A LUST FOR RUST

article image
John Rohm

Editor, Texas Agriculture. Sent to us by Erwin Kretzschmar, R
#3, Box 157, Floresville, TX 78114.

This cover photograph taken by John Rohm of San Antonio, Texas,
shows Richard Koepler, also of San Antonio, engineering a
‘Jumbo’ engine. The engine was manufactured by the Harrison
Machine Works and is owned by Erwin and Tillie Kretzschmar of
Floresville, Texas. For the story on Kretzschmar and his ‘lust
for rust,’

Erwin Kretzschmar has a lust for rust.

Old tractors, engines, combines, grain drills, implements,
tools-you name it-the older the better, these are the things
Kretzschmar has spent years collecting.

The rumble of an old engine coughing to life is sweet music to
this 77-year-old collector, who lives near the Black Hill Community
in Wilson County. Acquiring relics of the past, he says, reminds
him of his younger years.

‘I guess it goes back to your childhood a whole lot,’
this 77′-year-old gentleman, white beard flowing, says with a
slight German accent. ‘Because we used to have an old Sears
Roebuck 2-1/2 HP Economy engine where we would grind feed for the
chickens. That was my job, always, to grind feed. Then we’d
pump water. Then finally we got into tractors, you know, the old
F-12 Farmall and stuff like that.

‘Then in later years, well, you know, that brings back
memories. Then you like to have some of that old stuff and
that’s where it started.’

Kretzschmar today has memories by the barn full-several barns
full in fact-at the Ole Tic Toe Ranch Farm and Museum, so named for
the vast clock collection Kretschmar and his wife, Tillie have
acquired from all over the world.

A tour here is like a trip back to the early days of mechanical
agriculture. Kretzschmar proudly shows an Advance Rumely Oil Pull
tractor, a 10-20 Case, several Farmalls including Models F-12, B
and 20, old John Deeres, a Huber Super Four and then fondly pats a
1914 Allis-Chalmers.

‘That thing’s 75 years old, it should have its diamond
jubilee, huh?’ he says with a smile. ‘Showed it recently at
Speegleville. Got a plaque for it being the most outstanding
tractor at the show.’

Outstanding is an understatement for Kretzschmar’s
collection of farm antiques, probably the largest in South Texas.
Not only does he find old tractors, engines and such, he restores
many of them. And it’s not always an easy job.

‘It was in terrible condition,’ Kretzschmar says of an
Allis-Chalmers 10-18 tractor he found near Karnes City one day that
now sits fully restored in his barn, ready to run. ‘ It was
down on the river bottom and the trees had grown though the wheels.
We took a chain saw and sawed all the branches out and then the
front end had fallen down. The frame rusted through. It was a mess.
But it’s in pretty good shape now.’

Or take the case of an old cotton gin he found at La Grange. It
took Kretzschmar 300 hours and 30 days to move the massive engine
and structure to his place. It also took three pairs of gloves, now
displayed by the gin.

Then it took another 90 days or more, based on ‘man and
woman hours,’ and another three pairs of gloves worn out to
rebuild the structure.

‘ ‘My wife helped me on this, that’s why I based it
on man and woman hours,’ he said.

The Kretzschmars have traveled untold thousands of miles across
the country searching for old tractors, but one of his worst deals,
which eventually turned into one of his best, was close to home
near San Antonio.

One day Kretzschmar found an old Stroud tractor, made in San
Antonio, in the Alamo City. The owner wanted $300. Kretzschmar
offered $250, and went home to think about it. The next day he
decided $300 wasn’t so bad after all, and went back to the
owner-only to find she had already sold it. Years later Kretzschmar
bought the tractor from a dealer for $2,500.

But that’s not the end of the story. Kretzschmar rarely
sells any of his antiques, but recently a man from San Antonio saw
the old Stroud, fell in love with it, and made Kretzschmar an offer
he couldn’t refuse.

‘It brought me enough money to buy the steam engine and
golly, I sold him another engine and bought a new pickup, too. So
you couldn’t turn that down.’ he says.

Kretzschmar has toned down his collecting urge the past few
years. The cost of the old machinery keeps getting higher and his
barns are overflowing as it is. But he still keeps his eyes
open.

‘Well, if it’s something really rare and I can afford
it, I’ll keep on,’ he says, ‘if I need something or
want something bad enough. Just like that steam engine. I figure
that would about top it off, I hope.

‘But then if I ran into something that was rare enough or
cheap enough I would buy it. I’m sure not going to put up
anymore buildings to put it in I don’t think.’

In the end, Kretzschmar terms his lust for rust as an
addiction.

‘Well, if you get a good drink of whiskey or something and
you like it, what do you do then?” he asks.’ ‘You
keep on. It’s just the pleasure of hearing that old machinery
run again.’

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment