Prairie Days Show

Another successful Prairie Days Tractor Show was held, in Pawnee IL, Saturday June 11th. This year was one of the biggest anyone could remember. There was a good amount of tractors on display.

This year there was a large amount of Lawn and Garden tractors added. We can thank Carl Davis for the majority of Lawn tractors. Digger Dave Kemp and I contributed three to the line.

Larry Boblitt hosts this small one day show. What makes it more special is the tractor games featured. Operators compete in a blind tractor drive, chain pile competition, draw bar tap. Slow race, and quick start race.

Enola would have won if she had stopped sooner!
I hope Jessica and I don’t lead the Mafia as blindly as we drove (lol)
What’s your hurry Donnie? The last guy wins
Chris whispering “Just a little further Carl, you can beat Rick”
This was the slowest slow race I can remember in Pawnee. Carl won as an owner, Chris took the victory on Carl’s tractor

This year there were some pretty unique cool tractors on display. This beautiful Aluminium Hood shined like a priceless jewel.

This restored beauty is a 1930 Catterpiller twenty.

This tractor is a one of a kind. It’s a Rawlings! Jerry doesn’t even remember when he finished building it. Kind of a Johnny Cash one peice atta time thing.

There will be more about this unique tractor in an upcoming article.

Carl Davis works for Eli Bridge and it was only fitting to get his picture with the Ferris Wheel set up near by. I took several, but this one is my favorite

Besides the activities and play time, this was an opportunity for fellowship. Many of us brought our lawn chairs so we could sit and visit.

Of course a show is never “christened as good” unless Carl Davis falls asleep. Photo by Don Nowak

Doug Edwards of Edwards Tractor Restoration and Antique Iron Media became proud sponsors for this event this year. We are both happy to support this fun show. Larry awarded a plaque to our group in appreciation.

Photo by Sherry Hinds

The plaque was a team effort. I’m proud of the Antique Iron Mafia for coming out and supporting this show. I look forward to next year.

Authors note ~ Unless otherwise noted in the caption, a majority of the photography credit goes to Jessica Basford for this article. I took a few pictures, but Jessica’s camera work is top notch. She was foolish enough to entrust me to “hold” her camera when she competed in the blind race. I couldn’t resist a few shots getting her in the lens. More of her great photography can be found in our Facebook group Antique Iron Mafia.

“Tractor” Pilgrimage to Ohio

This is a definition I discovered… Pilgramage‘ is often used to describe an individual journey through life, sometimes as a general description of personal growth and exploration.  However, in an overall context, the journey is not always religious

Mecca’ a place regarded as a center for a specified group, activity, or interest.

These two words work well for this article. Ohio seems to be a mecca for me concerning lawn and garden tractors. I have made three pilgrimages to obtain tractors for my collection.

The first trip occurred in 2015. I found, via Ebay, a 1966 Case 150. Matt Kiesel, from Alvada, had the machine up for bid. The winning bid earned my Christmas present to me that year.

Not only did I acquire a nice add to my collection, I made another “tractor” friend. It was very enjoyable meeting and visiting with Matt. We still keep in touch through Facebook.

The second journey occurred last year. I had purchased a Shaw Du-all, on auction, that sparked my interest in that brand. Rob Bush had posted a picture of a beautiful restoration Du-all that was at a show in Portland, IN.

I had made comment on the picture how nice it was and hopefully my Du-all would be half that nice someday. Rob informed the R12T was for sale and put me in contact with the seller.

As I was east bound, to Thornville, I couldn’t help to wonder what kind of collection Joe Lofink would have. Shaw tractors aren’t that common. I felt fortunate to be purchasing such a nice one. Why would he be willing to let it go?

I wasn’t disappointed. Joe’s collection is amazing! I didn’t get to see everything, but what I did view was mind boggling. I’d like to go again someday and spend more time visiting.

1951 Shaw Du-all R12T

Tiller steer tractors are just something of a wonder to me. I have thought that since I saw one on display at the American Tractor Museum in Perryville, MO. I told myself I’d have one someday. Evidently, I needed to be more careful who else I shared this with. My spy network had their eyes open and my friend Steve Farmer found one for sale.

1951 Gibson D

Obviously, the tractor was in Ohio. Bob Julio from Spencer was selling a tractor that had been in his family since it was purchased new. Bob had done major overhaul work on the little tractor making it a great find.

I had learned two important lesson on my previous trip to Thornville. 1) one day marathon 1000 mile trips are long and tiring. 2) renting a trailer would be cheaper, on gas than dragging an empty trailer out bound. I also could rent an enclosed trailer for security and weather protection.

I can’t report the trip to be boring. I was chased by a weather front going. I dealt with rain, construction, and rude drivers, but it was well worth my time.

Bob Julio had a beautiful little slice of countryside and as usual I enjoyed a great visit and made another friend. Bob is currently restoring a 73 AMC Javelin. The car brought back memories of my youth. My mom and dad own two Javelin while I was growing up.

Bob gave me a little bit of a heart attack. He took one look, at the 5×8 trailer, saying “I hope the tractor fits in there” Funny Bob! You’re a millwright, you better know how to read a measuring stick! It was interesting loading a tractor with a 51 inch axle width through a 49 inch opening. It worked though! The door was the only issue, and not that big of a problem.

It ain’t got no steering wheel!

The Gibson is in Illinois, and a big hit for the people to see. I debuted the tractor in Bushnell on Memorial Day Weekend

Shaw Du-all and Gibson D on line at Bushnell photo by Nick Menke

Do I only get three chances to find treasures from Ohio? Only time will tell. Hopefully, the genie in the bottle has more wishes….from anywhere for that matter.

Big Fun at the Club House

The views from inside Spoon River Valley Antique Tractor Clubhouse

Spoon River Valley Antique Tractor Club held their second annual Memorial Day Weekend show on Saturday the 28th and Sunday the 29th. I was informed the show size doubled in attendance. Jim Demery, the club president, thinks they will need a larger venue if the show keeps growing.

This years feature tractor was Oliver and Wheel Horse L&G. Oddly there was only one Oliver representing the feature. Wheel Horse tractors could be found everywhere!

John Deere was represented with the greatest number ag tractor wise. There were roughly 3 to 4 International Harvester on both days. A Ferguson was on display on Saturday and One Allis Chalmers

Garden tractors brands represented were, Wheel Horse, Case, Cub Cadet, John Deere, Roof, Handyman, Gibson, and Shaw.

The Historical Society had a nice display set up centered around two old time wagons.

Antique Iron Mafia was well represented. Carl Davis, Digger Dave Kemp, Nick Menke, Dan Davis and I had our own little time out area surrounded by Carl’s display. That way we could be kept somewhat under surveillance and control.

We went for a drive to show off the tractors. Bushnell is quite a nice little town to cruise and enjoy the neighborhoods. The garden tractor games were fun to watch. The balance board looked like quite a challenge.

I made an attempt but failed. I guess I was supposed to use a tractor. Carl Davis was successful but was disqualified. They didn’t buy the invisible tractor story we were selling.

Someone washed this 1066 with too hot of water, it shrank! Another beautiful custom. It was even a diesel and the shift levers were correct, just like the big machine

This sharp little cement mixer was actually in operation. Nick and I waited patiently but never did see any ice cream made.

This John Deere H had a proud owner. Start them young!

There were two hot food vendors to choose from. One choice was wood fire baked pizza! Which was delicious

An Amish couple was set up selling wonderful food items like cookies, jams, pies and noodles

Of course there was a few flea market items available for purchase.

As always the best part was reuniting with old acquaintances and making new friends. Just like any other show the people are what make it great.

Saturday’s crowd was larger. Attendance on Sunday still held it’s own. The Club wrapped up the day with an awards ceremony.

I’m looking forward to next year. Thank you, Spoon River Valley Antique Tractor Club for a great show. You are all marvelous hosts

Author’s note ~ Thanks go to Jim Demery and Nick Menke for photography for this article

A Day in Oregon

If you have never been to AJ’s Jamboree you are missing out. What’s going on you ask? Garden tractors everywhere!

