a relative term. To some of the younger
engineers, I’m well over the hill, however, to the older folks
at Bird City, I’m still a kid who needs a little guidance now
and then. Anyhow, as many years as I’ve been coming to the
show, there’s always a whole bunch more old methods that I seem
to pick up. I had a little more time this year to spend with the
early gas tractors, and there was always somebody older than the
tractor to show me how to start or operate it. Here I’d like to
give special thanks to Floyd Wright for helping me out.
With the help of the Threshing Master, Leo Wilkins, and my
helper engineer, John O’Neal, I threshed some of that 1990
record setting wheat crop with the Russell. Stopping the engine,
however, I got into trouble as the belt flew off the flywheel in
the direction of the engine and it got tangled in the clutch, but,
Leo was patient with me as he inspected the job I did of destroying
his belt. John O’Neal, by the way, won about two thirds of the
slow races while running that Russell.
Leo Wilkins always brings part of his toy collection around to
the show. The show cases filled with miniature farm implements and
trains always brings in the little ones with their noses pressed
against the glass. Above the cases, suspended from the beams,
swings Leo’s collection of little red wagons, most of which
were manufactured of wood.
Every year from Bird City, I carry away an armload of fond
memories and a long list of new friends. On the way in, at the top
of my packing list, is my appetite for those fabulous pies baked
fresh every morning by the lovely ladies of Cheyenne County. They
bake about 37 different kinds of pie and I love all 37. When it
comes to feeding a person, better fare cannot be had anywhere, at
any price, than at the Tri-State Show. Inside the dining hall is
the stationary steam engine exhibit which includes one highly
polished and smooth running Corliss. Our little Corliss was made at
the Murray Iron Works, Burlington, Iowa.
Nellie Le Bow Burr, Bird City’s own 1990 thresher queen, was
born in 1902, out on her father’s ranch; her father was a
cattleman before he turned to farming. Nellie remembers the early
years of eating hunted rabbits and drinking rain water before her
father put in the first well. Congratulations, Nellie, you’re a
I always seem to find time to amble on down to the swap tables.
Lots of old books, tools, a gasket for your whatever, that missing
butter churn part, a valve grinder that only your grandfather can
identify, but best of all is the talk of earlier times. You learn
how it was made, went together, and used.
The folks in Bird City have been working all winter, fixing some
old things up for this year’s show. Come on out where the fun
is grand, the food great, the camping is free, and we’ll keep a
boiler warm for you. See you in July when once again the ground
will shake and the earth will move under the awesome display of