Tag Archives: international harvester

Red Power Roundup – 2017 Hit-or-Miss Corn Sheller

Teardrop Trail Log: June 16, 2017

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.

Red Power Roundup 2017 Walkabout

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2017

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.

photo of Cutting 5/8-inch threaded rod

A New Way to Level a Teardrop

photo of Original scissors-jack handle

Original scissors-jack handle

Teardrop Trail Log: June 8, 2017

After three seasons of Teardropping, I still wasn’t happy with my trailer leveling solution. I originally purchased a pair of scissors jacks, but the folding handles they came with were frustrating to use. Also, the jacks had a tendency to fall over before they came in contact with both the ground and the trailer.

Stabilizers Aren’t Perfect

Next I tried stabilizers, and although they had advantages, they didn’t work as well with uneven ground. They were perfect in combination with a scissors jack though. By lifting each trailer corner where a stabilizer was attached, they could be easily extended and provided a rock-solid platform once set.

So, back to the scissors jack. What could I do to improve on the basic Harbor Freight design? I didn’t want to modify the actual jack, but wanted an adapter that would allow the use of a cordless drill instead of the wacky and hard-to-use folding handle.

An Improved Scissors Jack

photo of The scissors jack adapter

The scissors jack adapter

The solution turned out to be very simple. The handle receptacle, a “U”-shaped piece of metal the connects with the handle hook, was large enough to receive a 5/8-inch piece of threaded rod, and then capture a 5/8-inch nut inside the handle receptacle. A 9/16-bolt welded perpendicular to one face of the 5/8-inch nut, would then turn the handle receptacle when captured by the 5-8-inch rod.

photo of Drill driving the scissors jack

Drill driving the scissors jack

I talked with my friends at Vintage Auto, and they had it welded up in a few minutes, and even painted it. Back at the house, I found I could easily run the scissors jack up and down with a 12-volt DeWalt cordless drill. A test on the trailer was successful also — the combination easily lifted the trailer.

We would use it camping for the first time at the Red Power Roundup in Des Moines, Iowa (that’s why the bolt has an International Harvester Red head), and I had the trailer leveled and on the stabilizers in about 20-minutes. A new record!

photo of the scissors jack adapter in use

Scissors jack adapter in use

photo of maps and brochures

Des Moines – Here We Come

Teardrop Trail Log: May 2017

Planning for our trips on the Teardrop Trail is always an essential part of my experience. I love exploring the possibilities. This year, Red Power Round Up, the annual gathering of the International Harvester collectors, would take place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines from June 15 through 17. We discussed places and events we might want to see before and after the event. Trying to limit the driving to around 6 hours a day, we prefer to take the scenic route, including time to stop and stretch, grab a photo or try a local eatery when time permits. Several months before our scheduled departure, I began an intensive Internet search of websites, blogs and travel emails that would inform our route. I even tried a few on-line planning tools. Hard to believe this would be the fourth year traveling in the Ambassador, our teardrop.

We’ve been part of the Teardrop online community for quite some time, so I began posting inquiries about campgrounds, restaurants and points of interest on several groups’ Facebook pages. Members of Heartland Tear Jerkers had some great suggestions and even extended an invitation to a gathering in Rock Creek State Park, just prior to RPRU. I also reached out to Sarah Tucker of Cool Tears magazine and Marsha Corbin, the Executive Director at Old Trails Region in central Missouri. We had seen a television program of the Flint Hills in Kansas and Jim had seen an event featuring video woodworkers he followed online in Skiatook, Oklahoma. so I started researching the possibilities and contacting organizations along the route requesting brochures.