Andy Hinrichs has been hosting this event for quite a few years now. I didn’t find out just how long, but his son AJ has led the parade since he was 7, he’s 16 now.

There are several events planned throughout the day. A parade of tractors starts out the day My phone was charging so I didn’t get pictures, that’s the hazards of dual use. My phone was also my GPS.

There is a plot to discover your garden tractor muscle. After the first round of plowing the ground was leveled off, packed a little, so people could plow again. Who says you can’t go over plowed ground again?!

Some of the plows are pretty sharp creations. Jeff Kluewer had this sharp little implement behind a John Deere 332.

This was another sharp outfit to watch work

This little creation didn’t make it to the dirt. The Cub it was mounted on wasn’t cooperative. The tractor had carburetor issues. You’ll have that some times.

Andy Hinrichs has the spirit of Mark Twain. Reminiscent of Tom Sawyer, he conned around 20 to help gravel his driveway. The tractors worked like bees at the hive and did a great job spreading rock.

Photo credit Carl Davis
Photo credit Carl Davis

There were other events to participate in. A missed the tractor drive to the railroad bridge. A auction that benefits the local 4H kids sold some nice items.

I’ve seen and even been in a few slow races. Now these guys know how to go slow! I mean check your speed by a calendar slow. I posted a video in the group Antique Iron Mafia. One driver made a scuff mark on his tire to prove he was moving.

Check out these custom pieces This is an AC WD that has been washed a few to many times

Or for those with a more modern taste in custom work. Check these two out

Photo by Carl Davis
Photo by Jeff Kluewer

I think this Cub has a good enough foot print its stable and won’t turn over with the narrow front

This is the only Cub I’ve ever seen on steel.

Photo by Carl Davis

I like tiller steer tractors these two caught my attention. Someday I’ll have me one….

Mayrath aren’t real common. I’ve seen pictures, and know of one in Nokomis. This is the first one I’ve seen without the body tin work

This Shaw Du-all was there. Ironically the owner’s last name was Shaw. Unfortunately the owner isn’t related to the creator of the tractor.

Photo by Jeff Kluewer

Andy has a pretty nice collection of all kind of tractors, primitives, agricultural tools, in his barns. He opens the doors to let people explore and discover.

There was so much to see and do all day long. The best part was reconnecting with old friends and taking the time to make new ones. I personally can’t wait until next year.

More Good Reads or Listening Content

I have a couple more read / listen books to recommend. My Publisher and friend Jack LaFountain has created a series in which his protagonist Ed Landry keeps encountering menace and evil. Jack has a great ability to write about monsters. One of my previous recommendations Death Rides the Red River told the story of a werewolf in Texas after the Civil War.

What in the world is a Rougarou? Well I didn’t know either until I listened to Bayou Moon. Ed Landry is the sheriff of his hometown Lockett LA. He investigates and solves mysterious deaths caused by this monster. The solution comes at great cost for Landry. He has to chose between what is just and legal. His choice puts him on the run as an outlaw.

Blood Moon Landry, on the run from his home in LA, finds himself in Mineral Springs, OK. He befriends local restaurant owners and takes a job as a dishwasher. His friendship circle grows as he helps the local police to take down Native American shapeshifters.

Both books are narrated for Audible by Cameron Buckner. Cam has a YouTube channel Dixie Cryptid and a podcast What if it’s True. He shares stories about Bigfoot, UFO and other paranormal activities.

Cam narrated my story Strangness in the South 40 on his channel recently. It can be found in the episode Was There a Willow Creek Massacre. My story starts at time stamp 26:10. The written version I originally shared to this blog Fiction Fun and More Fiction.

House of Honor recently released HomiNed by James Lewis Huss. It will be available, on Audible, in the future and from what I understand narrated by the author. I look forward to reading or listening to the story.

New Perspectives is three quarters through the editing process. I will be estatically announcing its release date when it comes.


My most recent collection add may have not been in my best interest….at first. I’m the type of collector that’s better off with a electric start toy. That may have been good advice I gave to myself, but I didn’t listen.

I purchased a Shaw Du-all on auction last year. Maybe it had something to do with vanity, sharing a name with a tractor is kind of cool. I managed to find a second one, driving to Ohio to acquire it. I realize this isn’t new news. I’ve shared pictures.

