Marilyn had completed her obligations at Octane Press for the day, and we decided to look at other exhibits around the ‘Roundup. The next stop was the Pavilion, a very large covered arena where the Pre-1940 International, IHC and Farmall tractors were gathered. As we climbed the bleachers to get a better look, a late-teens Titan model 10-20 was starting in the arena. A few minutes later we were standing next to the now-running tractor, marveling at the meticulous restoration and intricate, visible workings of the engine. I was able to capture some video of it in the parade the next day. Magnificent!
Other restorers were holding forth next to their antique machines, to knots of interested, young farmers. It seems the passion for old machinery is wide-spread with enthusiasm that spans generations.
I always look forward to seeing the “latest” in really old technology at the ‘Roundup, and this year encountered a great display of International Harvester model LA “hit-or-miss” engines shelling and grinding corn, as well as pumping water. I’ve mentioned them on the blog before, but this was unique. Over a half-dozen beautifully restored engines, all running, and many connected to applications with canvas belts like a McCormick/Deering Corn Sheller, a small grain mill, cob mill and a well-pump.
In order to show the entire workflow, small, functional elevators lifted the corn kernels from application to application. Best of all, a supply of dried corn — complete with cob and husk — was provided so observers could try it out. Passing children at the ‘Roundup were fascinated as they fed shucked corn into the sheller via a pipe and could watch the result. Several club members were running the exhibit; keeping the machines serviced with water and fuel and answering questions.
These small engines were common back in the day, and provided vital extra power before rural electrification. They could pump water, grind corn and lift grain into bins and cribs — saving farm families from much difficult work. I still remember the well pump on my grandparents farm, electrified by the time I came along, but no doubt once powered by one of these versatile engines.
This was my fourth experience with the Red Power Roundup. Huron, Sedalia and Union Grove had been memorable, but the Iowa State Fair was the largest layout I had ever seen. Previous attendance had been between 15,000 and 25,000, but the estimate for this gathering was 50,000. This was going to be special!
Marilyn safely ensconced with her adoring public at the Octane Press booth, I set out for a quick tour of the nearby environs. The vendors, including Octane, were mostly located in the “Varied Industries Building.” I spent about and hour in its air-conditioned interior and headed outside.
I was immediately introduced to the “Machinery Grounds,” and beautiful red tractors were visible in every direction. Not surprisingly, much of the grounds were large concrete lots. But a pleasant wooded park was also nearby and crowded with the fascinating machines. In one curious display, 15 progressively-sized tractors — both toy and real — were connected together end-to-end. I couldn’t help wondering what the point of that was, but I would find out while watching the parade a couple of days later.
I enjoy looking at old machinery, in part because my grandparents were farmers and I had free reign of their place on summer visits as a child. There was plenty of old machinery there to look at and play with, and the fascination was born. As mentioned in an earlier post, my morning walkabout ended by meeting a new friend, Ron. The young man with the pedal tractor Marilyn and I had encountered earlier in the day (and would see again later on) made a cameo appearance also.
We’ve been generally happy with our teardrop trailer, but have had one recurring problem. The galley hatch lid will not stay down. We encountered the problem on our very first trip to the Red Power Roundup in Huron, South Dakota in June of 2014.
The problem usually occurs when we hit a rough patch of road or rumble strips, and is more an annoyance than a real problem. I finally decided it was time to fix it, and found some chromed hood-latches on eBay that would do the trick. This video describes the installation process.
Next stop – the Darst International Harvester Museum. One online source describes a visit to the museum as a history lesson because the couple, Darrell and Kevin, have a story to go with each item. We met Darrell at our very first Red Power Round Up in 2014 at the State Fair Grounds in Huron, South Dakota. Last year, we had the pleasure of stopping in Madison and seeing both Kevin and Darrell as well as their amazing collection of tractors, thousands of IH keepsakes and memorabilia. Darrell is the editor of Harvester Highlights, the quarterly publication of the International Harvester Collectors Club that provides for the preservation of International Harvester history, products and memorabilia. Tracto, the 8-foot talking robot, built from 227 tractor and implement parts, greets visitors at the museum like he had done at county fairs, state fairs and special events for 60 years. Darst had known Tracto since he was 13 when he met the robot at a corn picking contest and now has lovingly restored him.
Kevin has been described as the queen of IH refrigeration and freezer collectables. She has a corner dedicated to International Harvester refrigerators, freezers, documentation and mementos. My publisher, Lee Klancher introduced us as I began working on Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding, the IH “Betty Crocker” spokeswoman for home refrigeration . Kevin had known many of the IH home economists from the promotional team and has letters describing the role of these women in the company. It was good to see the Darsts again as we started discussing another book project.
