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Flywheelers Help Raise Money For Farm Aid

Author Photo
By Staff

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Denise Bohn, Pat Ingalls, Jim Schlachter and 'Wild Bill' with the donation check.
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Willie Nelson signs the hood of the Cockshutt while Jim Schlachter, MFM President Pat Ingalls and Betty Schlachter look on.

Michigan Flywheelers Museum, 64958 M-43 Highway, Bangor,
Michigan 49013

Rain and cold temperatures didn’t hamper the dedication of
two disc jockeys as they drove an antique tractor from Benton
Harbor, Michigan, to the Farm Aid concert in Tinsley Park,
Illinois, to help raise money for farmers in southwest
Michigan.

Denise Bohn and ‘Wild Bill’ Lewis, the morning deejays
from Continuous Country Station Y1037, in Benton Harbor, teamed up
with members from the Michigan Flywheelers of South Haven and began
the long 10-hour journey to the New World Music Theatre on a cold
but sunny Friday morning. Leaving the station at 10:00 a.m. with
encouragement from their fellow workers, the two deejays left the
parking lot on a 1956 Cockshutt tractor owned by Michigan
Flywheelers members Jim and Betty Schlachter of Hartford. With the
local police department escorting the group, the caravan drove
through the streets of St. Joseph and surrounding towns as local
residents cheered them on with banners and donations. Wild Bill,
who had only learned to drive the tractor the day before on the
Schlachter farm, drove with Denise standing on the drag bar. They
were followed by the owners of the Cockshutt, as well as by
Michigan Flywheelers president Pat Ingalls and wife of Bangor who
towed his Farmall Cub in case the Cockshutt broke down.

The 1956 Cockshutt 30 is a low profile industrial tractor that
was designed for brush chopping. One of only 15 made for the
Ontario Road Department, the tractor was the first made with an
independent power takeoff. It also has cast iron hubs in front and
back that are twice as thick as other hubs. The ’30’ was
last made in 1956.

The idea to do something special to raise money for Farm Aid
occurred to Wild Bill after receiving a press release about the
event six weeks earlier. Bill came up with the idea to drive the
tractor and then program manager Steve Williams talked with Ingalls
about the plan while broadcasting from the Flywheelers’ Antique
Engine and Tractor Show in September. The two recruited Schlachter
and began planning the trip.

About halfway through the adventure it began to rain, but Bill
and Denise continued to drive on. When they arrived in the dark at
the concert site at 7:45 p.m., members of the Farm Aid staff were
waiting for the cold and wet couple and their escorts. The group
was hustled inside, and introduced to the organizers and then given
dinner. The generous Farm Aid staff made sure everyone had a place
to stay and tickets to see the concert the next day as well. On
concert day, a check in the amount of $4,515 was presented to
entertainer Willie Nelson by Bill and Denise, who also earmarked
the money for south west Michigan farmers. The tractor was included
in the concert press conference which was attended by 300 news
media people, due to the fact that it was the only one in the
United States to have been driven to the Farm Aid event. Bill and
Denise received a standing ovation by the members of the press and
the entertainers. Many of the per formers like Willie Nelson,
Hootie and the Blowfish, and Neil Young stopped by the tractor
which was parked outside the press tent, for pictures and to sign
the hood of it. Schlachter stated that after putting a clear coat
on the hood, the tractor will be put on display at the next
Michigan Flywheelers Museum’s 1999 antique engine and tractor
show held September 9-12 at the organization’s show grounds on
68th Street in South Haven, Michigan. Donations can be made to Farm
Aid year round. Organizers say they hope that they won’t have
to continue to have concerts, but the unusual weather makes it hard
for farmers to make a living. To donate, call 1-800-FARMAID.

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