Well, let’s get to the point of this article. I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I had difficulty starting the little tractor. It’s a hand crank start. I figured I’d eventually figure it out or the novelty of ownership would wear off and I’d sell the frustrating machine.

As predicted, I had problems learning to crank start. I even cheated, with the help of another friend I would use another tractor and pull start the Shaw. That problem of crank starting my Du-all was made easier by a genius friend of the Edwards family, Jerry Rawlings. I’m pretty fortunate he’s come into my friends circle now.

I have permission to mention Jerry now. I’m glad he will allow that and I can thank him publically. He had agreed to tune up my magneto as an attempt to make the Du-all easier to start. Jerry did that and much more.

First off let me show you a couple pictures of the crank start. It has a knuckle busting design to begin with. I realize most people are smarter or maybe sadists that enjoy pain. Who am I to judge though the method worked since 1951.

The crank handle is even a knuckle buster to retrieve from it storage point Maybe its hidden like that so people, like me, don’t hurt themselves.

So let me show what Jerry came up with to make my enjoyment of the little tractor much better.

He made a longer crank handle, that gets the operation of starting, out further in front of the frame. The longer handle is supported so there is no damage to the crankshaft. Jerry had made a prototype handle for me, but this new one is so much nicer.

I like the new starting handle storage point. Its hidden in plain sight.

Thank you Jerry, for modifying this little jewel tractor for my enjoyment.

Editor’s note – I’m sorry if the pictures were cut off. I had editing issues with them. The full view may be available if you click on the picture.

How Not to Replace a Selinoid

Readers, of my material, probably have come to notice that I don’t get to technical. There’s reasons for that. I will admit I’m not the most mechanically inclined. I know just enough to get myself into trouble.

My talent is to seek, con maybe is a better description, help from more reliable sources. I’m fortunate to have a vast network of friends in the know. I have welders, painters, small engine guys etc that are willing to help or maybe tolerate putting up with me. Some of my friends would rather remain unanimous. I appreciate everyone, none the less.

I came by my skill of building a network from watching my dad. He was either better at it, or didn’t much care who he manipulated. He never got his hands dirty. I even fell victim to working on stuff for him, he was that good.

I do have my skills. I’m a logistics guy. I can move anything safely and efficiently as possible. If we’re talking flatbed work. I’ll have the load so secure that a tornado won’t separate the load from the trailer.

I once hauled livestock on a flatbed trailer! True story. You’re probably thinking Now come on, that’s not going to work. We’ll to be honest, I’m really not supposed to talk about that load. It’s classified, all I’ll say is I tarped.

Now to demonstrate my vast skill with wrenching. My starting selinoid needed to be replaced on my 300. Once the part is in hand, that’s maybe a 20 to 30 minute job. For a normal person, mind you.

The selinoid is mounted right on top of the starter, easy to get to. I started in, part in hand, tool box open..Here we go!

First thing I noticed, There are no nuts to tighten on the studs to hold the wiring in place. No problem, I’m close to town. I load myself back in the truck selinoid in hand and head to the parts supply shop.

The parts man is super friendly. Most locals know NAPA Don. When it was my turn at the counter, I sheepishly showed him what I needed. He gave me a curious eye, but of course helped me out. I admitted this may not have been a problem had I bought the part from him.

So now I’m back to the tractor. Attempt two! Safety would call for the first step to take a cable off the battery and break the circuit. Who has time for that bother? I’ll just be careful. Which I was. I carefully removed the old part, replaced everything.. all was going great. I even had everything tightened, almost.

I was down to the very last connection. I barely put any pressure on the wrench. The selinoid shattered! I’m talking a jigsaw puzzle would be less of a challenge to peice together.

Remember the safety point? Some contacts were made that were harmless other than making me jump. Sparks can be startling. I know, I know! There wouldn’t have been any, had I not skipped that step.

So I’m about an hour in now and a little flummoxed. The parts, from the broken selinoid, got stuffed back into the box it came in. Guess what I found? You’d be right if you guessed the nuts I went to town for.

