The Magic of a Maine Antique Tractor Show
The 19th annual Antique Tractor and Engine Show took place up to the Bouchard Brother’s Farm last weekend. Hoo, boy! Charlie was like a kid, he was so jacked up.
“Three more days ‘til the tractor show, Ida!”
Both men and women love this event! Men, because there are tractors, of course, and all them old engines, “antique” tools, and the like. (Me? I think “antique” is just a code word for “rusty.” But beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, right?) Women love it because the men are occupied and out of their hair all weekend. It’s a win/win situation.
I go to the pancake breakfast Saturday morning (Well, who doesn’t like a pancake breakfast?). And Charlie and me partake of the festivities Saturday evening: the 4:30 Roast Dinner (served until sold out), followed by the square dance from 6 to 8 p.m. Other than that, Charlie is on his own with the husbands of the Women Who Run with the Moose: Bud, Smitty, Pat, Tommy, and Junior.
Bouchard’s Tractor Show is the kind of event where fellas like my husband gather ‘round and gawk at old machines that don’t do much besides sputter, cough, and shake a lot. Somehow, that just fascinates them. Charlie loves shooting the breeze with these guys about their machines, and how far they drove to come here. Apparently there’s a whole antique tractor and engine show circuit. People come in their RVs for the weekend. They set up in the Bouchards' field on “avenues” named after tractor and engine manufactures (Bessemer Lane, McCormack Avenue, John Deere Drive).
There’s a tractor parade, of course, Saturday and Sunday, for anyone old enough to drive, and lots of tractor pulling events. Anything from the Kids Pedal Tractor Pull to the Transfer Sled Pull, where tractors pull enormous cement blocks and are judged on how far they can pull them. There’s an antique division and one for the newer, high-powered tractors. A tractor will pull cement blocks until the weight puts too much strain on the engine and the tractor does a wheelie, which is apparently very exciting to the men-folk.
For the kiddies, there’s the barrel tractor ride. Picture this: a train of six or seven 55-gallon drums with wheels on them, all painted bright colors, with the names of famous tractors on them, each sporting a flag. There’s room for a couple of kids in each barrel (or Mom with a very small child). The barrel train is pulled around the fair grounds by one of the Bouchard boys in a cub tractor, looking bored as all get out. The kids love it, though.
In the craft section, their mother Florence Bouchard, has a little business of her own: painting portraits of you and your tractor. You provide the photo, she does the painting. Her husband, Raymond, makes frames for them out of barn board. And they’re not half-bad, if you like that sort of thing. We got some down to the Mainely Maine store.
As I say, I didn’t see all that much of Charlie. He was having too much fun on his own. How I love seeing him happy!
For Charlie, the highlights of this year’s tractor show were this guy selling antique tractor seats. Well, it wasn’t the seats that got Charlie’s attention. It was the sign over the fella’s booth, which read, “Hot in Summer, Cold in Winter, Hard All Year ‘Round.” Now, there’s a hell of a sales pitch, huh?
Charlie was over the moon about this silicone tape he bought. Supposed to be better than duct tape even (which is high praise indeed). Charlie was telling the guy how the cord on his screw gun’s all frayed.
“And electrical tape don’t work, right?” the guys asks.
“Nope. Not for long.”
“Your hands get all sticky, and it falls off after awhile.”
“Yeah. Makes a wicked mess.”
“This, my friend, is what you need.” The guy explains how indestructible his tape is, how it stays put, is strong and flexible forever. “Eight dollars for one roll, three for eighteen.”
“I’ll take a roll,” Charlie says. (He’s not one to go hog wild.) Turns out, Bud, Smitty, Pat, Tommy, and Junior were all sold as well. So, I guess it was a banner day for the silicone tape guy.
“I thank you, gentleman,” he says, pointing at a photo of a basset hound above his table. “And I want you all to know, it goes right into dog food for Buddy, here.”
Hands down, though, Charlie’s absolute favorite thing at this year’s tractor show was the shingle-making machine (I’ve included a photo here.). I must of walked right by it on my way to dinner on Saturday, and have no recollection of seeing it. But to Charlie, it was the bees knees!
One guy mounts a block of cedar onto the machine, and the saw cuts these thin slivers off it. Then another guy feeds the end of the shake into another slot to trim it, and hands it to a third guy who stacks it all nice and neat, log cabin style. Charlie says he must have watched these guys for an hour.
Later, I asked Charlie why he likes the tractor show so much, and he says, “I don’t know, Ida. It’s this circle of life kind of thing. You’ll look down, and there’ll be a kid sitting at his father’s feet, playing with a toy tractor. When that kid’s old enough, he’ll compete in the pedal tractor pull. Then he moves on to motorized tractors, and joins the all-ages tractor parades ‘round the fairgrounds. You look around and see teenage boys and girls riding together on their parent’s tractors, young fathers riding tractors with their kids and dogs. Older guys competing in the tractor pulls. Then you walk by a couple of really old duffers standing around a tractor, and reminiscing about how good she ran.”
“Gee, Charlie, that’s really sweet.”
“Plus, you must know by now: anything with an engine gives me a thrill.”
“I sure do, mister man. Vroom, vroom!”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here.)