A chat of five men over coffee in a Culbertson restaurant led to the start of the Northeastern Montana Threshers and Antique Association, about 17 years ago.
As the quintet discussed shows they had seen, they decided to see if they could get 12 or 15 old tractors together and put on 'a little show' of their own.
Sterling McKinney, the local Ford dealer, was elected president. E. A. 'Nute' Anklam, who was in the Postal Service and later became Postmaster, was named secretary. McKinney continues as president, but retired from the auto dealership. Anklam retired from the secretary post because of his wife's illness, but continues his interest in the club.
The progress made by the group is indicated by the 100 units running in the parade at the 16th annual Threshing Bee and Antique Show in 1979. Attendance was estimated by Anklam at between 3,500 and 4,000 during the two days. Considering the normal size of Culbertson-about 1,000-that brings in a lot of visitors.
Montana magazine, published in Helena, calls the show the biggest fall tourist attraction in northeast Montana. The club claims the largest display of engines and equipment in the Northwest.
Members include many father-son teams. Old engines that looked like junk-heap material were restored through the know-how and the persistence of the membership. Some of the pieces are now owned by the organization; some by members, and some are there on contract with the understanding that the club will fix them up and keep them in the show for at least 10 years.
McKinney told a Montana magazine writer that exhibits recently added include a planer, a shingle mill, a blacksmith shop, and a stationary hoist for ore mining from Lincoln, Montana. He is proud of a Minneapolis Ford tractor, and understands there are only two other of these in running order. A 1916 C.O.C. is the only known engine of its kind being operated.
He is seeking additional exhibits for the show, with emphasis on oldtime farm machinery.
The association has issued two handbooks. The 1979 edition contains the history of many of the group's tractors, plus a section by Hal Lewis, of Grey, Saskatchewan, Canada, the show announcer. His article deals with the history of farm tractors from about 1850 through 1940. A few copies are available at $2.50 postpaid.
Officers listed in the 1979 handbook are: McKinney, president; Bradley Evenson, Brockton, vice president; Rodney Iverson, Culbertson, treasurer; James Marmon, Wolf Point, secretary; and four other directors, Charles Engelke, Harlow Strandlund, Merle Krogedal, all of Foird, and Glen Munz, Wolf Point.
The 1978 program contained this note for spectators: 'Talk to the stranger at your elbow. Chances are he came from a distant state and feels the same fascination for the magnificent old machines that you do.'
Anklam notes: 'We are fortunate to be only a short distance from Williston, N.D., and Sidney, Montana, so by driving a short distance there is always plenty of housing for people that come a long distance and wish to stay for the second day. Our show is always the fourth weekend in September so this year it will be September 27 and 28.' He adds: 'My wife is unable to do any work anymore so it fell on me to do the housework, cooking and so on, and with all these extra chores, I didn't feel I could give the Threshers the kind of job I had been doing. So I decided to turn the secretary work over to someone else.'
'I am 72 years of age and in good health. In addition to my regular duties around home, I spend much of my spare time in the wide open spaces trapping predator animals as well as fur-bearers-a good healthy and profitable passtime.'
The engine was bought new from Power Equipment Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1910 or 1911, and used to power a ferry boat on the Missouri River at Lismus, now under Fort Peck Lake. It was also used at Oswego where the ferry boat froze in the river about 1915. Not used since then, it was restored in 1968. These engines were used mostly in elevators, mills, pumping and electric plants. The Foos was well built, the bearings were bronze, the engine well-balanced for their day.