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CAPOOT goes off the beaten path

By Staff | Sep 16, 2011

Dave Struthers climbed up on his 1969 Allis Chalmers D21 tractor to give CAPOOT drivers final instructions before heading out on the 2011 route.

COLLINS – What started eight years ago as a fundraiser to help build Collins’ community center has grown into a unique way to bring farmers and their non-farm neighbors together each September, thanks to CAPOOT (Collins Area People on Old Tractors).

“We get a lot of support from the community, and it gives people a fun reason to get together,” said Dave Struthers, who farms in the Collins area and helped establish CAPOOT in 2003.

Approximately 50 tractors from the 1930s to the 1980s were showcased in this year’s afternoon event on Sept. 11. Most drivers opted for the slow route, a 10-mile-per-hour drive from Collins to Rhodes and back (a 32-mile trip), while others headed out on the fast route, a 17-mile-per-hour trip to Zearing and back (a 44-mile trip). All of the drivers displayed American flags on their tractors in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We owe a lot to those who serve in our armed forces, fire and police departments,” said Struthers, who was a mile north of Rhodes on his way to do hog chores when he first heard about the Sept. 11 attacks.

“These brave men and women afford us the freedoms to do things such as the CAPOOT ride.”

These unidentified CAPOOT drivers opted for the slow route, a 10-mile-per-hour drive from Collins to Rhodes and back, a 32-mile trip, while others headed out on the fast route, a 17-mile-per-hour trip to Zearing and back, a 44-mile trip.

Farm News article inspired CAPOOT

The inspiration for CAPOOT came from an article in Farm News about Peterson’s Annual Trip on Old Tractors, or PATOOT, said Struthers, who coordinates the annual CAPOOT routes. These extend beyond Story County into Polk, Marshall and Jasper counties.

No tractor? No problem, Struthers said, who noted that loaner tractors are available for people who would like to go on CAPOOT, but don’t have their own rig.

This is convenient for Collins area natives who now live in states including Maryland and Colorado, but return to their hometown for the event.

The ride attracts a wide range of participants, from local business owners to elected officials, including members of the board of supervisors.

All of the CAPOOT drivers displayed American flags on their tractors in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“The ride offers a great way to connect farmers to the community,” said Eric Finch, whose family raises meat goats near State Center.

CAPOOT has also developed into a popular fundraiser to support local organizations in Collins, population 450.

“We usually raise a few thousand dollars,” said Struthers, who noted that each driver pays $20 to go on the ride, and a free-will donation is collected for the evening meal that’s served in the community center after the CAPOOT riders return to town.

The money raised is donated to a different organization each year. Past recipients have included the volunteer fire department, area 4-H clubs and the local FFA chapter.

The group that receives the donation furnishes a mid-afternoon snack for the CAPOOT participants and supplies the food for the evening meal, Struthers said, who noted that the local public library will receive the 2011 contributions.

Ethan Finch, 8, was excited to ride along on CAPOOT with his grandmother, Sharon Struthers, of Collins.

Farmers show they care about their community

The evening meal is open to anyone who would like to attend and often attracts 200 people, said Struthers, who rode his 1969 Allis Chalmers D21 tractor in CAPOOT this year. Conversations run the gamut, from how the crops are doing to what’s new in town.

“I’d estimate that only about 15 percent of the people on CAPOOT make their living by farming, but there are still many people who are interested in maintaining a connection to agriculture, especially if their dad or granddad farmed.

CAPOOT and the evening meal offer a good way to bring all these people together.”

Bill Long, a carpenter from Collins, whose grandfather and uncle farmed in the area, appreciates this opportunity.

“It’s fun to get together with everyone and see all the old tractors,” said Long, who has participated in CAPOOT for several years and enjoys driving his 1944 John Deere A.

While Struthers wondered whether people would tire of CAPOOT after a few years, he’s pleased that the event is still going strong.

“A lot of people love vintage tractors and that’s a common bond that our farmers and small-town residents share.

“I encourage other farmers to look for opportunities like CAPOOT to connect with their non-farm neighbors, because it’s important for people to see how you care about your community.”

You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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