There is a reason we named our teardrop the Ambassador. On our first trip, folks stopped by to meet the Ambassador in droves. It was a great way to connect with the neighbors and others in the campground. Some walked, others arrived by Cub Cadet, while others came by other more unique methods of transportation like red tractors. Many were curious about the interior and the fine points of traveling in a small trailer. We learned at our first Red Power Round Up in 2014, that we would be giving tours on a regular basis.
Tractor Mac and a fan
One evening, Billy Steers and his wife Julie stopped by to meet the Ambassador. After the tour, they mentioned that they had an Airstream Bambi, a favorite among Airstreamers and a truly unique trailer. They invited us to stop by their booth the next day for the Tractor Mac presentation. Billy, a.k.a. Tractor Mac is an author, illustrator and commercial airline pilot for American Airlines. He introduced his first children’s book in 1999, Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm featuring a red tractor with big headlamp eyes, a broad smile and a huge personality. Tractor Mac has continued introducing not only more books, but new characters. Last year, at Christmas, we got a Tractor Mac book and toy for Jim’s nephew who is a huge tractor fan.
As we walked through the campground at the Racine County Fairgrounds, I spotted the Bambi. I knew that Tractor Mac would be giving several presentations at Red Power Round Up. We checked out the schedule and found the Tractor Mac presentation was in the Picnic Shelter. It was great to catch up with Billy and Julie again. It was amazing to see how the young fans worshiped the character, who appears “in person,” a bright red IH tractor with those friendly eyes.
The Steers’ Bambi at the Red Power Roundup in June of 2015
The Red Power Roundup is not all tractors. International made other products, and trucks were a major line. My grandparents had a farm in Nebraska, and I would spend time there each summer. They had two 1946 International pickup trucks — one that ran (a black one) and one that didn’t (it was red). By the time I was about 12, I had learned to drive the tractor (a Model H) and began driving the black pickup. It had a “three on the tree”, manual steering and brakes that almost worked — quite a handful for a beginning driver! I still miss driving it, so I’m especially fond of the restored trucks that show up each year at Red Power.
Later, I roomed with a fellow who had an International Scout. It was a simple thing — easy to work on, and (as I remember it) it always started — even in the dead of winter. We had many adventures in that Scout. Here is a sampling of pickups and scouts from this year:
Tractors are fun, but the best part of Red Power is reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. This year was our third at the ‘Roundup, and I set off to see who I could find. Although not as spread out as previous years, the Racine County Fair was still a lot of ground to cover, and it would be a challenge to see it all. On the way, there were surprises and things that, well, you just don’t see everyday.
Transport for Two
Patiently waiting in the early tractor shed
A wagon with a “pup”
A beautiful orchard tractor
Shade to go
In the early tractor shed, there was the expected shiny early 20th-century equipment — beautifully restored and ready to transform the life of some old-time farmer who was more accustomed to working with horses. The next bay held a surprise though: a rusted hulk of a 1936 Farmall Model F-12 with a swarm of men intent on various tasks. Reading the nearby sign, I learned that they meant to completely rebuild this “found in the woods” beauty in the three days of the ‘Roundup — including a fresh coat of McCormick-Deering painted livery. If they were successful, that would be impressive!
Rebuilding a 1936 Farmall F-12
There is a lot yet to do.
All ages pitched in.
They’ve been around this wrench before.
And right next to the rebuild crowd, was my friend Charlie Uthke, who is usually surrounded by a knot of fans for his engine stands and alternator conversions. We camped with Charlie and his wife at our first Red Power Roundup in Huron, South Dakota in 2014 and I remember the good campfire conversations. We only see them once a year, but it’s always fun to catch up.
Each year, a local group hosts the Red Power Roundup, in this case Chapter 4 of the National International Harvester Collectors, Club, Inc. in Wisconsin. Other local clubs exhibit in the Chapter House, and I went there next. There is often a raffle, and I always register hoping a classic tractor will follow me home. Having completed that important bit of business and looked the various chapter tables over for interesting swag, I was about to leave when I spotted a model farm setup at the opposite end of the building.