I looked at my watch and realized I still had time to get to the implement dealer before they closed for the day. I raced back into town.

The first person behind the parts counter I dealt with was a young man. His eyes widened to saucers in question, when I told him the make and model. I get that, a 55 was alot before his time. His computer mouse worked furiously on the counter, before he called in help. I felt a little better when an older counter man got involved. He tried with a little more success, to discover they discontinued carrying the part.

I stepped out of the implement dealship a little dejected, but not totally discouraged. I had another option, besides ordering another one, and waiting for it in the mail. The other choice was going to be embarrassing, but NAPA Don has dealt with me before.

He looked up and a knowing smile came on his face when I entered the store. He didn’t have to say a word, I already felt a little stupid. He of course had the part. It was better for my application anyway. I have no issue with my other part supplier and will continue doing business with them.

Okay, back to the tractor and attempt 3. Three? Yah it’s three…. This time all went right. I snugged down the last nut and all was well again, with the 300. The 20 minute job, only took me a little more than 3 hours.

My Super C has an issue and I’m planning to upgrade to a 12 volt system from 6 volt. I plan on doing that job myself too. I asked Doug Edwards about it. He said a normal person can do that job in a quick afternoon. Did I mention I don’t do anything normal?

I Better Understand Linus

There is a Peanuts charter, drawn by Chuck Shultz, Linus Van Pelt. He was known for a quirky need to carry his security blanket. I must have that same quirk in a different form. I don’t carry a blanket pressed to my right ear, but I do have a blanket. In fact, I have six!

This article is going to be show and tell, in some sense. It will be more of a showcase of a very talented artist. I’m a little ashamed of myself for not sharing this tribute sooner. The word smithing to tell this still comes emotionally hard, even after eight years.

Bonnie Jennings September 8, 1940 – January 10, 2014

My mom Bonnie Jennings was my major artistic influence. I grew up watching her sewing, knitting, crocheting, pretty much anything in that creative form. Mom wasn’t known to always color within the lines though. She ventured off into making Santa Claus dolls, that progressed into other dolls. She eventually acquired a long arm quilter ( overgrown sewing machine in men’s terms)

Mom’s last sewing room was a loft over a oversized 2.5 car garage. There was plenty of room in that creative space. The room was deemed Olson’s room, the long arm quilter had a name. The room held the long arm, which dominated a good amount of space. The table for the machine was 16 feet long and 4 feet wide.

There was also a couple sewing machines, a cutting table, a desk, racks of material, several steamer trunks, and a comfortable seating area. Most defined was also the electric feeling of creativity in the air, from the moment through the door. It was an inspiring place, where many talents blossomed.

I was one of the few males tolerated in the space. Mom always told me it didn’t have everything to do with being her son, to be in her somewhat secret club. I drove a pickup and knew how to keep my mouth shut. I had involvement in a few conspiracies, sneaking home large objects. I kept silent. Mom had a thing for steamer trunks and I didn’t want to end up in one!

Mom gets brother-in-law Tom’s attention.
Photo by Kris Kulp (Author’s note ~ sarcasm)

This first quilt is called Wild Flowers. It has been on my bed ever since completion in 2011. It’s a little distressed now, but it’s where it was created to be.

This one is a turning twenty design. I have no idea what that term means. This is a good one to see the stitching detail on the back.

This originally was on my bed before I got Wildflowers. It now does duty making my guest room more comfortable

Mom would travel to quilt retreats and she belonged to a local guild. I’m not real sure what went on beyond sharing enthusiasm and ideas. All I remember was she’d come back recharged and full of new creative ideas. She always had more than one project going on.

This quilt is another one of my favorites. I like the color and theme, our family were avid SCUBA divers and that may be my reasoning to like it so much

The next one is always handy draped on my couch. The fact the colors go well with my furniture was a happy accident. The wall hanging I’ll display next demonstrates how well things come together in my living room.

Wall hangings were another demonstration of mom’s artistic expression. The first one compliments Wild Flowers. The other one I have gives impression of a imagined window

One of the blankets I have still travels many miles. Of course there is one near by while I’m at work! This blanket almost didn’t come about. In 2010, when I was assigned my very first new semi tractor, mom decided a bunk blanket was in order to celebrate. The blanket was started, before she became sick from cancer.

