Early Farm Days at Windmill

By Staff
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Ralph Herman's homebuilt well drilling rig got lots of notice at this year's Windmill Acres Early Farm Days.
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Doc Denny of Concord, NC and his restored 1932 Toro dump truck was another feature of the 1989 Early Farm Days celebration.
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The chips fly as Robert Starnes makes shingles at the Chase Shingle Mill. The shingle mill always gets a lot of attention.
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The owners of this beautiful little Jaeger and electrical generator were nowhere to be found when Windmill Acres photographers took this shot, but it is indicative of the quality of little engines that are on display each year during Early Farm Days.

P. O. Box 1144 Newton, North Carolina 28658

Roy Tucker never worries about what he’s doing for
Father’s Day each year. He just loads the camper and heads
about 50 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina, to Windmill
Acres Farm and the Early Farm Days celebration.

For the past eight years, Tucker, his wife Betty, and their two
sons have spent Father’s Day weekend at what is rapidly
becoming one of the fastest growing celebrations of its kind in the
southeast. This year more than 400 exhibitors were on hand for the
three day event.

Early Farm Days at Windmill Acres features more than just
engines. It is an extravaganza of gasoline and steam, a
turn-of-the-century sawmill, reaping and baling exhibitions, a
shingle mill, country store, an old farm house, miniature railroad,
thousands of antique farm implements and tools, and daily
performances by Sigmon’s Belgian Show Horses.

Although the Tuckers spend most of their holiday weekend talking
about little hit and miss engines with fellow exhibitors and
visitors, 18-year-old Randy Tucker is busy showing younger children
what can be done with a 4 HP Witte and a little ingenuity.

Riding a home-built tractor hitched to a flat bed trailer, Randy
has been a popular attraction at Windmill Acres since he was 11
years of age when his dad built the little tractor as a father-son
project. Hauling youngsters around the 200-acre farm has been a lot
of fun for Randy, but he is quick to point out that his time at the
annual affair has also been a great learning experience.

‘It’s just different up there. We go to five or six
shows each year and I guess that one is my favorite. They’re
nicer and you can learn a whole lot,’ Randy says of his
visits.

That’s the kind of educational experience and atmosphere Big
Edd and Velma Sigmon were seeking when they first started inviting
small engine enthusiasts and other exhibitors to the event eight
years ago. Today, it is a weekend of learning and fun for young and
old alike.

One of the reasons the show has been so successful has been the
variety of exhibits and this year was no exception.

One exhibit getting a lot of attention this year was a
home-built well drilling rig belonging to Ralph and Leona Herman of
Taylorsville, North Carolina.

Built by Leona’s dad, Guy Jolley, in the late 1920’s,
the unique apparatus was used to drill wells all across the
foothills of western North Carolina up until the mid
1940’s.

Using a 7?. HP Fairbanks-Morse for power, the rig was
constructed from materials that were available at the time. Major
components included an old A-Model Ford chassis, a rear axle from
an old truck (mechanical brakes and all), an old Typhoon water
pump, a truck drive shaft, and a variety of gears, pulleys, gate
valves, leather belts, an old tire, steel cable and cotton
rope.

The 1? inch drill is mounted on an upright boom constructed of
angle iron; a 2? inch steel casing was used to protect the well
walls. The boom is about 25 feet long and was laid back across the
top of the rig when it was moved from site to site.

Another engine exhibit getting special attention this year was a
rare 1899 Crossley 2 HP belonging to Carl Adams of Mooresville,
North Carolina. Built in England, the Crossley was considered to be
one of the best the Europeans could offer in the way of small
engines around the turn of the century.