It was a large and elaborate setup, with at least a dozen toy tractors and I stopped to look. As I made my way around the exhibit, the model owner introduced himself and we began to chat. It seems the model farm had a good story, and the owner, Allen H. Martin enjoyed telling it. Always on the lookout, I asked him if he would tell the story on camera, and he readily agreed. The video you see here was the result. He tells the story better than I can so …
One of the best parts about writing a book is getting out, meeting the people and sharing their experiences. Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding reached a wonderful group of folks who have a connection to the subject of preserving food. I also enjoy hearing people share their personal family stories about relatives who canned as well as how they started preserving food. Octane Press, the publisher of my Irma Harding book hosts signings at each Red Power Round Up and this would be my third. I headed into the exhibition hall to don my Irma Harding apron, created with Irma Harding fabric.
Marilyn and Holly signing autographs at the Octane Press booth
This morning, I would be in the booth with Holly Dufek, the author of the Casey and Friends books. Her books introduce children to the world of farming through a cast of illustrated characters including Casey the farmer, Tillus the Worm and a whole team of farm equipment characters, each with their own personalities. Holley arrived and quickly put on her Irma apron.
People stopped to share their stories. Many girls thanked Holley creating Casey, a young girl who farms. Other visitors stopped by to share that their International Harvester refrigerators were still running after all these years. Several folks recounted the difficulty of getting such a sturdy (heavy) and dependable freezer out of the basement of an old farm house. Several people ask if I was Irma Harding and I had to explain that I was Irma’s ghost writer.
A little before 1:00, I left for the Main Building to share Irma Harding and Rural Electrification. The presentation provided the background for the introduction of the IH refrigeration products. I make a new presentation for each Red Power Round Up. Last year it was The Women Behind Irma Harding, that introduced the home economists who answered Irma’s mail, wrote the recipe books, ran the test kitchen, consulted with the designers and engineers on femineering design features on the appliances as well as going into the IH dealers for field demonstrations on the techniques of freezing food. More than 70 of Irma’s dedicated fans filled this audience.
Continuing my stroll through the machinery exhibits, I encountered a Victor Horizontal Gasoline Engine. You see “hit-or-miss” engines at every Red Power Roundup, but this was the largest model I had ever seen. Judging by the size of the fly wheel, this beautifully-restored single-cylinder engine must have been rated at about 20 horsepower. With the integrated wagon, it was considered portable and was even equipped with the optional cooling tank and muffler.
The Victor Horizontal Engine
According to Dun’s Review, International Edition (Vol. XX, September, 1912), the Victor was “A reliable, economical and convenient source of power for various purposes around the farm, shop or mill” and was “built in eight sizes, ranging from 4 to 25 horsepower”. The “make-and-break” ignition on the four-cycle engine used a “hit-or-miss style governor” to control the speed. It could run on natural or artificial gas (a mixture of hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide), alcohol, kerosene or gasoline. “A catalogue giving full details and illustrations of these engines” could be requested from International Harvester by mail. It was high-tech in 1912.
As I watched the machine operate, it was fun to see how people reacted to it. We take compact, portable and inexpensive power for granted today (think: lithium-ion battery powered tools, bicycles or automobiles for example) but such an engine would have been special in its day and represented major labor savings when pumping water, milling grain, cutting wood, or running anything that required rotary power on farms that wouldn’t have electricity for some decades. A marvel of the age indeed.
After breakfast, Marilyn went to her first book signing event, and I was free to explore Red Power. I see new things each time, and this year was no different. Walking into a shed at the far end of the fairgrounds, I was transported back to yesteryear — A line of International Auto Buggys from the turn of the 20th century. We had seen Auto Wagons — the farm truck version from the same time period — at the Sedalia Red Power, but here was a line of several motorized carriages that were more elegant and clearly intended for passengers. Best of all, they were in running condition and the owners were giving rides!
