Monday, August 27, 2012

Tri-State Engine and Tractor Show - The Fun Continues

The Tri-State Engine and Tractor show is held every year in Portland, Indiana and continues to be the largest event of its kind in the world. I've gone to such tractor and railroad shows for years. The last two trips, I went with friends, which adds to the fun.  The road trip here is an event in itself, checking out the sights along the way and making quips about the other drivers and the passing landscape.

Watching a DeLorean go whizzing past: 

Me: (humming the theme song) "Go Speed Racer, Go"

From  the passenger seat, in Japanese accent - "make no extra movement, requires more frames, animation expensive!"

Looking for a place to make a rest stop:

 Me:  "There will be a gas station or a business along here soon.  Hey, there's a clothing store for women and plus sizes called Dress Barn"

From the passenger seat: "I think it would be best to avoid the word BARN in any association with plus size women's clothing."

Less than two hours from home, we're here!  Parking in the Jay County Fairground is free, and they have school buses to take you to the entrance.  There will be a lot of walking today, this would be a fun alternative. . .

 John Deere Go Cart by the front entrance.

It is going to be a scorcher.  Mr. B. has all kinds of extra water and I brought lots of sunscreen  (not being able to find those little tiles they use on the space shuttle which would probably work better for redheads). 
I had the kind with zinc oxide for my sensitive skin.  I apply it liberally, and then look at my friends and ask "too much?"
I hear back  "Next, on kabuki theater!" 
Oh well, at least with this and a hat, I shouldn't burn.  We start in the small engine section.
Moving onto lawn and garden tractors.  From the Hercules Gas Engine Co., Evansville, Ind. circa 1915
A beautiful little Bolens, maker of the first engine powered garden tractor
Just some of the scale projects that were on display.
Lots of interesting things everywhere.
Then there were tractors, all KINDS of tractors.

 There were even engine powered washing machines.  One (not this one) was branded "Easy" (yeah, right).
Most, equipped with an attached wringer, look like they could take off an arm easily.  But one thing we notice, there are not warning signs everywhere.  This place is loaded with things with teeth and moving parts and gears and all KINDS of scalding and burning potential.  I went into a bathroom in Northern Ireland once and they even had a "caution hot water" on the hot water faucet on the sink in the bathroom!  It's not much better in the US, with  warning notes telling you to remove the baby before folding up the stroller.
Here was  machinery in all it's mangling glory and everyone pretty much knows what is safe to touch or not, having the kind of intelligence that I wish to associate with -  "intelligence" meaning, the ability to sensibly cope with whatever environment you are thrust in, while retaining a measure of your own personal liberty and thought.  Roll out the hot steam engines and let Darwin take over, I say.
Though there is this little sign next to a very old "powered" saw.
What does is say on that paper?
But of course, there's always one in the crowd. . .
From the announcer's loudspeaker. "Folks I've seen 10,000 people here and I thought I'd seen everything but DO NOT drive your golf cart through the barn.  Do NOT drive motorized vehicles through the barns.
(Where signs aren't necessary, public humiliation WILL work.)
The show has all kinds of food for snacks and supper, but I packed tailgate food for a mid- morning light meal as our day started early and breakfast was a granola bar in the truck. There's spicy grilled chicken and tortillas to make wraps, all kinds of chopped veggies and two kinds of dressing, a spicy one, and a creamy one I made with cheese, peppercorn and caramelized onion.  There are grapes I bought fresh yesterday and cheeses and yummy cayenne almonds and cinnamon almonds (which Midwest Chick put in Mr. B's backpack before he left, yay!).  
After that, still more acres and acres of tractors and engines we haven't seen yet. There's also flea markets with antiques and crafts, hand crafted toys for the  kids, and things to interest a whole famil around the perimeter of the show.  Me - I just wanted to play with the engines.
I see a lot of folks in farm wear, as well as a large number of Amish and Mennonites, the ladies wearing beautifully crafted homemade dresses, the children all happy and well behaved.  The men in attendance look to be in their element, one and all, so many things to look at, to learn from and admire. These machines, if able to be hung on a wall, could be the epitaph of most of the men here. 
There are families and babies, and an occasional chair on which was marked "in memory of" the name of someone who had occupied that chair at many a farm gathering. Families are important, and we always miss those that by circumstance or death, remain far from us.
One thing we  notice though, there was NO litter.  No where.  I've noticed this, as well, at fairs in areas where the predominant industry is farming and small businesses.  But go to a fair in Lake County (blue state) and there's garbage on the ground everywhere.  It speaks to the type of people that attend this type of event, farmers, conservatives; workers; whether  poor, middle class or wealthy, all are cut from the same cloth.  Everyone here has a deep appreciation for taking care of things, a first hand experience of earning their own keep, of hard work and innovation. Some succeed ,and are properous, some, through fate, a bad choice or two, or nature, may not.  But all understand what went into their effort.  It's far removed from the "entitled" mindset that is taking over our country, don't work, someone will feed you, make a mess, someone else will clean it up.  It's definitely a refreshing change from what is seen in many public gatherings elsewhere..
In the afternoon there is big cups of iced tea and Sno Cones for all (one grape, one root beer and one blue raspberry please!)  As the temps are getting up into the 90's we are happy to give some of our money to the service groups that are providing food and refreshments here (including some amazing breaded tenderloins and other meats you could purchase by the case to take home).
But there is respite from the sun for a bit in the covered grandstand for a parade of antique fire engines and  all kinds of tractors.  We sit in anticipation while they line up to drive by the stands where their ownership and history would be announced.
We can't t tell what will come into view first, the machines stirring up a cloud of dust that is both portent and promise. But oh we can hear them, moving noisily and steadily, but not quickly, onto the track, the future, our past, the mechanised, mobilized unavoidable destiny that was, that is America.
As the machines move into view, several kids are perched up on Dad or Grandpa's lap "helping" to steer, another generation.  I hope that they  will come to appreciate this little piece of our history. We did chuckle at one young man, late teens I'd say, who has his beautiful young gal friend perched up on the edge of the  tractor, balancing herself in a pair of Daisy Duke shorts and a little shirt, flashing the hair and smile at the crowd like a beauty queen.
"Hope the Tractor Muffin doesn't fall off" was all I can say, but the men appreciate the ornamental features of that particular tractor. 
I remember this next one from last year.  Beautiful.
There are firetrucks as well.  I knew my good friend PA State Cop would appreciate this.
After that, there is still more acres and acres of tractors and engines and some working threshers to explore.
 After the day ends and before everyone heads out to start their work week, there are old fashioned board games to be played (this board, a $2 find at the thrift shop along with some model railroad magazines that were in immaculate condition). 
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Teach a man to play cribbage and a week later he is taking the board and running with it.
For those of you that play, you understand the significance of the skunk, which made his appearance after my first game of the evening. ( something from my cribbage playing family out West). 

