The first weekend of June, Max hosts the Western Slope Antique Power and Engine Show and invites friends and neighbors to see his growing collection. Every year he fires up the working sawmill, shingle mill, blacksmith shop and grist mill. Antique cars, trucks and tractors are hauled in by members of the Western Slope Antique Power Association, and at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday the working machines line up for a tractor pull.
The "show" began with an invitation to a few friends and neighbors to see Max's newly refurbished steam engine in action. These days air, rather than steam, powers the antique machinery. "It's a lot of work to fire a boiler and keep an engine running," Max said. Insurance was also a factor; steam is considered a risky prospect by underwriters.
This year, Max is expecting hundreds for the free, two-day show June 6 and 7. The gates at Max's Antique Engine Barn, 20388 F Road, Delta, open at 9 a.m. both days.
There will be concessions, singin', pickin' and playin' by Billie and Friends, and an opportunity to stroll through a general store, museum and hardware store. Take a glimpse inside a shoe cobbler's shop, and check out the merchandise which could be found in an early gas station. At the sawmill, Max and his son Jim will be turning out souvenir shingles "branded" with Max's name and the year of the show.
The world's largest working pencil sharpener will be operated by Loren Rarick of Grand Junction. The plant that drives the belts and pulleys once ran a sawmill on 25 Mesa operated by Carl Smith, the father of Ellen Smith of Paonia.
Smith, a member of the Western Slope Antique Power Association, takes great pride in watching the machine gather steam.
Ellen says a visit to Max's is like a trip back in time. "It's like going back to what I grew up with on the farm. Every year I marvel at something Max has added," she said.
The latest addition to the neatly laid out complex is "Max's Hardware," in which you'll find everything from Max's spark plug collection to tabletop steam engines, a couple of which were built by amateur machinists. They'll all be operating during the antique power and engine show.
Insulators, tools, hand plows, utensils and more are neatly displayed in Max's Hardware. Max spends the winter cleaning, organizing, painting and polishing the newest additions to his collection. Everything is carefully categorized and attractively displayed. Although he claims his memory has never been very good, he can cite the source of just about every fruit label, shotgun and tool in his vast collection. Some items have been in his possession since he was a young boy growing up in Paonia.
At auctions he's picked up some items whose purpose is a mystery. One was a giant wooden clothespin-type device which someone finally told him was used for pulling clothing out of big wash tubs, back in the days when laundry was done by hand.
"There are several things in here I'm not sure about. But sooner or later, someone will come along and tell you what it is."
It's particularly challenging when something comes into his possession with parts missing. After cleaning those items up, he studies them from all angles trying to determine how they were once used. Once he's solved the puzzle, he fabricates the missing components and the piece of machinery is again functional. There's not much Max can't built in his shop, the heart of his operation. The rectangular structure once served as a dog kennel. Now it's filled with a milling machine, drill press and lathes, as well as a full complement of hand tools, belts, bolts, hoses, and lubricants.
"I've definitely got to put it back where it belongs, or I can't find it," he said.
Inside and out are massive pieces of machinery which had to be disassembled, carefully loaded onto a trailer, transported to Max's place, and reassembled. In a couple of cases, the outbuilding was constructed around the piece of machinery because that was easier than trying to shift a piece of equipment weighing several thousand pounds.
In October, Max retired from Delta County Road & Bridge Department #4, which operates the gravel crusher. He previously worked at a mining supply company in Gunnison and for 12 years was employed by Beavers Construction in Hotchkiss. Retirement has taken a little adjustment, but not because Max has a shortage of projects. "Around here, there's plenty to do. If I live to be a 100 and can work as good as I can today, I ain't gonna get ‘em done. It's just a matter of priority."
In previous years, he's taken two weeks' vacation to get ready for the show. Now Max is on "permanent vacation," but his son Jim follows in his footsteps, taking a break as maintenance supervisor at West Elk Mine. Someday, Jim will take over the one-of-a-kind "museum" from his mom and dad.
While Max is always willing to take the time to show visitors through his museum, the antique power and engine show is the best opportunity to see how the machinery really works. The grist mill will be turning kernels of corn into meal, a blacksmith will be forging iron in the shop, and the sawmill will thrumming with action as wood is cut, planed and split with the powerful tools of yesteryear. "It's wonderful to see all of those things working," said Ellen Smith.blog comments powered by Disqus