We left Governor Dodge State Park and headed to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architectural school located in the rolling hills near Spring Green. Visiting Taliesin had been on my bucket list after knowing several friends in Arizona who had attended Taliesin West. The name, Taliesin meaning shining brow, is a nod to Wright’s Welsh heritage. The Visitors Center was originally built as the Riverview Terrace Restaurant in 1953 where we met our tour guide as well as the rest of the folks on the house tour. We drove past the waterfall at the dammed stream and up the winding road of the 490-acre estate. Our knowledgeable tour guide introduced us to the court yard, studio and living quarters. She shared the history and important aspects of his architecture, interior design, furniture and light fixtures. She also discussed the challenge of maintaining the various aspects of the architecture as it was in Wright’s time. He was fond of Asian designs and collected artifacts. But he also collaborated with sculptor Richard Bock on other sculptures. Wright was not a very tall man and he had a fondness for lower ceilings and passage ways that challenged a member of the tour who was seven feet tall.
Wright loved music and felt that music and architecture were closely related. The tour explored the famed living room, complete with the Steinway Art Grand Piano and the unique music stand he designed for a quartet. It had been the scene of nightly concerts. Wright was an accomplished pianist. In addition to the works of many composers, he performed works by his father, William Carey Wright who was a composer, music teacher and itinerant Protestant minister. Please enjoy his 1851 composition, L’ Agréable Réverie, played by Jim for this post.
Stories about the people who had lived in Taliesin were an important part of the tour. From his mother to Mamah Cheney – his mistress, the two later wives, his children, the community of students and clients, the property was the setting of a tempestuous domestic life complete with scandals, murders, fires and other dramas.
After the tour, we returned to the Visitors Center and enjoyed a wonderful lunch in
the Riverview Terrace Café, complete with an awe-inspiring view and equally inspiring meal of local food and beverages.
Learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and listen to his father’s music:
The House on the Rock defies description. Imagine the love child of the Smithsonian Institution and P.T. Barnum. Begun in 1945 by Alex Jordan as a lofty home perched on a tall chimney rock, it evolved as “one thing led to another” into an attraction with ever-increasing collections — as eclectic as it is enormous.
I was interested in the pipe organ and other musical instruments we had heard about, and based on the Web site, thought that an afternoon would be enough to explore the attraction. We inquired about the pipe organ as we bought tickets and were advised to not linger too long in any one place. We had no idea just how big this place was.
Rub Budda’s Belly …
We set out through the courtyard, rubbed the Budda for good luck and were quickly in the House. First opened to the public in 1960, the House is a series of rooms surrounding The Rock, no two the same size, shape or style.
The Bauer-Coble Mushroom Lamp
It is vaguely oriental, but also includes furnishings from other eras. The Infinity Room is an engineering marvel that hangs out over the valley floor several hundred feet below.
The collections that follow are too numerous and varied to describe here, but include a mock-up of a late 19th century main street — complete with fully furnished shops, homes and village services like a sheriff’s office and fire department. With the provided tokens, one can play the dozens of mechanical musical instruments that are scattered throughout the attraction. They vary from small music boxes and pianos to a complete 80-piece orchestra.
Along the way, there are collections of dolls and doll houses, firearms, circus models, Fabrege Eggs, agricultural equipment, steam power, stained glass, classic cars, pipe organs, carousel horses and a giant carousel and replicas of the Crown Jewels.
200-foot sea creature
One building contains a multi-level exhibit of several dozen scale models of maritime ships from hundreds of years old to present. Any one of these collections stand on their own, but to have so many in the same place is overwhelming. Suffice it to say, we wished we had allowed more than an afternoon and could easily have spent a couple of days there. Simply Amazing.
One surprising highlight of this year’s Red Power Roundup was the “flash” restoration of an old Farmall tractor in just three days. Originally the brainchild of Howard Raymond of Wellfleet, Nebraska, the idea had its roots in another restoration completed by volunteers in Madison, Wisconsin in 2009. Deciding on a Farmall F-12 that was stored in a warehouse, the process of gathering volunteers and sponsors took a couple of years, and the unrestored tractor was displayed at the 2015 Red Power in Sedalia, Missouri to encourage participation.
Everything was ready to go on Thursday, June 16th, with 40 volunteers and an unrestored tractor. In the space of three days, it was disassembled, sandblasted, the motor overhauled, new brakes and clutch, the magneto and carburetor overhauled, re-assembled and painted. By Saturday, it was showing off around the ‘Roundup. The restored tractor then was presented to Case/IH for inclusion in their Farmall Collection.
Information regarding the planning process and a picture of the original unrestored tractor is available on the 2016 Red Power Roundup site. What a remarkable effort!
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 …
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.