Old Masters New Masters


| May/June 1984



Nichols and Shepard engine

20-70 Nichols and Shepard engine belonging to Don and Margaret Blecha of Wichita, Kansas.

The following is an account of the 6th annual Ternings Steam and Gas Engine Show. This show is held annually over the Labor Day weekend in Valley Center, Kansas. Valley Center is located just 500 miles southwest of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, about 700 miles south of Rollag, Minnesota, and 12 miles Northwest of Wichita, Kansas.

One could not exactly put a finger on it but there seemed to be something distinctly different about this particular show compared to all the others. At first glance, the total overall appearance did not seem to be that much different from the shows of past years. This year there were 19 full sized steam traction engines scattered around the grounds with their 'old masters' at the throttle. The Case wooden incline was standing in the middle of the grounds looking as ominous as ever just waiting for its next challenger. The wheat stack located at the east end of the ground was considerably larger than that of other years just ask Gary or Quentin Base, Joe Harper, Butch Olson, and countless others and they will testify to the truth of that statement. We heard that the town of Valley Center sold out of Ben Gay that particular weekend!!! The gas engines had their own little corner of the grounds and were putt-putting away at their own speed. All of the craft and concession stands and the grist mill were busy selling their wares.

A more detailed, in depth look seemed in order to give us the answers we were seeking. Just what was different about this show?

As was state done could readily see the 'old masters' at the controls. Every show in the world has people who qualify for the coveted title of 'masters of the throttle'. But the difference with the old masters at this show was that they were giving much sought after advice to the younger generation. By advice we mean much more than giving the order to bring more water or coal. They fully realized that there is no way in the world these young people could go to the local library and check out a book and learn how to properly operate these engines. One must have hands on experience and the old masters must be present to offer advice. For many months prior to the show the young people were expected to be around to receive proper instruction if they were to be allowed to be an assistant or be in control of an engine during the show. The engineers both young and old were issued operator's licenses only after they demonstrated their skills with a particular engine.

Out to the south field went the 50 HP Case with Doug Base and Aaron Terning at the controls. On the eight bottom plow stood Dan Base, Frank Harper, and David Hutcherson. Perhaps you are thinking that this is not such a noteworthy statement. However, when one considers that the ages of all involved ranged from 12 to 16we do think that is noteworthy. There were several fathers seen here and there in the crowd, just in case a bit of advice was needed. As Jim Thomas of Graford, Texas soon announced, these young people needed no advice or assistance. They full well knew just what to do and when to do it. They maneuvered this unit so smoothly many surely thought there must be an old master hiding somewhere. Before the show was over there were many people in agreement to the fact that these boys were the 'youngest old masters' they had seen.

The youngest engineer was Scott Burkhardt. He and younger brother Seth, were seen going round and round the show on a half-scale Case 65 model steam engine. Every few minutes Seth could be seen heading towards the funnel cake wagon it soon made one wonder if they were fueling their engine with funnel cakes!! One look at Seth's tummy and one knew that the engine was not devouring them. Scott appeared as cool as a cucumber and in control. His mother was busy giving guided tours of the show and did not have much time to worry. The rumor was that she was just a tiny bit nervous. Scott's father was busy operating the new Huberbut did keep a watchful eye on his number one son.