Kirk Rhone

Kirk Rhone (with the big grin!) and Ottawa saw.

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3251 S. Pine Barren Rd. McDavid, Florida 32568

Once again, gray skies cleared and gave us a good day for Sawmill Day. This second annual event was put on by the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society of Century, Florida. The original purpose was to raise money for historical preservation, but it has had the side benefit of boosting the public spirit, as well.

Things officially kicked off at 10 A.M. with the parade. This took about an hour-partly because it was big and partly because of some unusual entries. Naturally, the school band was there. Desert Storm heroes were honored. The fire department, sheriff, and police cars provided flashing lights and wailing sirens. But, then there was the Hill and Brooks Coffee Company's team of magnificent Belgian horses pulling their fancy wagon. Some of the streets were a little rough due to the continuing construction of a new sewer system, so these guys had to take it easy. If that wasn't unusual enough, Vice Construction Company drove a team of eight oxen pulling an eight wheel wagon. These good-natured beasts were under voice command. We had a pretty good turnout of antique cars, too. 

Engine show turnout was small, but we had a good variety. The threat of rain had caused some of the folks to cancel out and others went to Houston, Mississippi, where they sure enough got rained on. We changed our date this year to avoid Houston-and they changed, too! This year we'll go back to the first weekend in May and just not worry about other shows.

We had a demonstration of a log saw from Kirk Rhone. Garry Godwin showed a grist mill. Jim Gramlich has a variety of gadgets on the back of an antique Ford truck, and a very nice collection of steam whistles. I brought a '58 Schramm (Wisconsin 2 + 2 converted V4) air compressor to blow Jim's

whistles, most of which he had never heard. We also blew an old logging engine whistle owned by David Blackwell who also had a F-M powered Invincible corn sheller. Jerry Shenk had a variety of engines and equipment, including a steel burr mill and a 32 volt generator. My trailer included a Tiny Tim generator, a headless F-M pulling a pumpjack, and a 2 HP Witte kero burner. Fred Welch's Gould water ram (wish it were mine) was there, too. Robert McGoun was there with a real nice Maytag display. The Bauer family showed some of their fine engines. Did I miss anyone? Boy, will I hear about it if I did!

It's been gone since the fire of '37, but the sawmill originally operated with a Corliss-type steam engine. The woods around here are dotted with steam engine foundations from other early sawmills.

Gene Gabbert showed up with several fine John Deere tractors from his HUGE collection, and a display of miniatures. This guy has so many tractors they won't all fit in his two barns! Gene puts on his own shows in the spring and fall at his farm near Jay, Florida. 

The engines and tractors were in a prime spot next to the slowly-being-restored company hotel. The members in our local club (RULES: none; MEETINGS: none; OFFICERS: none) decided a more secluded area would be better next time. We figure we'll make enough noise and smoke for the truly interested to find us.

Down near the site of the old shop, blacksmith Tony Holliday demonstrated his art. Nearby, the oxen and Wilson Johnson's three-hitch team of Percherons demonstrated logging techniques. Somehow, a contest came about between my 6000 pound tractor and Wilson's horses. It was a massacre. With the engine shut down and the wheels locked, the big Belarus was dragged for a quarter of a mile, or more, from a standing start! Give me a D-8 Cat and I think I'll be able to take them.

Things had been really wet the week before the show. This, combined with freshly dug sewer lines, gave us a bit of a mess. I spent all night and early morning pulling vehicles from the quicksand pits thus formed. All the mud, and a cracked fuel line, really gave my tractor that well-used look. One fellow who had just viewed the spotless, restored JDs, looked at my nasty machine and asked me (and I think he was serious) if I had seen that nice restored one, like mine, just around the corner. Hunter's Farm Equipment was showing a new one!

At the other end of the Historic District, live music, handmade crafts, and a variety of foods were available. The 1913 post office, now a museum, looked very nice in fresh paint. Our exhibits are getting better and more varied, too. The museum is on the grounds where the boss, Mr. Hauss, once lived. The house is long gone, but we are making slow headway to restore the once-magnificent grounds. We have discovered that you can't wait for grants in this era of government budget cutting, so all of our funding has come from local projects and contributions.

One successful fundraiser was our book, A Sawmill Scrapbook. It contains mostly photos and one or two page stories about the early days of the town. We really had to work to get this out in time for Sawmill Day, because we knew nothing about publishing. We swore we'd never do this again, but are already gathering material for a new volume.

We don't know what we'll do to top Sawmill Day '91, but we'll think of something. Sawmill Day '92 will be Saturday, May 2. We'll have a cookout and live music Friday night. We'll have free camping for exhibitors. Century is on U.S. 29, about 45 miles north of Pensacola.