P.O. Box 15368 Pensacola, Florida 32514
Bill Orr looked like the legendary Wizard of Oz at his organ,
both hands at the controls regulating the operation of the big old
black diesel engine. He throttled back and let the engine slow down
almost to stopping with nearly no sound, then advanced the
throttle. As the engine labored to catch up with its resonant
‘Chunk … chunk’ cracking above the crowd, it blew perfect
white and black smoke rings 30 feet in the air from the twin
exhaust stacks and sounded like music to the ears of the
enthusiasts clustered around.
Amidst a cacophony of many engines chugging, coughing, cracking,
and ‘chunk . . . chunking,’ the peanut exhibit was drawing
spectators. There were two balers, one a green John Deere 1936 3
HP, the other a red 1946 International Harvester 3-5 HP. A 1936
peanut picker driven with an eight inch belt from a 1936 Farmall
tractor (approx. 36 HP), pulled peanuts off the vines, its fan
blowing leaves and vines out the back of the picker. There the cast
out vines etc. were picked up with pitch forks and fed to a hay
baler and baled for future use.
Phillip Hunter, the narrator for the demonstration, recalled the
old days when the peanut vines were stacked in the fields for four
to six weeks to dry them. When they were ready, the farmer would
set up a picker in the field. In 1936 they could pick about 500
pounds a day. Today’s equipment only requires peanut vines to
dry about a week before feeding them to the picker.
Turning in a tree-lined clay road to Landmark Park you come upon
beautiful green, close-cropped, lawn-like grounds with buildings
from the wire grass farming heritage. The Waddell House, a turn of
the century farm house, sitting on brick piers; log cabins; log
corn cribs; a blacksmith shop; a church; with a country store in
the works; and farm animals provided an exceptional setting for the
engine show. There was a line of tractors, flywheel engines
hit-n-miss, steam, diesel, gas, lawn mower, washing machine, ? HP
to 120 HP, small enough to hold in one hand to 16,000 pounds with
12 inch cylinders. Many engines were hooked to period farm
implements or machines cross cut saws, water pumps, cane mills,
peanut pickers, hay presses, corn shuckers.
This was the 1994 Pioneer Peanut Days celebration with the Dixie
Fly-wheelers Association being held at Landmark Park just north of
Dothan, Alabama, on October 22 and 23. Teresa Smallwood,
representing the Alabama Peanut Producers Association which is one
of the yearly sponsors of the event, said this celebration is a way
of preserving and honoring the past at a time when peanut farmers
are having trouble keeping the farms together.
William Holman, Executive Director of the Dothan Landmark
Foundation (a private non-profit club with about 1700 family
members), said the park started about 16-17 years ago as a local
historical society concerned with the preservation of the local
farming heritage wire grass region (Southeast Alabama, Southwest
Georgia and Northwest Florida.) They have 100 acres, several old
buildings moved to the park and one or two replicas made from old
designs and materials.
Among the exhibitors, Weldon Glick had a display of small steam
engines. One was a rebuilt (refurbished) 1905 steam engine from a
popcorn wagon. He built four others, one a full-scale copy of a
steam engine from a 1913 popcorn wagon where the steam engine
stirred the corn and oil as the corn popped. They were real
operating steam engines, colorfully painted with highly polished
brass. Weldon said it took longest to make the twin-ball weight,
centrifugal governor on the replica he had made about 15 years ago.
A ratchet type oil pump fed lubrication to the steam chamber to
lube the valves and cylinder.
Weldon, a slim 75 year old, was dressed in khaki shirt and
trousers, straw hat with the yellow Pioneer Peanut Days button
pinned in the center of the bright white, green, yellow hat band.
His dark rimmed glasses accented his ruddy complexion, while black
shoes and a red bandana with white polka dots hanging from his back
pocket completed the country gentleman image. Weldon said the Dixie
Flywheelers Club was started about 12 years ago by Ron Franz, Jerry
Holland and Larry Joeckstock. The Club’s first show was 10
years ago this is the 9th annual at Landmark Park. It now has about
110 members15 active.
Weldon was the 1983 president of the Clock Collector’s Club
in Pensacola, where he was one of the rebuilders and restorers of
the city clock currently mounted outside the County Court House on
South Palafox Street.