My first wife was responsible for the monumental task of closing out Olson’s room after mom passed. Loosing mom was hard enough, a bunk blanket was that last concern on my mind. My ex got in contact with me out of the blue and we got together. I was driving my second new truck at the time.

I was presented with the blanket completed. She had taken the extra time to finish the project without my knowledge. This blanket is special because of the fact two women that were important in my life worked on it.

The blanket is in my third new truck now. Mom may not be around, but her memory always will be.

On a pleasant spring morning, in April of 2014, mom’s ashes were scattered. I created the following poem during the week before hand. I published it to Facebook on the day mom’s remains were laid to rest.

After the sunset

The sunset has past
leaving ashes and dust
from the start, nothing will last
Strong iron eventually shall rust

Your life was an interesting one
that touched many a heart
Creating far more than a daughter and son
your legacies never will part

today, we cast your remains to be free
Well knowing your love shall endure
the beauty of your art, left to see
Is the sign you left us to ensure

You rest on hallowed ground
a secret known by only one other and me
But your memories will abound
take root, to always be

Don Nowak, the Toy Man

I’d imagine every one of us, with the tractor passion, has a farm toy replica collection. Farm toys don’t take up as much room as the real thing. The toys don’t cost as much and easier to maintain the collection.

Read the last part of that previous paragraph and then try to stop laughing! For example, I was once at an auction where I watched a pedal tractor replica bring a higher bid than the real tractor selling on the same auction!

I was allowed a viewing of an amazing collection, owned by Don Nowak. I have to warn you, the pictures I tried to take don’t do the collection justice. His collection is housed in a 26×40 building, and there are toys everywhere!

What toys Don can’t find he will replicate himself. I was fortunate enough to have him customize a Farmall 806 with a cab, that was just like the real one I learned to operate as a kid.

The 806 gets a top shelf in my Red power display.

Don has done many other custom works. For examples, building a tandem tractor setup ( which was recognized in the local paper), a plow, a flatbed utility trailer and even a corn crib. The crib was featured in Toy Farmer magazine.

While I was there Don had a corn picker project underway. I’ll let him reveal that project when its completed. Don would like to find a cozy cab to customize tractors with. No parts suppliers make anything. I’m willing to bet he gets frustrated enough waiting and designs his own at some point.

So as your mouth waters and you secretly wish you had a collection to rival Don’s, just remember….you can. The most remarkable aspect of Don’s collection. This isn’t the first one he amassed. There were two others before this one!

Friends and Memories

Maybe I’m just a sentimental old fool, but lately I’ve been reflecting on friendship and memories. The past few year’s social isolation, due to the pandemic, could be a major contributor as to why I personally cherish my tight bonds. The loss of close friends is also a factor. We make memories everyday, little realizing it may be the last.

People with the tractor passion seem to create very close lasting friendships. Some can be deeper than just mere acquaintances that share a common interest. The closeness in the “tractor” community also is founded from family involvement. The tractor families in central IL. generally number more than one generation.

Central Illinois recently lost, yet another great collector. Russel Miner was well known for his enthusiasm toward the tractor passion. Even in his advanced age, Russel participated in as many club activities and tractor events as his health would allow him.

Russel’s enthusiasm flowed throughout his family. His tractor legacy will not end with his passing. Just like other tractor friends that passed on before him, the community will continue to be blessed with happy memories.

I wish I had known Russel better than I had. The few encounters I shared were wonderful. I could feel the loss felt by the family and my close friends that knew him better than I did.

Central Illinois has developed a unique way to send off and celebrate life now. This wasn’t the first time tractors have been involved in some manner. I reference my blog article The Final Ride in which I shared about Andy Harris’ final journey.

The show of respect

Saturday March 19, 2022 was a dreary chilled morning. Even Mother Nature must have been sad in Russel’s passing. Four of Russel’s favorite tractors stood guard in the church parking lot. Five more were posted in honor of him across the street.

The melancholy aspect to our tractor community is we added, yet another name to our list of friends that now live in our memories.