Old Tractors

Courtesy of Virgil Cerdes, Route 4, Morrison, Illinois 61270.

Virgil Cerdes

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Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'

It was 'Back Home Again in Indiana' for Ted Yoder and the Tri-Staters, along with thousands of other Hoosiers who congregated at the Portland, Ind., Fair-grounds for 'The Biggest Show of Its Kind', last August. But it was like being back 'In My Old Kentucky Home' for Carl Secchi, President of the Harrods-burg Blue Grass Show, watching his Hagan Engine run in the comforts of his favorite easy chair and the parlor rag rug.

For Ted Yoder--all muscle, some brain, and lots o' 'Go-Go'--the coming annual event of the big Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show offers a multiplicity of outlets for his diverse energies.

'This Ted Yoder is a workin' fool for the club--especially at the shows,' says Tri-State President, Woody Turner. 'He's a Dutchman--maybe a little stub-born--drinks his 'soda pop' from a nose-bag, but really top-notch and enthusiastic--a fine guy, a star of a fellow.' (WOW--This Woodrow can really say it. Keeps me hoppin' to write it. I'd have to bribe 'im twenty bucks to say that bout me.)

But the grapevine keeps giving it out that one Theodore Yoder of Linn Grove, Indiana, (west of Geneva), besides being one of the most 'work-a-brickle' of Tri-Slalers, is also one of the big show's most ardent advertisers.

'Ted's a great promoter--talks Tri-State wherever he goes,' continues Woody. (Here he goes again, faster than I can scribble.) 'Ted can do more things by himself than any guy I ever knew.'

In other words, what Woodrow Turner is really saying is that a stubborn Dutchman can turn out a whale of a lot of work when someone else isn't nosin' in. (Yah--so now you know.)

But according to Ted--'I'm not stub-born. It's just that I'm always right.'

The message we're trying to convey is that, should you attend the big Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show, you wont see Ted Yoder sitting, like little Miss Muffet, on her tuffet, eating her curds of whey. Rather, you will see Ted swinging his arms as head sawyer on the Tri-State sawmill, yanking the throttle on his old 12-horse Frick Portable to generate lights on the grounds, hopping onto his little gas tractor to commute to various chores over the grounds--or plucking his five-string banjo wit. he boys of the orchestra to furnish an evening of free-lance entertainment.

Besides doing all this, Ted yoder takes care of the annual Friday night Barbershop Quartet Programs on the grounds. But, being a Dutchman, Ted likes the Dutchy-type of music--you know the German Band variety. And even though Ted's cousin, Roger Yoder, plays mandolin and switches to a different key before Ted's ready to transpose, it doesn't make a 'tinker's dam' to him--for he manages to catch up in the end. (The Dutchman somehow always plunks out that final chord right along with the rest.)

Deciphering the Morse Code of the Grapevine Telegraph, we hear that Ted Yoder has that special Dutchman's touch when it comes to getting certain hard and difficult jobs done around the Tri-State Reunion grounds, when all other theories and book-learning' methods seem to fail. For Ted's a great guy for figuring out all kinds of leverages to move this or that--like h'isting a big beam here, a winch there, or prodding with a two-by-four to overcome gravity and inertia whenever some big, stubborn hunk of machinery doesn't want to move, but the Dutchman makes it move nevertheless. (The hero-image of one Theodore Yoder showing itself again.)

For Ted's a great 'outdoors guy'-- having a big sawmill in his side yard beside his house in the little sleepy village of Linn Grove (population of less than four-hundred salute) despite the fact he' s never used it over the years. May be he collects sawmills, just for the fun of having 'em around, like others collect old clocks and crank-phonographs. But where Theo. Yoder gets his real exercise out in the open, when Tri-State isn't going, is sniffing the atmosphere and thumping the ground for some new well to be drilled where the old well's gone dry or a new house needs one.

'Ted's got a steam-drilling rig he hopes to get working sometime, but so far has been using a gas-driven one,' explains Woody Turner. 'Been a well-driller for over forty years. Knows his Adams County territory by heart. That guy can sniff a vein of water in a desert. He knows the underneath of the ground so well he can tell beforehand whether he's going to run into a big rock--and instead will just drill a few feet further on to keep from hitting it.'

SPARK PLUG, TED YODER, sets out on one of a thousand errands at Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show, Portland, Indiana. Astride his little garden tractor, Theodore Yoder can get more done than by 'hoofing it'. Worka-brickle, Ted can get more jobs done along than any one man Woody Turner knows.

That's the Dutchman, Spark Plug Ted Yoder, plucking his old banjo, second from left, on the platform. He is supported by Spark Plug Wayne Whitenack, banjo to right. Further to right, Harold Wilburn is enjoying the music, but Walter Baldauf, face in hand, seems deep in thought over the Yoder-Whitenack banjo serenade.

Carl Secchi, President of Blue Grass Show, Harrodsburg, Kentucky fetched all the refinements of 'My Old Kentucky Home' when he came to Tri-State this summer. Easy chair and rag rug made that old Hagan Engine sound better. It was one of the rare line of gas engines made at Winchester, Kentucky.

