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Back in grampa’s day

By Staff | Aug 30, 2013

SAWDUST FLIES as a blade rips through a cedar log during a demonstration of the Cecil Widick Family Antique Sawmill during Saturday’s events at the Homer Threshing Bee. The Massey-Harris tractor in the background, powers the sawmill. The husk the blade sits in is made of wood, said Don Lamb, sawmill owner and vice president of the West Central Region Cockshutt and Co-op Club.

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 county road R21, is the site for the annual Homer Threshing Bee which which was held Saturday and Sunday.

The event “started about 20 years ago. I should find that out for sure,” Lamb said, with threshing demonstrations. “Back when we were teenagers,” he said.

Eventually, the show grew to include an annual featured tractor manufacturer and more demonstrations.

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.

“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 did to keep things going.”

Tractors, more tractors

The Iowa Cornbelt Oliver Collectors Club held its annual gathering at the threshing bee.

“There are Olivers here from as far away as 200 miles,” Lamb said.

KEITH STUHRENBERG, right, of Barnum, drew a few spectators to watch his 1929 Whitte sawmill in action. Stuhrenberg said he purchased the saw last spring and completely refurbished the engine, moving parts and wood supports.

Lamb’s personal collection of Cockshutt tractors was 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.

JIM MILLER, of Nevada, demonstrates on Saturday building a picket fence with a tool that binds wire, keeping the staves in place.


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 outmoded 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, provided 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 shelled the ears, grounded the kernels to a fine consistency, mixed the meal with flour, added ingredients for batter, poured batter into cast iron forms and bakeed them. These were 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.

Maytag museum

The Maytag Collectors Club was 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 musuem of Maytag memorabilia from Nevada. It was their first visit to the Homer event.

In their trailer were 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 dishing 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., Newton.

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