International Auto Buggy
The Auto Buggy was a 2-cylinder, air-cooled motor car produced between 1907 and 1916. An immediate success, it marked International’s first foray into the world of motorized vehicles. Octane Press has an excellent article about the vehicle and a sales catalog is also available to scratch that curiosity itch.
Some started easier than others and I watched one owner struggle with the buggy, while his colleagues were driving away. Patience paid off though, and he was finally successful. It was such fun to see passengers load up — especially one gentleman who appeared old enough to have ridden in one of these wagons the first time around. It was clear he relished the opportunity.
The Tasty Trail has taken us to some amazing culinary adventures with a variety of great eats and fairground cuisine at each of the Red Power Round Up events. At the Racine County fairgrounds, many of the food concessions were operated by community organizations like the Kiwanis, Future Farmers of America and 4H bringing a local perspective to the menu.
A fairground 4H breakfast
For breakfast, we selected the 4H concession. They were serving up biscuits with ham and cream gravy, like the gravy often found on Chicken Fried Steak. This comfort food has a long history, with a balance between flour and grease for the perfect consistency. As we waited for our food, we watched as the adults teaching youngsters to take orders, write tickets and place orders while preparing the iconic fairground breakfast. It was so tasty, we returned the next day.
Another day, we waited in line for mouth-watering brats for lunch at the stand run by members of the Kiwanis club. It seemed that everyone else had been lured in by the amazing smell of brats that wafted around the grassy area in the middle of the grounds.
Proctor Silex Slow Cooker
For dinner – we decided to add a small crockpot to our Teardrop kitchen. It was a perfect way to have a wonderful dinner at our campsite at the Racine County Fairgrounds. I loaded up the tiny cooker before going out for the book signing and my presentation on Irma Harding. Dinner was waiting when we returned. Here is our recipe.
Teardrop Pork Chops
2 boneless Pork chops (3/4″ thick)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/4 cup hot water
2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 small onions
freshly ground pepper
Sear the pork chops. Dissolve bouillion in the hot water, add mustard and stir.
Cut off the ends, and peel the onions, then cut in half cross wise to make 4 thick “wheels”.
Place the onions on the bottom of the Crockpot in a single layer.
Once chops are seared, place them atop the onions.
Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, and slowly add the liquid over all.
Cook for 4.5 hours
Octane Press, the publisher of my cookbook, Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding was holding a meet-and-greet in conjunction with Red Power Round Up. The invitation offered an evening of appetizers and libations. We established camp at the Racine County fairgrounds and un-hitched the Ambassador. Then Jim and I headed down the Teardrop Trail to the Water Street Brewery in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Octane Press, founded by Lee Klancher, began in the Mid-2000s. Lee had always loved books and the company now publishes his own work and the work of others. Octane has more than 50 titles in print with about 6 – 12 new projects each year. Octane has been working with International Harvester on a variety of projects that range from calendars to coffee table books.
International Scout Encyclopedia
Since this year’s Red Power Round Up was held in Racine where Case IH Headquarters is located, this party was an opportunity to meet Sarah Pickett, from Case IH Marketing Communications and many of the folks I’d been working with on the cookbook project. There were other Octane Press authors in attendance. Jim and I enjoyed meeting many of the folks, especially Jim Allen and John Glancy, who had just published the International Scout Encyclopedia.
Since 1987, The Water Street Brewery has produced more than 78,000 half-barrels which is approximately 12,987,700 glasses of beer. The Oak Creek location opened recently in a modern, well-lit building that has one-of-a kind beer and brewing artifacts, featured in the book “The World of Beer Memorabilia” Book. It was great to have Jim was accompanying me and we enjoyed a great dinner of fish tacos and tasted a few more of the delightful brews.