But when it comes Tri-State Show time, Ted Yoder leaves the well-drillin' rig just 'set' for the duration. Then it is that, with the help of his two sons, Bob and Jim, and his fifteen-year old grandson, the foursome gather together Ted's some twenty-five antique gas engines and sundry other mechanical menagery and haul it over to the Jay County fairgrounds to set up and put in motion, as the Yoder contribution to the big internal-combustion extravaganza.

With the hustling and bustling Ted Yoder providing the father-grandpa image to the younger generations, every thing's soon set up 'n poppin'--except for Ted's portable steam engine dynamo which doesn't pop, but goes 'Tweet-tweet' every time the Yoder throttle hand yanks on the whistle cord to get attention. Then it is that, like a belated Thomas Alva Edison, Ted Yoder gives 'light to the world' of other engines all banging about him by yanking the throttle on the 'Little Engine That Could.'

Thus it was that the Ted Yoder gas engines helped to augment the total to over five-hundred internal-combustion one and two-lungers and eighty-two antique gas tractors which occupied the entire Jay County Fairgrounds from one end to the other--as far as the human eye could see. And, in addition, Ted's little two-horse Osh-Kosh (B' Gosh) which is his favorite, was in there doing its stuff just like the bigger ones. Not to mention his portable Frick which made a total of some five steamers on exhibit which lent that pleasant and tantalizing aroma of hot cylinder oil and coal smoke to the carbon-monoxide 'Murc Content'.

Among the many other facets of the big Tri-State Gas and Tractor Show, which Ted Yoder is always talking about, were the Flea Markets which exceeded a hundred in number, the seventy-five classic cars exhibited over Saturday and Sunday, and the twenty-five historical exhibits of Americana, showing arrays of old-time bootery, antique apple peelers, kraut choppers and cherry peelers, antique radios from crystal sets to early super-heterodynes with squawking horns, Indian artifacts, wood en butter churns, spinning wheels drawing thread from flax and numerous others. One gentleman had come all the way from Illinois to exhibit an out standing collection of antique tools and wrenches which were expertly mounted for the many viewers passing through the historical exhibit building at the Jay County fairgrounds. And never to be forgotten was the valuable and well-guarded collection of Doc Schwander-man's five-hundred historic and fine watches which represented the history of watch-making both in America and Switzerland.

Altogether a crowd of over eighteen-thousand jammed the gates during the three-day Tri-State Show, with over three-thousand crowding the race-track amphitheater to hear the annual Saturday night Old-Fiddler's Contest.

'I drove my 1950 Hudson Commodore all the way from Boyden, in the northwest corner of Iowa, just to see this show,' said Marvin Green, a leading member of the Gas 'n Steamers Association at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 'I've been reading so much in your stories about Tri-State I just had to bring my Hudson along and see if it was true,' commented Green, a member of the De Soto Air-Flow Club whose Green Acre Farm boasts several buildings loaded to the hilt with all kinds of old gas engines, phonographs, churns, clocks, antique hammers and wrenches. 'I throw nothing away,' says he. 'I'm one of that breed of human pack-rats at which wives cluck and neighbors shake their heads.'

Outstanding among the replicas of old-time Americana was the scale model of a covered bridge which Walter Baldauf had worked all the previous winter months to build. The model was scale-built from a prototype which spans a Hoosier land creek in eastern Indiana, is over twelve feet long, and incorporates all the engineering skill used to construct the original. Baldauf left the one side of the model bridge open for the public to view the unusual construction methods of employing heavy straight and curved beams to support flooring and give stability throughout. The special technic of criss-crossing certain floor joists to prevent swaying of the structure under the steady rhythm of Old Dobbin's hooves and the onslaught of the winds was brought to the attention of the viewers by builder Baldauf. It was for such outstanding efforts at preserving our Americana that Walter Baldauf has been the recipient of both the SPARK PLUG OF THE YEAR AWARD, from Tri-State Association, and the CHAMPION SPARK PLUG AWARD bestowed to outstanding contributors to preserving the history of the Gas Engine-Tractor Era, sponsored by Carl Secchi and the Blue Grass Association along with Champion Spark Plug Company.

That's Sparkie, Ted Yoder, to right, yanking the whistle cord on his little 12 horse Frick portable which was belted to a small dynamo and kept lights burning on the dark end of the Tri-State Reunion grounds.

Many an old-timer paused to reminisce alongside the Baldauf Covered Bridge Model, including one Spark Plug Theodore Yoder who probably knew it better as 'Ol Kissin' Bridge', .back in the days when young Romeos courted their Juliets in horse-drawn buggies that were easy to stop while half-way across. And besides, it was dark enough to spark.-- And who was Old Dobbin goin' to tell, anyway?

One of the most outstanding exhibits of Americana was the scale model of a covered bridge which Walter Baldauf built and brought to the Tri-State '71 Show, Portland, Indiana. Baldauf has been awarded Spark Plug of the Year Plaque, by Tri-State Gas and Tractor Assoc. and more recently the Champion Spark Plug Award by Carl Secchi and the Blue Grass Gas and Engine Association, Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Baldauf copied the bridge after one that spans a stream in eastern Indiana. All detailing is perfect and the engineering matches the big one, timber for timber. Side was left exposed for viewers to see construction methods of carpenter-engineers who made the covered bridges almost indestructible against vibration and wind.

