HOMER - For Don Lamb, opening his Homer-based tractor repair facilities to visitors each year is a thrill.
"I look forward to running the machinery," Lamb said, "and the fellowship of other collectors."
Homer, seven miles north of Stratford on Hamilton County Road R21, is the site for the annual Homer Threshing Bee, which started Saturday and will continue today beginning at 8 a.m. until, well, visitors have seen enough and leave.
-Messenger photo by Larry Kershner
Nancy Miller demonstrates how housewives kept their gas-operated Maytag washing machines running, using a fruit jar as a gas tank. “If her husband was out in the field,” Miller said, “she could keep it running if it ran out of gas.” Miller and her husband, Jim Miller, of Nevada, are members of the Maytag Collectors Club. “This is our museum on wheels,” Miller said.
The event started about 20 years ago with threshing demonstrations.
"Back when we were teenagers," Lamb said.
Eventually, the show grew to include an annual featured tractor manufacturer and more demonstrations.
"People came from all over to help us out," Lamb said. "They were older farmers and a lot of them are gone now."
Pointing to two-cycle engines, a steam traction engine and numerous antique implements, Lamb said, "We're trying to keep this so young people can see what it took their grandfathers and great-grandfathers to keep things going."
Tractors and tractors
The Iowa Cornbelt Oliver Collectors Club is holding its annual gathering at the threshing bee.
"There are Olivers here from as far away as 200 miles," Lamb said.
Lamb's personal collection of Cockshutt tractors is on display. His business is restoring antique tractors.
"We're known as the Cockshutt repair shop," he said.
Nearby, a three-man team was preparing Lamb's 1902 Port Huron steam traction engine, banking its fires and building steam.
The tractor's belt was stretched to a McCormick-Deering threshing machine.
All was ready to roll oats from a storage shed when rain started to fall, questioning the prospect of threshing work being done that day.
They'll try again today.
Lamb works in the Cecil Widick Family Antique Sawmill building. The center of attraction is a 1890s wood husk saw.
"Most of the husks are steel," Lamb said, "but this one is wood."
There's not many of them around, he said.
Lamb said the mill was donated by the estate of Cecil Widick, of Saratoga, after his death in the late-1990s.
"He would be pleased to see it working and people watching it," Lamb said. "We fire it up and have a lot of fun."
A smaller sawmill was cross-cutting a pine log, operated by a gas engine, under the supervision of Keith Stuhrenberg, of Barnum.
Stuhrenberg said he's been collecting antique machinery since 2000, which includes two-cycle gas engines used for myriad purposes, most generally to pump water.
Stuhrenberg said he started attending antique equipment auctions with a Barnum-area friend, Ben Rogers. At the time, he said he was lukewarm to the idea of buying and restoring out-moded machines.
"But the more I went," Stuhrenberg said, "the more I started realizing that it is pretty interesting."
He acquired the Whitte sawmill last spring, he said, describing it as being in a sad, extreme rusty condition.
"I had to decide if I would refurbish it or make it a lawn ornament," he said.
Refurbishing won the debate.
"I tore it completely apart," he said, cleaning, oiling, greasing and replacing worn parts. He replaced the wood braces as well.
When he fired up the gas engine, and started sawing through the pine log, the implement generally drew a crowd.
From ear to mouth
Duane Reinsch, of Webster City, provides a unique display with field corn still on the ears at one end of his trailer and an oven baking corn meal muffins on the other.
Between the ends, Reinsch mechanically shells the ears, grinds the kernels to a fine consistency, mixes the meal with flour, adds ingredients for batter, pours batter into cast iron forms and bakes them. These are served to visitors.
"From ear corn to corn bread," he said.
The trailer he works on is converted from an old camper. He welded onto it the frame and fenders and uses the trailer for his corn muffin work and for community parades, including Frontier Days in Fort Dodge. The oven he salvaged from the same camper that provided the trailer bed.
The Maytag Collectors Club is also at the bee for the first time, bringing two trailers of Maytag memorabilia and washing machine models to show.
Jim and Nancy Miller brought their mobile museum of Maytag memorabilia from Nevada. It was their first visit to the Homer event.
In their trailer are more than a dozen washing machine models that were operated by gas engines.
What caught many visitors by surprise was the various attachments - ice cream makers, butter churns, meat grinders - that were run by the same engine.
The attachments were placed inside the wash tub and operated by the machine's drive shaft.
Ron Maymon, of Schaller, president of the Maytag Collector's Club, said the ice cream attachment had a limited lifespan.
"Salt was pretty hard on the aluminum," he said.
Maytag also tried a dish washing attachment, Maymon said, but the washer's agitation was too violent and broke dishes.
However, Maytag was more successful with manufacturing cars and trucks in the 1930s, as well as branding its own oils and lubricants.
In his trailer are milk bottles that read, "Maytag Dairy Farm."
"That dairy still exists," Maymon said. It's at 2282 East Eighth St., in Newton.