Tractors Across The USA – July 22nd to 25th 2009


Allan and Carolyn left very early with locals Jason and Kerri to go for another medical update on her eye problem and we arranged to catch up with them later in the day.  The local TV crew arrived at Vernon’s property at St Mary’s around 8.30 and conducted an interview, then 12 of the group boarded a people mover kindly supplied members of the River Hills Antique Tractor Club and headed to Saint Louis.

The vehicle was driven by club member John Meier, which is great as it prevents us from getting lost!  Then he collected another friend, Earl, who was a wealth of information about all things American.  The relatively short trip to Saint Louis was interspersed with stops at all sorts of interesting places – a look at the statue of ‘Popeye’ at Chester, then on to Waterloo, Illinois where we spent time with Charles (Butch) Klein who has an amazing collection of not only old tractors but magnificent vintage cars, some dating back to the early 1900’s.  An early lunch break was taken at the Monroe County Fair – an opportunity to see the livestock and have another photo shoot with Miss Monroe County Fair, a lovely young lass named Amanda.

Then we were in for a real treat – our new friends have ‘pulled some strings’ and received permission for us to visit a not yet complete tower being built to commemorate the expeditions of Lewis and Clark, who left from that area in May 1804 to explore the area west of the Mississippi, returning some 18 months later.  Their exploits earned Saint Louis the title of ‘Gateway to the West’.  This new Confluence Tower is some 180 feet high, has three lookouts at 50, 100 and 150 feet respectively and overlooks the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The lift power was turned on for us, but failed when we reached the first level, so most of us walked up the remaining two flights to enjoy the view – good for the hips!

Saint Louis is home to the Budweiser Brewery, which made it an obligatory stopover and the tours they run are not only free, but fantastic as well.  They can package up to 1650 cans a minute!  To cap off the enjoyment, they allow two samples of their wares at the end of the tour!  Then it was off to the pride of Saint Louis, the Gateway Arch.  This magnificent structure was completed in 1965 to honour the people who explored the country west of the Mississippi.  Tramcars take tourists (five at a time in small capsules) up to the top of the 630’ structure, allowing sweeping views of the city and at the time of our tour, a perfect shadow of the Arch.  We were pleased to catch up with Allan and Carolyn at this facility and relieved that Carolyn’s eye recuperation was progressing well.

The day was completed with a meal at a small bar downtown in St Louis called ‘Hot Shots’ which was enjoyed by all.  A very sleepy group returned to St Mary’s, Missouri at around 11.00 pm.  John then had a 50 mile drive to return home!  Thanks John and Earl for the day’s events.

Day 27:  July 23  MISSOURI

Cumber and Jeff departed this morning in their tractors for the Osh Cosh Air Show to allow Cumber to enjoy his passion for anything aeronautical.  So we said our farewells to Cumber and Smithy, Jeff and Wendy and will catch up with them again in a few days.

George, Anne and Carolyn voted to stay behind at Vernon’s place for a day to catch up with maintenance etc, while the rest of the group boarded the people mover for more of the wonderful Missouri hospitality.  Our driver and guide for the day was Curt Bronenkant, the chap who had rescued the lost trekkers in Viena the other day.

First for the day was an informative visit to the Mary Lee Factory where they produce all manner of cake and soup mixes.  In separate buildings on site they also produce breakfast materials and even popcorn, but our tour was just of the cakes etc and it was very interesting.  This visit had been arranged by Russell Brandes, another club member who is employed there.

Then we met up with an extremely interesting chap named Sonny of Reiman Farms – Dick would still be there talking farming methods if we had not had a busy itinerary to follow!   Curt then introduced us to Richard and Charlotte Moldenhauer and saw their amazing collection of pedal cars and memorabilia – awesome!

For a change of scenery, we went to a café for lunch named Tractors!  Great food, great service and great photos and they were happy to meet a group of crazy Aussie tractor drivers!

After seeing so many antique tractors, mostly beautifully restored and some still in their ‘working clothes’, it was a change to visit Davis Farm Supplies Inc at Perryville and see some of the new ‘boy’s toys’.  The latest is a little beauty, the boomer8N from New Holland, and we would all have loved to take one home.  This is the type of tractor any lady would be happy to be seen driving, small and pretty, but with a 50hp engine, can really do the job!  Jerry and his wife Sandy then invited us to their lovely property where Jerry has an outstanding lineup of restored tractors.

