Brothers keep antique farm equipment running
Outside, at the back of the Antique Farm Equipment demonstration area, brothers Josh Parks, 35, and Zak Parks, 30, are working on the engine of a 1938 McCormick-Deering tractor, trying to get it running. They’ve been working on it since Sunday.
They’ve overnighted a head gasket from a specialty supply company. They’ve replaced a valve, but it’s still not running. Josh cranks hard at the hand crank at the front of the tractor. No go.
The two men’s expressions and focus on the task at hand are as intense as any brain surgeon’s.
“Seems like a lot of things around here have been throwing fits this year,” says Zak. “But you have that with 100-year-old equipment.”
The brothers — today also accompanied by middle brother Tyler, who occasionally helps them out at the fair — have been working in the Antique Farm Equipment demonstration area for four years now, carrying on a family tradition that goes back much farther.
“Our grandfather used to come here and do this all the time,” says Josh. “We knew that he did a lot of the upkeep, keeping things running. So when he passed a few years ago, we got involved.”
“We kind of stepped into his role,” adds Zak. “We’re just trying to keep the tradition going.”
This year the Parks brothers’ preparations for the fair began in earnest in July, working on the equipment to get it up and running for the fair. Both are auto mechanics by profession.
Josh, especially, is clearly one of the lead go-to guys in the Antique Farm Equipment area. Punctuating his work on the McCormick-Deering, he calls out bits of advice and encouragement to the rest of this morning’s crew.
“Give it a little gas! You’ve gotta hit the sweet spot,” he calls out to someone trying to start up one of the hay presses.
He takes a moment to point out the different pieces of farm machinery: two wheat threshers and two hay balers, all from the early 1900s. Sheaves of wheat stand twirled on the ground, ready to go into the thresher. The team of mostly men starts up one of the threshers, and the steady chug of 100-year-old machinery fills the air. Zak feeds grain into one of the threshers, and the machine spits out kernels of wheat into a bucket. Josh explains how in earlier times the belt-driven thresher could have been powered off of a steam or a “hit or miss” gas motor. The fair even has antique equipment that used to be powered by goats.
“Working on machines is something I guess I was just born into,” says Josh. “Working on stuff my grandfather used to do, it just gets passed on down to you. It’s a thrill seeing it going, keeping it going. You don’t see a lot of this machinery any more, and this fair gives you a chance to see these machines and keep them running.”
“Every year we learn more and more,” says Zak. “It’s always a challenge, learning what they did back in the day and how hard they worked. We give them credit for that — all the old timers.”
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