The Little Things

By Staff
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Mike Clemens, Tyler Clemens, Perry Smith, Austin Smith (in red) and Chandler Clemens (in yellow).
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Chandler and Tyler take turns kick-starting a Maytag at the 2005 Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
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Tyler, Chandler and Austin toss corn into a feed grinder powered by Chandler’s 2 HP air-cooled Associated.
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The Smith family gets all dressed up to work at the 1800s Log Village; back row, from left: Perry, Chandler, Haley and Bridget; front row: Austin and Natalie.

Like many of you, I hear concerns about the
lack of young people in the hobby and at the shows. You wonder,
“Where are all the kids?” and “What will the future hold for the
hobby?” I ask myself the same questions from time to time.

The Smith family of Alleman, Iowa, however, helped set my mind
at ease while at the 2005 Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt.
Pleasant, Iowa.

It all started when a man stopped by our booth with three young
boys and made small talk with some of my co-workers. The man and
boys were on their way back to their spot on the show grounds when
I just happened to stop by our booth. Very enthusiastically, my
co-workers pointed and said, “Hey Jason, you’d better go catch that
guy – his sons have 25 engines!” I replied, “They have 25 engines,
or their dad has 25 engines?” “No, they’re theirs, and they were
over here talking about magnetos and flywheels and I don’t know
what else, but they knew what they were talking about!” Needless to
say, I caught up to them with a quickness.

Boys and Their Toys …

When I caught up to them, the father introduced himself as Perry
Smith, and introduced the boys as his sons, Chandler, 11, and
Austin, 9, and a friend of theirs, Tyler Clemens, 11. While I was
interviewing Perry, all three boys were busy oiling things, gassing
up the engines, shelling corn, even starting their little Maytags.
It was refreshing to see these boys crawling all over the engines
with such enthusiasm – and getting their hands dirty in the
process.

For this year’s show, the Smiths brought a 1-1/2 HP Galloway, 2
HP ARCO/Economy (see Hercules En-gine News, ), 3 HP Galloway, 6 HP
Economy, 7 HP Galloway, 2 HP air-cooled Associated and a pair of
1-1/2 HP John Deeres.

Perry confirmed that the engines – all 25 of them – do in fact
belong to the kids, and range from 1-1/2 to 7 HP. The Smiths also
own seven tractors, 12 Maytags and a lot of other miscellaneous
farm equipment, some of which was at the show in the form of a pump
jack, corn sheller, bone grinder, hack saw, David Bradley and no. 5
Stover feed grinders, and more.

“I’m guessing you’ve been into this for a while and that’s how
the boys got into it?” I asked. “Actually,” he said, “I’ve only
been into this for five years now.” “WHAT?!,” I thought. “At the
state fair back in 1999,” he continued, “we met a guy by the name
of Mike Clemens (Tyler’s dad). He was (and still is) into gas
engines and invited us go with him and his family to the 2000 Old
Threshers Reunion, and that’s how we got started. I dived in head
first and bought two engines at that show, not knowing a thing
about them: A 1-1/2 HP Economy and a 1-1/2 HP Hercules. But Mike’s
taught me a lot about them and we’re really good friends now, and
so are our kids.”

When Dad goes out to the garage to tinker on the engines, it’s a
sure bet the boys are nipping at his heels to get out there with
him. Perry says, “These engines all belong to the kids, I just
maintain ’em. I bought Chandler and Austin a couple of Maytags so
they would have something they could start themselves. If they can
do just a little more every once in awhile – making small gains –
it will keep them interested, and that’s what we want.”

Perry claims his neighbors all think he’s nuts because he’s out
running his engines all the time, especially on Christmas and New
Year’s, as well as all the kids’ birthdays and other special
occasions. “The boys just love it,” he said, “they’re always
looking for some reason to run the engines.”

The division of engines between the boys uses a simple yet
effective method: All the red ones belong to Chandler and all the
green ones belong to Austin. Apparently, when their teachers have
assignments with no names, they always know if they belong to one
of the Smith boys because they usually have gas engines or tractors
drawn all over them!

… And the Women Who Put Up With Them

Perry couldn’t say enough nice things about the hobby and all
the people at Mt. Pleasant. “They really make you feel at home
here, and they do so much for us,” he said, “which makes me want to
do more for them.”

Perry told me about his wife, Bridget, and their two daughters,
Haley, 12, and Natalie, 5, who were volunteering at the 1800s Log
Village, performing a rope-making demonstration. Perry and the boys
also volunteer at the Village, usually relieving the girls of their
duties for a while in the afternoons. “We all get dressed up in our
1800s outfits and go down to the Village to show people how it was
done in those days. The whole family gets into it and we all have a
great time at the show every year,” says Perry. Although the girls
are more interested in participating in the Log Village activities,
Haley has her own 1-1/2 HP Fuller & Johnson and Natalie has a
1-1/2 HP John Deere.

The Smith family shows that there are still families out there
willing to let their children get a little grubby solely for the
sake of having fun – as a family, no less. In fact, Perry had this
to say about it: “This is just one story – there’s a lot of good
people doing a lot of good things out here at the show. If it
weren’t for all the people that helped out before us, we wouldn’t
have a show at all.”

The Smiths know it’s the little things that make life great, and
they’re teaching their children it’s not all about PlayStations and
television. But as Perry said, this is just one story. There are
many other families out there doing the same things – you just have
to look for them.

Be sure to look for the Smith family at next year’s Old
Threshers Reunion!

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