But losing or winning, some of the best fun in the world is the old fashioned kind. 
If you live anywhere near farm country and you've not taken in such an event as the Tri-State Engine and Tractor Show and have any kind of interest in engineering, history, antiques or machinery, you should go.  Go, listen to the throated growl of a tractor, the labored chuffing that is a working steam engine, the whistle that is both challenge and release, before they're gone, taking with them the last echo of a young nation's fire and promise.


  1. That had to be FUN! Next year give us a heads up! I'd sneak off for that one!!!

  2. Those things are such a kick, I could live at one.
    Lots of that stuff used to be in the shed/shop or Quonset. today it is probably in some car going down the road or a man hole cover.
    There are a variety of threshers day shows in the area but the steamers don't show up like they used to because of government regs.

    I go with an empty stomach so I can sample some of the home fixin's or baked goods.

    Hey great time out in the sun a workin at havin fun.

  3. Oh, that sounds like a fun day. +1 on NFO's comment. We have them here too. The hit and miss engines and everything else in all their glory. It has been years since I went.

    Thanks for the trip!

  4. Looks like fun. I'll show you sometime what a washing machine wringer will do to an arm. :)

    Hope all is well. :)

  5. Old NFO - I talked to Midwest Chick and the gang tonight and we all agreed you would be a great addition to the group next year. I hope you can make it. We invited Roberta, but it was gunblog meet, so we understood.

    John Bord - I love the food, but I'm trying to eat healthy, with pilot medical coming up, so we did healthy lunch day one, free for all, later. :-)

    Keads - I wish I could replace the stupid runnning water sound on my noise machine for travel sleeping with the chuga chuga of a little steam engine.

    Blue - I can imagine. It just hurts to look at those.

  6. We get to see these amazing tools of the trade when the farm show comes to town. Always a fun time.
    Cribbage was a favorite in cowcamp...that or 5 card no peaky every thing wild...

  7. We don't seem to have any near me (Central Texas) although our gun shows are pretty great.

    Like "Blue" I could show you what a wringer will do to a 6 yo arm when it is caught between the rollers.

  8. Lord help me, but that first photo made me think "damn, that's a light carriage for that bore". Then I looked closer. "That's not a cannon, that's a steam engine". I toured a visiting RN ship of the line at the Port of Houstonwith an old girlfriend once. She asked why there were those covers on the muzzles of the main battle guns (ok, she said "why do they have those things on the ends of those big round things")(my judgement in choice of girlfriends has improved).
    I informed her that the big round things were called "guns", and that it was a bad idea to have, e.g. seagulls nesting in them "Ooh, I bet there's a fancy name for it".
    You don't need a great imagination to see her response when I informeder her that they were called "tampions"

  9. Indeed, there are folk sayings about getting things caught in the wringer. I was surprised to learn that the word "mangle" predates these machines, but not surprised to learn that Stephen King had written a story about one.

