Several dozen men gathered around a fluid-talking auctioneer Thursday morning at the Carroll County Farm Museum, in a field rowed with metal implements ranging from tillers to mufflers to tractor brake lines.
They came looking for a deal, and many found one, with one man carrying away to chainsaws he had just bought for $1 a piece.
“I bought a lawnmower. I got one just like it at home,” William Timmons Sr. said. “I just bought a brand-new one; it was $425 and I got this one for $30.”
Timmons had come all the way from Falling Waters, West Virginia, as he has been for years, to attend the first day of the Mason Dixon Historical Society’s annual Steam and Gas Show, a showcase of antique steam- and gasoline-powered farm tractors, threshers, and saw mills, along with a flea market, music and, of course, Thursday’s auction.
He also brought his dog, a Chihuahua named Zacharias, who didn’t mind the heavy machinery, Timmons said.
“He’s calm as can be,” he said. “He’s the boss.”
Timmons was only able to attend the first day of the show, but the event will run 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with free admission. Friday will feature a 4 p.m. Tractor Parade and a 6 p.m. concert by the Salem Bottom Boys, plus Saturday saw mill demonstrations at about 11:30 a.m. and tractor games around 1 p.m.
“We’ll definitely do a two-wheeled cart driving contest, where you have a tractor hooked to the wagon and you go through some cones forward and then you have to back it up and put it in the barn,” said Jeremiah Herbst, one of Thursday’s auctioneers and the man in charge of the tractor games. “That will be timed, and you get penalized if you knock cones over.”
There will also be a blindfolded driver contest, according to Larry Airing, vice president of the Mason Dixon Historical Society.
“That’s kind of an interesting thing, it’s kind of an obstacle course with the driver blindfolded,” he said. “Somebody rides with him, tells him to steer, right, steer left.”
The concert and the tractor games, along with a petting zoo, are new attractions designed to draw in new people, especially young people, Airing said. An attempt to get new generations interested antique farm machinery.
“The rest of us, we’re getting older, and we’d like to keep the younger generation interested in this stuff,” he said. “That’s what keeps these things going. If these kids don’t get interested, these shows won’t last long.”
And this particular show has been going strong for a long time.
“Since ’63, that was the first year,” Airing said. “This is the 57th year.”
The show has always been a way to show how farming has evolved over the years, Airing said, with things like antique stationary gas motors, which predated even tractors on many farms, on display.
“Any belt-driven piece of machinery, a stationary engine sits there and runs it,” he said. They ran well pumps with them and everything."
What is not certain, Airing said, is if there will actually be any steam-powered machinery on display this year, a function of many owners being from out of state.
“Most of them are coming out of Pennsylvania,” he said. “Maryland doesn’t recognizes Pennsylvania’s inspections, which has really hurt all the Maryland shows.”
That’s not to say there will not be interesting machines for those who come out to the show over the weekend. John Baum towed a 40-foot-long trailer from Appleton Wisconsin to show off his Sears and Roebuck tractors, many from 1938 or 1939.
“I actually have 19 of them now and they only built 500 of them,” he said. “There’s about 100 of them left.”
For Randy Pickett of Woodbine, the tractor line that’s the focus of his “addiction” is Allis-Chalmers, he said, and Thursday he was busy driving his collection of orange Allis-Chalmers farm tractors and yellow Allis-Chalmers lawn tractors off of a flat bed truck.
“They were a large company and they were in business in the early, early 1900s. And then in ’80-something there were some money problems. I don’t the whole exact story, but they went out of business," Pickett said. “My neighbors had Allis-Chalmers tractors, and I got involved in antique tractor pulling. That’s where I got started — I bought on old tractor I used in the tractor pulls. But after that I got hooked.”
Pickett has been coming to the show at the farm museum for, he thinks, 25 years — it’s been long enough he doesn’t quit remember — and he will be riding in the tractor parade. But he, too, wishes for some young people to take interest in the brightly hued machines.
“I have two nephews. For some of these shows I have a little camper,” Pickett said. “There’s room for one of my nephews to be with me every time I go out, and neither one of them have any interest.”
Young people, Pickett said, seem more interested in working on computers. But it’s not as if old farm machinery doesn’t engage the mind in troubleshooting, as he demonstrated when his bright orange Allis-Chalmers 1949 B farm tractor didn’t start right when it came time to roll off the flatbed.
“You hear how fast it was running? It did that at home when I first started it and I turned it off and started it again and it was OK,” Picket said. "I thought something was just stuck."
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Five minutes of checking springs and a few adjustments, and the tractor turned over with a pleasant, lower RPM purr, and Picked it drove it out on the grass.
“Now it’s acting right,” he said.
If you go
What: Mason Dixon Historical Society’s annual Steam and Gas Show
When: 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster, but parking is available at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, 706 Agriculture Center Drive.
For more information visit www.masondixonhistoricalsociety.org/events.html or carrollcountyfarmmuseum.org/event/steam-show-days-6.