Vintage Farmall B tractor to take center stage at this year's Atwater Threshing Days
Around 1946, when Carol Ringler was barely big enough to see over the steering wheel, she climbed into the seat of a red International Harvester Farmall B tractor and slowly inched it up and down the fields as her father and siblings picked a never-ending crop of rock.
It was a tedious summer job that lasted for years.
"They were hard times, but they were good times," said Ringler, of Atwater.
Today, Ringler still drives a cherry-red Farmall B, but now she does it for fun and with pride. As one of the organizers of the 23rd annual Atwater Threshing Days, Ringler is thrilled that the International Harvester Farmall is the featured tractor at this year's show, which will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday near Atwater.
Besides putting her freshly painted Farmall on display, she's decked out the threshing club's new 32-by-40-foot building with Farmall curtains, wall-hangings, posters, decorator plates, lamps and toy tractors. Even the flowers she planted for the show are red and white.
Like most collectors, Ringler has an emotional tie to the fully refurbished tractor that she rides in parades.
"You remember the first tractor you drove and what you did with it," she said. "People tend to go with that brand of tractor."
For Dale Anderson, who hosted the threshing show on his farm from 1976 to 1987 before it was moved to its permanent location near Atwater, the McCormick Deering threshing machine is his favorite.
As a young boy, he helped his father and grandfather use a threshing machine like that and he'll be overseeing its operation during the weekend show. This year the threshing machine will be powered by two Farmall F-20 tractors that will be linked to the thresher with belts that are 100 feet long.
Anderson said there are "very few people" who have worked with old equipment like this in the past and know how to make it work now.
He started the show so that his children and grandchildren could see how early farm machinery worked.
"If we don't carry this on, they'll never know what it was like," said Ringler.
With fewer young people getting involved with old-time threshing shows, Anderson and Ringler are concerned about what will happen to their knowledge and love of the equipment when they're gone.
Some of the equipment at the show is even a wonder to the veterans in the group, including a wooden threshing machine that is powered by a horse that walks on an uphill treadmill.
Cliff Ulferts found the broken pieces of the 1880s-era treadmill and the 1890s-era threshing machine in an abandoned shed in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich. The broken wooden pieces were carefully rebuilt and the metal wheels welded and painted.
"We had a lot of fun rebuilding it," said Lloyd Swenson.
To make it work they need a horse that's small enough to fit inside the framework of the elevated treadmill and one that's willing to walk and walk without going anywhere.
The treadmill powers a large wheel that pulls a belt connected to the threshing machine.
Stalks of oats will be hand-fed into the machine and the oat kernels, straw and chaff will come out different openings as long as the horse keeps walking.
They're hoping that a 1,400-pound Persian/Arabian cross horse owned by an Amish man near Long Prairie will be up to the task. They intend to give the horse and the equipment a test-drive before the show.
As a back-up, they'll use a gas engine to power the thresher. Putting four or five football players on the treadmill could be another option.
"It's up to the horse," said Ulferts.
Besides farm equipment, a daily tractor parade, tractor pulls, threshing and silage chopping, the show also includes a variety of unique home equipment and demonstrations including wool spinning, butter churning and sorghum pressing.
Admission to the show is $5. Children 12 and under are admitted free. For more information go to: www.atwaterthreshingdays.com