    As for the wringer washer's billing as a labor-saving device, it must have been a huge step forward compared to the washboard and its partner in grime, the washtub. Those certainly seem better suited for improvised musical instruments than for laundry as far as I'm concerned, though some ingenuity has been applied to electricity-free washdays, e.g.,

    In due course my mother traded up to an automatic washer, but never quite trusted its preset functions and frequently raised the lid or reset the dial to do something extra. Kindred spirits could get wringer washers until at least 1983, according to (WARNING: this site is NOT a time saving device for people who think restored old machinery is coo!)

    It says that they added the wringer in 1909 but the "easy release safety wringer" didn't come along until 1921.

    Also interesting how many of them were available with gasoline engines, rural electrification being a distinctly postwar achievement in some areas...

  10. Around here, Saturday Trade-Day means hearing the hit or miss engine turning the ice cream churns for handmade, while you-wait ice cream.

    Ad Absurdum, Lehmans still sells US made wringers, you can relive those past gory... er, glory moments...

  11. I have been to a few of these old tractor and engine shows and always enjoyed them. I don't think I have seen a show as big as this one. I think areas where there is a large concentration of Amish people there is more of this stuff still in use. I would love to travel around and catch some of these in the future.

  12. What fun!

    I am soooooo jealous.


  13. You had me at 'tractor muffin'.


  14. Did the arm through the wringer washer thing (not recommended). Was 3 years old and trying to be like mommy. 62 stitches later...

    Back then, nobody thought of physiotherapy. Baseball and hockey (goalie) gave me 100% function back. Something I re-learned recently after a wrecked shoulder from a mountain bike crash (yes, 52 years old and I still fall off my bike). 9 mo of physio, massage therapy and chiropractic didn't help. Getting out and playing catch with my gf's son fixed me up. :thumb:

  15. If you would rather not deal with the zinc oxide, you could try the latest fad from China, the facekini!

  16. You mentioned a lack of trash... reminded me of the contrast I noticed when I took my son, on successive weekends, to an air show at Robins Air Force Base, and to the Army Rangers open house up in Dahlonega, GA. At the former, though there were many, many trash cans available, I saw trash everywhere as we left for the day. I did not envy the work the cleanup crew would have to do. At the latter, I saw zero trash. And there weren't nearly as many trash cans around, either.

  17. Your photo of the 2-wick oil lamp: It's a "yellowdog" lamp from the early Pennsylvania oilfield. They filled them with crude oil and used them for light on the early wooden derrick drilling rigs. That's a nice piece.

  18. Cool looking old machines. I remember back when some of them actually used to be used on farms.

  19. Brighid - I hadn't played for years, then this last visit Dad wanted to, a lot. I only won one game in a week. But it was GREAT to see how sharp his mind still is, even if he's losing strength.

    Dozehead - welcome! I don't think I'd want to fix that injury.

    JC - Oh, I wish I had seen that. I still have a very small scar where I got smacked with the bungee from an engine cover on a T-39.

    Ad absurdum - that was pretty interesting to read. And I complain about running a few loads in my Maytag.

    BePrepared - I think home churned ice cream would be a hit wherever.

    Duke - it's worth a trip. The whole event is about 4 or 5 days. We can usually cover it, with lots of walking (and I don't do the flea markets at all) in 1 and a half. If you and the bride come up for one you are welcome to crash at my home.

    BobG - EJ got some great photos, if you can make it to GBR, I'm sure he'd love to share.

    Suerte - it was. I missed the steam railroad events this year, with trips to check on my Dad, and the time and money that entails, but hopefully next year.

    Dirk - it's really noticeable. Someone posted online a photo from the aftermath of a Democratic rally and a Tea Party one. No matter which is your party of choice, it was hands down the Tea Party who DIDN'T leave a huge mess for others to clean up.

    Just my 2 cents - I was wondering. They had quite a bit of oil field gear in this area, but the guys had wandered off and I didn't have anyone to ask. Thanks for the info on the cool lamp.

    Roscoe - I'll pass, I'd hate to be mistaken for a teletubby.

  20. Where I learned to appreciate old equipment. My Dad seemed to be kind of a local hero. I am not sure why, maybe it was his willingness to help anyone who asked and to offer help when someone was afraid to ask. One of his last trips through the grounds we stopped every 25-30 feet when we would hear someone shout out "Ernie Beck!" and we would stop for another 10 minutes.

  21. I really find these old machines interesting! From engines, to tractors, even fire trucks! This event really showcased a lot of fascinating things, huh! Not only did you enjoy the event but you also enjoyed the company of your friends too! :D

    Allannah Kemble


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