Last call of the day was to Kenny and Rhonda Buchheit’s scenic farm where the boys not only drooled over more rare machines, but also had the opportunity to throw a line into their well stocked pond from a beautifully designed gazebo.  Ron and Peter caught decent sized Bass – had the obligatory photo then gave them the ‘Rex Hunt Kiss’ and returned them to be caught another day.  What a wonderful day of events – thanks to Curt who really seemed to enjoy being chauffeur for the day, and to the Club members who so generously supplied the people mover which made our tours so comfortable.

The only disappointment of our visit to the Perryville area was that our correspondent over many months, Tom Ballman, was out of action and just out of hospital.  He and his wife Sharon made only a brief appearance at Vernon’s shed and we were sorry to hear that he has returned to hospital.  We thank Tom for all his help with planning our trip.

Day 28:   July 24   MISSOURI

The rain came down in bucket loads overnight, not quite on the agenda for Vernon’s big day – a D 2Louisiana Cook-out!  The sun came out early however and helped to dry out the puddles.  Pete Firmin had driven all the way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to be the Chef for this event and brought loads of catfish to fry and all the ingredients for his crawfish ettofee with rice.

Preparations were underway quite early and by the time visitors started to arrive at 11.00am there was food aplenty.  Vernon’s friend Jason and Pete have loads of equipment – the crawfish was cooked in a huge cast iron gas-fired cauldron, and the catfish came out of a very large deep-fryer, also gas fired.  Not only did it all smell delicious, but it tasted that way too.  Soon there was chicken, scalloped potatoes and deep fried tomato slices to add to the menu and everyone sat down to a sensational meal.

To add to the festivities, this was Carolyn’s birthday and as a surprise, there was a cake complete with candles which gave away her best kept secret!  After a few teary moments, Carolyn recovered sufficiently to cut the cake and helped to distribute slices to the visitors – it was quite delicious.

As the day wore on the heat tested us out – the combination of rain and high temperatures made for very high humidity.  We are still being told however that it has not been hot yet!

Around 3.30 pm it was time to move from our comfortable lodging at Vernon’s property and drive into the fairgrounds at Perryville in preparation for the dinner in the evening and their big event – the 7th Annual Tractor Adventure of the River Hills Antique Tractor Club – in the morning.  Some short speeches followed after the chicken dinner including well prepared three minute talks on various farm related subjects by members of the FFA (the Future Farmers of America) for which they are to be commended. Fundraising over the weekend will go towards a purpose designed building for the youngsters. Ron was invited to say a few words about our visit and re-iterated our thanks for the warm hospitality shown to us everywhere we have travelled.  An auction followed, also helping to raise funds

Our thanks for Vernon for his kindness over our three night stay.  Also appreciation to Pete Firmin for his long journey – we have wonderful memories of the Louisiana Cook-out and he is one person we will definitely not forget any time soon.  He was declared an ‘Honorary Aussie’ – we could do with some of that cooking expertise!

Day 29:  July 25  MISSOURI – ILLINOIS

This was the day the local tractor enthusiasts at Perryville have looked forward to – The 7th Annual Tractor Adventure run by the River Hills Antique Tractor Club.  The day started out wet, but the sun shone spasmodically and nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the participants.  The three Chamberlains took part in the opening laps before making our departure for Greenville.  Vernon guided us for about the first 50 miles, showing us some local sights including the covered bridge on Mary’s River at   Chester. Then it was time to make our farewells – it is always sad to leave friends, whether old or new.

The trip to our next destination was not long and we arrived at the American Farm Heritage Museum at Greenvile mid afternoon to find their Farm Heritage Days Event in full swing and many people anxious to have a look at the Aussie tractors they had heard so much about.  Our visit to this particular event was to honour a promise made at the Penfield Field Days to Sherry Schaefer, Editor of the Heritage Iron Magazine.  Really, it was in response to her promise to offer us Roast Lamb with all the trimmings if we would come – how could we refuse?  Sherry’s sister Debbie seemed to be responsible for most of the menu and what a grand array of lamb dishes were on offer – roast, braised, BBB chops, patties and even lamb and pork sausages.  Add to these wonderful offerings were many salads and desserts, and again we felt very honoured to join with Sherry’s family and a gathering of friends.

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