Sent to us by L. Martyn 1375 11th Ave. Edgar, Wisconsin

Edgar, Wisconsin is a small town with a population of about
1500. During the last weekend of August each year, at least three
times the population of the town converges on the farm belonging to
Kurt Umnus, Jr. What causes this vast migration is a show which has
been presented for the last 16 years by members of the North
Central Steam and Gas Engine Club of Edgar. By Sunday noon, all
4500 souvenir buttons had been sold. Some of the ladies still
selling tickets at the entrance didn’t get a chance to stop for
lunch because of the line of cars filled with people wanting to get
in to see all there was to see. There were acres of land set aside
for parking so there was room to spare for all who wanted to

Being a native of New York City, and relatively new to country
life, all that the show had to offer was pretty new and different
to me. What a lot there was to see.

We went over to the grounds at dusk on Friday night before the
show officially started. There was a local polk a band playing for
the entertainment of the exhibitors and flea marketeers who had
arrived earlier in the day to get set up and ready for the weekend.
Many of the folks there were swapping stories of their latest
acquisitions and catching up on what had happened since they had
seen each other.

Outside, there was some last minute painting of equipment. One
fellow was painting up a rather rusty piece with some pretty green
enamel. It seems that until a few weeks ago the plow had been up to
its axles in mud and had been rescued from oblivion in the nick of
time to come to the show, and thus the last minute paint job. It
reminded me of the scene in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ where the
card men frantically put red paint on the white roses to please the
Red Queen.

Featured both Saturday and Sunday was a 1 o’clock parade of
vehicles. Participants ranged in size from the 80 HP Case owned by
George Sommers to mini replicas of a Case steamer and a thresher
presented by Rick Stencil, Edgar. There were a good dozen of the
crowd pleasing giants, Advance Rumely, Case, Minneapolis. Also
appearing was a goodly selection of smaller, newer tractors, Ford,
John Deere, Avery, Huber, Rumely Oil Pull. There were crawlers,
homemade cars and wagons. Representing an even earlier day of
farming technology were wagons pulled by giant horses and one HP
cart pulled by a pony. There was a trained dog in one of the
wagons–the driver honked ‘shave and a haircut’ on a horn
and the dog barked the ‘two bits.’ That got a laugh from
the crowd every time. Another crowd pleaser was the contraption
made from an old garden tractor which had been ingeniously modified
into an aluminum can-crusher.

After the parade was over, we hitched a ride on an antique car
to go to the south field to watch the big steam engines each take a
turn plowing. We got to sit on the 8 bottom plow while the men
raised and lowered the bottoms into the earth. Pulling the plow was
host Kurt Umnus’s 1919, 22-65 Advance Rumely #14962 driven by
Ted Knack from St. Paul Park, Minnesota. It was a really impressive
sight as the giants steamed and puffed along, black smoke streaming
from the stacks. In the air was that odor of oil and steam that is
a whiff of nostalgia even for those who have never smelled it
before. The non-working passengers got to watch the tall grasses
and clover being turned under the soil and see the scurrying mice,
frogs and grasshoppers being displaced by all the activity. Next to
us came a hay wagon load of watchers being pulled by those patient
Belgians who certainly earned their oats this weekend. Behind them
came the next tractor with a 6 bottom plow. It didn’t take long
to get the plowing done and the drivers seemed reluctant to stop
when they ran out of field to work.

It was interesting watching the people watching the work being
done. There were folks with video cameras, regular cameras, sound
recorders. One of the steamers suddenly made a terrible clunking
sound and quit working. People came from all around to see what the
trouble was. Some just watched, some made ‘helpful’
suggestions on cause and cure, some talked and compared this with
modern machinery problems. It was neat how even a breakdown was of
interest to everyone there. After a little tinkering here and there
we were off and running again. ‘Running’ may not be quite
an accurate description of our movement. We were able to talk to
people quite comfortably strolling alongside us as we rode

When the steamers weren’t plowing, they got to work with the
threshing machines. Several wagon loads of oats had been cut and
saved for the event. Among the antique machines used was a Red
River Special owned by Kurt Umnus. After taking their turn at
threshing, they ran the sawmill and cut up some lumber. There was
always a large crowd gathered there to watch and plenty of wood
ready to be cut.

The oldest steam engine that we found was a Minneapolis 22 HP,
made in 1913. It was brought to the show by Steve Mole,
Connorsville. His grandfather had worked with it when it was new
and it has been in Steve’s family since his grandfather bought
it from its first owner. It was beautifully restored with bright
red wheels and yellow trim. Some of the mechanical parts on the top
were green with the embossed parts highlighted in gold.

We got a kick out of seeing the smaller items at the show as
well: the Maytag washer with a butter churn attachment, a scale
model sawmill built in 1945 by Norman Franck of Minoqua, a 2′
scale ‘Phoenix Steam Hauler’ logging engine built by Dan
Kiekhaffer of Colfax, model carousels, pumps and Ferris wheels run
by hot air compression motors and made by retired carpenter Russell
Bryan of Baraboo. We liked the McCormick Deering Type M, 3 HP,
gasoline/kerosene engine from 1936 with the quirky habit of blowing
perfect smoke rings and the collections of toy tractors. One
display of toy John Deere tractors had examples ranging from the
Waterloo Boy Model R, 1915-1919 through the 5020 model of 1965-72.
You could see the development in farm machinery happening right
there before you. The display was presented by Bill Proft, Waukonda
and Russ Buss, Athens.

A permanent fixture at the farm is a display of household
objects, cooking utensils, plates and fancy dishes, dolls and other
toys, old magazines and books. We liked browsing in this area and
getting a feel for how the rest of the family lived while the men
were out running their machinery.

Sandi Coyle brought her scaled down version of a cook shanty. It
is a faithful reproduction of the building used by the wife of the
threshing foreman for her job of feeding the threshing crews. Sandi
was aided in researching the authenticity of her project by finding
an ex-cook living in her hometown of Granton. She has plans for
additional work to be done. Sandi was usually to be found cooking
buckwheat pancakes in the Pancake House run by the ladies of the
Steam Club.

Gene Coyle brought another unique item to the show, an Adams
Leaning Wheel Grader #12. It was used in Clark County for county
road work around 1927. Gene’s mother remembers seeing this
grader being used when she was in high school.

One of the odder looking machines is the Albaugh-Dover
‘Square Turn’ tractor. It has a single, smaller wheel in
the front and two large ones in the back. It pivots on the front
wheel and can be made to go backwards or forwards with very little
effort. It is one of only three left and seemed to be of great
interest to the show’s visitors. We got a good view of the
moves it can make when it appeared in the parade. Wonder why they
quit making them as it sure seems like a good idea.

It was getting late on Sunday and folks started to pack up their
machinery to go home. We decided to do the same. We bought a bag of
buckwheat flour ground there for us by Bill and Verena Sheldon,
carried our little sack of ground corn that we had shucked with a
hand mill and then fed into a gas powered grinder, toted our boards
cut at the mini-saw mill and looked up into the sky to catch a last
glimpse of the bi-planes that had been coming and going at Wein
International Airport all weekend. As we drove away the steamers
seemed to salute and talk to each other with their whistles.
We’ll look forward to hearing them again near Edgar next year
and smelling their ‘Eau de Nostalgia’.

Farm Collector Magazine
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