Photos by Raymond Chapman
The weekend of October 3 and 4 was one of those beautiful Texas autumn days with the sun shining brightly and the oppressive heat of the summer just a memory. In the peaceful, rural setting of Speegleville, just west of Waco, Texas, about 6,000 members and interested spectators attended the annual show of the Texas Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association.
Many of the members of this sixteen year old organization rated this meeting as the 'best one yet'. One event made the 1987 gathering different from all the rest and caught everyone by surprise. On Sunday afternoon, a wedding was conducted right there on the show grounds.
As the crowd gathered around, Rev. James London joined Gina Renee Smart of Houston and Stanley Cook of Highlands in matrimony. After the couple was pronounced husband and wife the bride was led away on the back of a mule as the crowd showered them with shelled corn (no rice was available). Steam engine operators serenaded the new couple with their whistles.
President Bradley Ware of Ding Dong, Texas and fellow officers and volunteers spent countless hours in preparation to insure the success of the event. All profits from the show go toward the purchase of land, which the association hopes to have as a permanent home for the annual event and possibly a museum to display their antique equipment.
A wide range of antique tractors and equipment was displayed in the field loaned to the association each year for this show. As members and visitors strolled among the exhibits, many of the crafts of our forefathers were being demonstrated by members who donated their time and skills to educate the public. The art of rope making was demonstrated by the Ferguson brothers, and Robert Womack operated his stone grist mill and then used the corn meal to make corn bread in a dutch oven. A syrup mill with mule power was operated by Regan Ware and Judy Seawright. Other interesting exhibits were bee hive building by J.M. Hucabee and silage cutting by Lynn Spencer.
One of the most popular areas at the show was the five gallon ice cream freezer operated by Cathy Landry and a lot of volunteers. The hand cranked freezer was rigged to a 11/2 HP Monitor engine and operated throughout the weekend to the delight of everyone.
To make sure that no one went away hungry a concession stand was available to dispense beans and cornbread, sausage wrap-arounds, cookies, and lots of iced tea. An information booth displayed printed materials of interest to both members and guests. Also, T-shirts, caps and buttons were sold to help raise funds for the association.
A parade was held each morning of the two day event. Over 60 entries, including five steam tractors and several antique trucks, passed by the crowd as the announcer, Frank Carmichael, described the wide array of antique tractors. Two human-powered bicycles from the late 1800's were entered by Tom Judson.
Throughout the weekend the crowd was entertained by demonstrations of both small and large steam engines, threshers, windmills, corn shellers, rock polishers, shredders, mills, tractor races and a real Old West shootout by the Heart of Texas Pistoleros. The weekend would not have been complete without the host of interesting stories told by the 'old timers' of the association.
One of the lifetime members (and most respected member) of the Texas Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association is 82 year old Russell Allen Withrow, known affectionately as Grandpa. It was his granddaughter who was married during the show and he had the honor of giving away the bride. His ancestors came from England and originally settled in West Virginia. At the early age of 14 he began his association with steam engines as an apprentice engineer on a stern wheel river boat in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1928 he received his Chief Engineer's license which enabled him to operate any size steam ship in the water. During his steam ship days he went around the world nine times.
After marrying his hometown sweetheart, Thelma, in 1931, he settled down in Ripley, West Virginia, where he owned and operated the oldest flour mill west of the Allegheny Mountains. The foundation rock was dated 1737. He also owned three threshing machines, a well-drilling machine, and two saw mills.
His love for steam engines and antique tractors is evident to all the members of the Texas EDGE&TA. He has attended shows in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, and all over Texas. He has attended every show of the Texas association since 1973 in Meridian. His advice to members of the club is, 'Don't throw anything away.'
During the 1987 show, officers were elected for the next year. Because of the outstanding job done by the present slate of officers, they were all re-elected for the coming year. They are: Bradley Ware, president; Curtis Johnson, vice president; and Laurie Miller, secretary-treasurer.
Awards were given to those with outstanding entries. Bill Keene won the Most Outstanding Antique engine award with a 2 HP IH Famous. The Most Outstanding Antique Tractor award went to Ray and Louis Miller for their 1916 Happy Farmer. A Nichols and Sheppard steam engine owned by Everett Greer won the Outstanding Antique Steam Engine award. Other plaques were presented for outstanding displays, unique entries, authentic dress, demonstrations and numerous outstanding tractors and engines. Appreciation awards were also presented to several members of the association for their hard work during the year.
The cooperation of all the members provided for the success of this annual show as everyone pitched in and helped. Next year is anticipated to be even better.
Submitted by Bradley B. Ware Buck Snort Resort, Rte. 3, Box 211, Killeen, Texas 76542