May 20, 2018
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Antique tractors roll into Presque Isle

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – It takes more than a little wet weather to keep die hard tractor fans away from their beloved machines.

Despite rainy conditions for two of the three days at the Tired Iron Roundup this weekend at the Presque Isle fairgrounds, lovers of all things farm related, rusty and restored were checking out equipment and swapping tractor tales.

“In spite the rain it has gone exceptionally well,” Cheryl Boulier, secretary of the host Northern Maine Antique Tractor Club, said Sunday morning. “We probably would have had larger crowds if it was sunny and 80-degrees, but we are going with the flow.”

The northern Maine club was chosen to host this year’s roundup by the Early Days Gas Engine and Tractor Association and drew participants from as far away as Ohio and Prince Edward Island.

Hundreds of tractors representing virtually every make and model from the early days of agriculture were shined to look new and on display around the fairgrounds.

Over in front of the grandstand, proud owners tweaked and fine tuned their tractors as they prepared to show them off in a weight-pull competition during which tractors are hooked to a large, heavy sled they then pull as far and fast as they can over a very muddy course.

“We really like this northern Maine group,” Mike Pratt, of Weld, said.

Pratt, along with his wife Laurie, who was over volunteering at the entrance gate, had traveled to Presque Isle with Dale Fairbanks of Industry, his son Mike Fairbanks of New Sharon and two vintage green Oliver tractors.

“This is something I got started on awhile back and got stuck on,” Mike Fairbanks said, leaning against his Oliver Super 77. “I have over 20 of them now, and I restore them and farm with them.”

The previous day Fairbanks rode the tractor into third place at the weight pull while his father took fourth in the competition.

Not far off from the Olivers, Richard Carter was preparing his 1950 Allis Chalmer tractor for Sunday’s weight pull.

“I don’t know if Allis Chalmers are the best tractors,” he said as he poured fuel into the tank. “But I like having them because no one else around here does [and] I like being an oddball.”

Carter said he had six more orange Chalmers back at his Castle Hill home, all restored to working condition.

“I just really enjoy them,” he said. “This is the best hobby I’ve ever had.”

Carter had been chatting with fellow Northern Maine Antique Tractor Club member Chris Langille, a devotee of red, International Farmall tractors.

“Want to see a real tractor?” he asked, grinning at Carter, and pointing to a cluster of Farmalls nearby.

“I went for a different look this year with my [Farmall] 300,” he said. “I went with more of the ‘rock pile’ look.”

There was nothing shiny or new looking about “Betsy,” as Langille had named the tractor.

Rather, she was rusty, mud encrusted and had wire and duct tape holding on various parts.

“But she runs like a top,” Langille said with pride as he started it up.

One of the more popular exhibits over the weekend was a display featuring vintage agriculture equipment parked next to their modern day counterparts.

Dale Campbell of Washburn was explaining his restored antique Massey Harris harrow to fellow old iron fan Rodney Cory. Both men said they preferred the older, simpler machines.

“Someone gave this to me,” Campbell said, his hand on his red harrow. “I had to cut a tree down that was growing up through it to move it, but we fixed it up, and it works fine.”

Campbell said he used the harrow with an older tractor to plow some land for a tractor club event.

“I’d rather be on an old farm tractor than in one of those new tractors with the heated cabs,” he said. “I was brought up on this old stuff.”

Given the hundreds of people who took the time to stop by and admire the old tractors over the weekend, Campbell is not alone, though the exact attraction remains a bit of a mystery.

“If you have to ask why we do this and love it, you will never understand,” Pratt said.

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