The most-frequented spot at Tri-State was the bean-soup pot, sponsored by the good ladies of the local Rosary Society of the Portland Immaculate Conception Church. With a good west wind a-blowing, rumor has it that the succulent aromas were gently wafted from said bean pot over into the general area of the Theodore Yoder steam-powered dynamo, resulting in frequent sorties by our Spark Plug for re-fills by the bowlfuls. (Could it be that, 'Beans, beans, the musical fruit--make the steam engine go Toot, toot, tooooot?')

From two-man cross-cut saws to mechanical mules, from the largest in gas engines and antique tractor power to the smallest in both prototype and models, the display of old-time power at Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show staggered the imagination. The buzz-buzz of the woodsman's saw inching through an Ironwood log, the steady chug of the big-15-Horse gas giants nearby, the rattle and bang of the huge 12-Horse ditch-digger which everyone was watching, the trailers full of every kind of smaller gas engines, the muffled exhaust of the giant Rumely Oil-Pull which dwarfed Harold Ary 's 30-60 standing beside--are just a few of the sights which high-lighted the half-million dollar display of antique machinery on exhibit there.

And everything we saw there, can in no little way be attributed to the generous help of Spark Plug Yoder--the little Dutchman with the strong arms and ready suggestions, as to how to do this 'n that with nothing more than a beam, a prop or a wooden slat.

It was all such a big success--despite the fact that cigar-chewing Uncle Charlie Ditmer came to help make apple-butter by steam engine, but that Hugh Hartzell forgot to fetch the copper 'kittles'--but they made apple-butter anyway.

And for the work-a-brickle Ted Yoder, for doing so much that he's not even asked to do, we doff our Spark Plug stiff katy in highest honorary respect. For Ted's the kind of guy who always walks those extra miles to make the big show go. Were it not for him and his kind, there just wouldn't be 'no' shows. (Pardon the grammar, but it sound fittin', it does.)

And so, if you other Spark Pluggers will move one seat over, we'll give Ted Yoder this seat in our Hall of Spark Plug Fame. For the real-life fun you give everyone each year at Tri-State, for the thousand little thankless and un noticed tasks, for the Dutchman's slap-bang humor, the banjo plunking and all the Dutchy music, for keeping the steam engine dynamo running that gave lights to the far end, we know you have more than earned that Champion Spark Plug Plaque which Secchi's Blue Grassers will be sending your way. And from Woody Turner will no doubt be forthcoming a new paper poke, to replace your old, wrinkled nose-bag pop cooler, come those hot summer days yanking the whistle on the Frick-powered dynamo.

Thank you, Ted Yoder, for all you've been doing-at preserving our beloved Historic Americana for new generations to see. For without such as you, it long would have faded from the present-day scene--becoming bombs and bullets in stead of the blessings for Thee and me.

(See you Saturday night in Preble, Ted.)

Jerry, the Gas-Power 'Mul2'---? at. Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show, Portland, Indiana. 'Jerry' was driven around over the ground by owner Robert L. Thompson of 4392 N. 4th St., Columbus, Ohio. All Bob had to do was jerk each way on the reins and yell 'Gee-Haw' to keep Jerry on the road. No steering wheel--Jerry is guided by horse-like reins.

Among the big ones was this 15 horse gas engine which has apparently taken the eye of the lady here. Her husband has a big collection of gas engines, but none this big. Maybe she's wondering how this would fit into her parlor, should hubby come home with one like it.

Big ditching machine, powered by 12-horse gas engine, was brought to Tri-State Show, Portland, Indiana by Thornhill brothers. Cosmos, Ohio. Vintage about 1910. It dwarfs the Joe Dear over to the left.

28' high at center and 18' outside walls, this is the center portion of the new Western Development Museum at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. This is the Pioneer Street section, 100' x 350'.

Part of the line-up of old tractors at our 1970 Geneseo, Illinois Threshing Show. The Moline is owned by Bud Ellis of Atkinson, III. The Aultman-Taylor belongs to Ed Schmidtgall and the owner of the model Oil Pull is not certain. It was used for the extra heavy pulls that the steamers couldn't handle.

30-60 Aultman Taylor Gas tractor purchased new in 1921. It was used for 22 years. Driving a 36-64 separator, it threshed 3.636 bushels of wheat in one day.

15-30 Fairbanks-Morse. This one cylinder tractor was purchased new in 1912 for $2,300.00 and was used until 1928. It is a 5-6 plow size and weighs 7 tons. It had a match starting device.

Two-Man woodsmen's saw was popular among the strong-armed who wanted something to brag about. One of the many exhibits of Old Time Americana at Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show, Portland, Indiana.

Marvin Green came all the way from Boyden, Iowa, the northwest corner of the State, to see the Tri-State Show he'd been reading about. Green drove all the way in his 1950 Hudson Commodore Straight-Six. He's a great collector. His barns are full of everything from butter churns to gas engines and old phonographs. He's a member of the Gas and Steamers Assoc, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.