Armed with our trusty National Geographic Road Atlas, Adventure Edition,  I began to compile our wish list and enlisted Google Maps to get the mileage from point to point and answer the inevitable question, “Are we there yet?” As the itinerary came together, Jim and I reviewed options. I printed out the notes that would be clipped to the cover of the atlas for quick reference. Next step –- the to-do list.

photo of the Darst International Harvester Museum

Darsts’ International Harvester Museum

Teardrop Trail Log: June 23, 2016

movie of Tracto, the Talking Robot

Tracto, the Talking Robot

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.

photo of Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding in the Darst Museum

Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding

photo of old tractors with Harvester Heritage logo

Harvester Heritage Interview

Teardrop Trail Log:  June 18, 2016

At Red Power Round Up, I was able to connect with Sally Jacobs, the McCormick/International Harvester Archivist at the Wisconsin Historical Society. I had been working with Sally and other staff members as I compiled the material for Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding. The collection is amazingly rich, offering publications like Harvester World online. The Internet has radically changed how authors access material. On past projects, I traveled thousands of miles, poured over boxes of papers and books, created countless index cards, before even starting to write.

image of Irma Harding by Haddon Sunbloom in 1948

Irma Harding by Haddon Sunbloom in 1948

Because the 27th annual Red Power Round Up was in Wisconsin, I really enjoyed getting to meet the people behind the emails and phone conversations I’d worked with for several years. As I was walking through the fairgrounds, I noticed a portable recording booth that was part of Harvester Heritage, a project of the International Harvester Collectors Club established to preserve the history. After Sally and I chatted for awhile, she mentioned Harvester Heritage and suggested that I sign up to record an interview about my research on Irma Harding. I walked back to the booth and the process began. I’ll be contributing both the visual and audio parts of my presentations to Harvester Heritage to share not only Irma’s story, but the story of the women behind Irma Harding, the roles they played at International Harvester and how they helped change the mid-western farm families way of life.

photo of the 120U Farmall Tractor

Steiger and Friends

Teardrop Trail Log: June 18, 2018

Saturday dawned clear and bright and I set out on my morning constitutional. The fair grounds were mostly deserted since the gates had not yet opened to the general public and most were just starting their day. Case/IH corporate offices are located in nearby Racine, Wisconsin, and they had provided models for display at the ‘Roundup. I had never seen this many current Case/IH tractors in one place before, so I stopped to look. They were impressive in the early morning light.

Many vehicles have what look like “faces”, but as I looked at the assembled horsepower, they seemed more exaggerated in their anthropomorphic details. High “foreheads” and curving hoods lent a childlike quality in spite of the size and apparent power. The line was very consistent in its styling as well — a far cry from the unstyled tractors of the pre-World War II years. There was something else — I was reminded of a cartoon aspect similar to the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars.” It wouldn’t have been surprising if they started talking.

One of the largest models, “Steiger” even had a name worthy of a cartoon superhero. In fact, the Steiger series comes from an American tractor manufacturer purchased in 1986. Founded by Douglas and Maurice Steiger in the 1950’s, they were some of the first to bring large horsepower and four-wheel drive to farms with their lime-green machines manufactured in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Quite a linage for the inviting giants of the farm greeting me.

photo of the Modern 7140 axial flow combine

Modern 7140 axial flow combine

photo of the rebuilt and painted tractor

1936 Farmall F-12 Restoration in Three Days

Teardrop Trail Log: June 18, 2016

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!

Photo of Volunteers "flash" rebuilding the Farmall F-12

Volunteers “flash” rebuild the Farmall F-12

photo of Julie and Billy Steers and Tractor Mac

Tractor Mac

Teardrop Trail Log: June 17, 2016

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.

photo of Tractor Mac and a fan

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 charactersLast 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.

photo of an Airstream Bambi trailer

The Steers’ Bambi at the Red Power Roundup in June of 2015


photo of a pickup truck

Scouts! Trucks!

Teardrop Trail Log: June 17. 2016

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:

John Glancy’s Scout (pictured above) along with Jim Allen is one of the authors of the International Scout Encyclopedia (Octane Press). I got to meet the authors at the Octane Press meet and greet the previous night, so having an assortment Scouts to examine was especially fun.