Some of the other small engines getting plenty of close looks
from spectators at the three day affair included:

A 1905 2 HP Emerson-Brantingham belonging to Marvin Tucker of
Statesville, North Carolina; a 1900-1902 Olds owned by Lacey Blair
of Granite Falls, North Carolina; a 1920 Economy 9 HP engine
belonging to Harry Gibson of Statesville, North Carolina; R. S.
Hodge’s 1926 International. Hodge hails from Belmont, North
Carolina; a 1905 Perkins owned by Doug Kelley of Lake Wylie, South
Carolina; a 1928 McCormick Deering belonging to Bobby Hall of
Charlotte, North Carolina; and a 1915 Economy owned by Bobby
Stewart of Dunn, North Carolina.

The 1989 Early Farm Days show was also an excellent opportunity
for Doc Denny of Concord, North Carolina to show off his restored
1932 Toro dump truck. Denny’s restoration efforts drew praise
from exhibitors and visitors alike.

While bartering for engines and parts goes on almost
continuously, many of the small engine buffs also take some time
out to see some of the other fascinating exhibits at Windmill
Acres.

Down in the big barn, visitors and exhibitors watch as farm
manager Kim Sigmon, horseman Don Schneckloth, Rose Schneckloth and
Michele McMain get the massive Sigmon Belgians ready for their
daily performance.

Sigmon’s award-winning Belgians participate in about 30
shows and competitions each year. They’re also great favorites
at parades and other activities.

Visitors to the big barn this year were treated to a video show
presented by Sherri McMain, Linda Grange and Tara McMain of Delmar,
Iowa. The videos featured highlights from the Belgian competitions
at Toronto, Denver and Lexington, Kentucky.

For those who enjoy watching black smoke come from the stacks of
old steam engines, there was plenty of that going on also. Down in
the lower pasture John Link of Hickory, North Carolina and several
helpers put on baling and thrashing exhibitions, while up on the
hill by the lake James Sigmon of Harrogate, Tennessee, Greg Deal of
Morganton, North Carolina, J.C. Green of Boone, North Carolina, and
Paul Mullis showed spectators how to turn huge logs into usable
timber at the old sawmill. Saw-milling was one of the toughest jobs
around during the early 1900’s.

Meanwhile, down in the small pasture behind the old windmill,
Robert Starnes delighted the crowd as the chips flew from the old
shingle mill. Starnes would later join Big Edd, Eddie and Andy
Sigmon in a wheat thrashing, peanut thrashing and rock crushing
exhibition.

Hundreds of visitors this year took time to check out the
working small engine replicas of J.T. Hanson of Haines City,
Florida and J.T. Goforth of Statesville, North Carolina. The two
men displayed both steam and gas engines, and the crowd seemed
impressed with the intricate work required.

Reggie Stone drew praise and giggles from those who stopped by
to look at his invention. Constructed of everything from an old
shoe to a commode float and frying pan, Stone’s invention was
described in the following manner: ‘Iran’s new high tech,
top secret battleship engine. Stolen and smuggled into this country
by R.H. Stone and Associates.’

As usual at Windmill Acres there was something for everyone.
Some folks, like Tommy Jones and his grandson Neal of Cherryville,
North Caroalina, tried their luck at fishing, while two little
girls, Ashley Hall of Richmond, Virginia and Mandy Hall of
Charlotte, North Carolina, enjoyed throwing stones into the lake
and watching the ripples. Still others found a tour of the old
farmhouse and Velma’s Country Store fascinating.

You could see it in the faces of visitors and exhibitors alike
as they prepared to leave Windmill Acres Sunday afternoon. There
were pleasant smiles as they remembered the pit-cooked barbeque and
country music from the night before, but there was also a look of
sadness on the faces of others who realized the weekend was coming
to a close and it would be another year before they would be
back.

Early Farm Days 1989 was also a bittersweet time for the Sigmon
family. Andrew Sigmon, Big Edd’s father, passed away about two
weeks before this year’s show and his memory was very much a
part of the weekend.

‘He’s the one who taught all of us how to love, respect
and maintain machinery,’ Big Edd said as he remembered his dad
on Father’s Day.

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