Weldon introduced me to Bobby and Machie Adkins who were
demonstrating a cane mill. The green painted cane mill is mounted
to a trailer. An old Ford rear end from a model T truck (worm gear)
is mounted to the top of the mill which is driven by a red
International Harvester 3-5 HP (came off a hay press). White cups
of the cane juice were parceled out to spectators Good!!!
Bobby and family live nearby and have eleven tractors and eight
flywheel engines for display. He said it wasn’t the same this
year without his dad (85 years old) in the center of things as
usual, during the show. Talking about the blacksmith exhibit, Bobby
said he was going to try blacksmithing as soon as he got the time.
Bobby, secretary of the club, said new officers were to be elected
the next day.
Some exhibitors were from as far away as Michigan, Louisiana and
South Florida. Wayne and Mary Crandall traveled the farthest Homer,
Michigan, with their tool board and hog oilers. Bobby Newton
traveled from Anacoco, Louisiana; Fred Maick from Arcadia, Florida;
John May-hall from River View, Florida; William and Dorothy Noble
from Ocala, Florida; Raymond Taylor and Stew Henderson from
Pensacola, Florida; and as many as 53 exhibitors, friends from
Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
There were 126 engines of all types exhibited, 12 tractors, 30
tool displays and farm equipment, one 1930 peanut picker, one 1936
picker, two hay balers, one hay cutter, one peanut sheller, one
hammer mill, one cane mill, etc.
Ron Franz, one of the early presidents of the club, wore faded
bib overalls, felt hat, closely trimmed gray beard and sun glasses
as he worked on his 1923 Fairmont railroad engine from one of the
old open cars used to travel the rails to inspect rail conditions.
A lively spectator talking about club members’ love of engines
said, ‘I used all of them machines, peanut pickers, hay balers,
tractors. Worked all day didn’t make enough to pay social
security,’ he laughed.
‘That’s pretty near beautiful isn’t it?’ said
Raymond Taylor, with that sly grin of his, showing off his green,
1919 Fairbanks-Morse 1 HP hit-n-miss which was so finely tuned it
just nearly stopped before hitting again.
Bill and Dorothy Noble from Ocala demonstrated an 1890s Butt
braiding machine driven by an old International flywheel engine.
The braiding machine was from New England, had 32 spools, 16
orange, 16 black. The spools traveled around the machine in a
sinewave pattern and wove the braid around the center cord or
Bill Orr, this year’s club president, works at the city
water department. As a private collector and restorer he brought
the humongous 16,000 pound Fairbanks-Morse diesel 32E, two
cylinder, 120 HP. Bill had to run the air compressor and air tank
to above 130 lbs. pressure in order to start the big diesel engine.
He controlled it from nearly stopped to the regular speed of 360
RPM to blow the smoke rings. One cylinder blew most of the black
smoke since Bill hasn’t had the time to balance the fuel to
The engine had been located on cotton gin property in Headland,
Alabama, and was originally purchased by a Mr. Shelly in 1939 for
$3183.60. It was sitting on the gin property for a long time before
it was acquired and moved to south of Dothan, where it just sat
another six to seven years when Bill got possession. He dismantled
it at the site, brought it home in pieces and reassembled it at his
home. He found the bearings okay, located gasket paper and got it
together. It cranked off the first time he tried. He put it on a
low trailer so he could demonstrate the engine better.
In the gazebo in the center of the park, strains of country
bluegrass (wire grass??) music were played by six local musicians
two guitars, a banjo, a bass fiddle, a violin (fiddle), a harmonica
while one of the guitar players sang the country lyrics. There were
craft tables around in front of the gazebo, benches, and a food
trailer with conventional sandwiches, spiral fries, drinks and a
unique blooming onioncut with a special gizmo, batter-dipped, and
deep fried in vegetable oil.
The show was interrupted about 12:40 by pelting rain and a wild
thunderstorm which sent participants and visitors alike running for
the registration tent or the porch of the Waddell House, among
other temporary shelters. Standing on the rear porch of the Waddell
House, the rain was really beating down! The wind was so strong the
rain was blowing over the top of the corn crib and cane boiling
buildings (syrup shed), creating a white froth in the air just
above the peak of the roofs. Tents blew out, equipment got soaked,
folks were drenched to the skin.
The show was pretty much over for the day although the rain let
up an hour or so later.