'Plow Days' celebrates rural heritage
By Hank Lohmeyer
Published Wednesday, March 30, 2016 9:33 am
Photo by Hank Lohmeyer Dennis Natal of Paonia, a member of the Thunder Mountain Flywheelers, puts his 1938 Case Model RC to work with the plow. Natal said the tractor is a Paonia native having been put to work there when new.
The Thunder Mountain Flywheelers' "Plow Days" event brought out antique tractor enthusiasts and their favorite machines last Saturday, March 26, at the Steve and Susan Spinden farm on 2100 Road.
The Thunder Mountain Flywheelers are involved with events and activities during the spring, summer, and fall that center around their love for antique tractors. "That's all it takes to be part of the club and to participate in its activities," Steve Spinden said. "People don't even need to have a tractor of their own. They are welcome to come and participate and enjoy."
Fans of the county's rural beginnings and character have been at work the past two years trying to build support for an annual rural heritage festival here. Events similar to Saturday's Plow Days were hosted at Allen King's farm the past two years as a way to familiarize the community with the idea. The Plow Days last Saturday was a follow-on to the past two years' spring events, and Spinden said he hopes they will continue.
"We hope that some others will step up and have Plow Days events at their places, too," he said.
There was some genuine excitement created on Saturday by a four-horse team driven by Matt Miles of Montrose. His two, two-horse teams were hitched abreast and showed visitors how pulling together with expert hands on the reins can put clean, straight furrows on a field in short order.
The horses, working under their custom-fitted 60-pound harnesses and ahead of an Amish designed plow, walked in unison through the field and executed precision pirouettes at the end of each row as they began their pull in the other direction.
Miles said his Percherons were "Amish horses" that had been trained for field work. "They are a working team," Miles said, "and they are used for farming on a regular basis. They put up their own hay," he told the DCI.
The horses, Captain and Cotton standing 18 hands and weighing 2,100 pounds each, and Duke and Doc standing 18-3 weighing in at 2,300 pounds, worked up a sweat before being retired for the day. They stood as gentle as kittens as Miles unharnessed them and put them in their trailer for the ride back home.
The tractor enthusiasts also had a chance to shine up their plowshares making furrows through the Spindens' 5.5 acres of corn stubble.
A high school freshman got his first experience driving a tractor and pulling a plow behind it at last Saturday's gathering.
Carter Smith, a student at Montrose High School, was at the event with his friend and mentor Jerry Hubbard. Smith is in the school's tractor restoration class and Hubbard is an instructor for the program.
Hubbard's John Deere 420, a 1956 model, was right up to the task as the young Smith took it through the Spindens' field, making furrows and learning about all the things an operator has to keep his mind on at once when plowing in a straight line.
Jeff Burnham of Palisade turned over some ground with his Caterpillar D2. It is a 1941 vintage tracked machine that has had a working life in the fruit tree rows of East Orchard East.
Dennis Natal, a resident of the Paonia area, a tractor restorer and the owner of several dozen antique tractors, brought a compact looking Case tractor to the event. It is a 1938 Model RC (for row crop), Natal explained. He noted the tractor had originally been bought and put to work new at Paonia.
Spinden brought two tractors of his own out of the barn for Plow Days. He had a 1953 International Farmall Super M wide-front pulling a fun-to-use #39 International Tumble Bug plow. Spinden also used his 1944 John Deere A for the event.
On display at the Spinden farm was an interesting 1936 John Deere B. At some point in its life it had been converted to a tracked machine. One of the participants at Plow Days noted there was once a company that specialized in wheel-to-tracks conversions for virtually any type of farm tractor. The track-converted Model B on display Saturday was thought to be one of a few of the machines in existence.
Spinden said that some time back an Olathe area farmer used to have a Plow Days at his place every spring. The Thunder Mountain Flywheelers also participate in summer events grouped around tractor pulls at area county fairs and Delta-
rado Days. The group also participates in a tractor ride/drive in the fall, Spinden said.
The morning plowing sessions last weekend had a pause in between. That was when the roast beef brisket, potato salad and other fixings of a real, old-time farmhand noon meal came out and everyone sat down for a good neighbor visit over a hearty lunch.
Spinden said that he has been an enthusiast for antique tractors all of his life. He owns several of them that are in good enough condition for doing field work on his place.
Saturday's Plow Days is the first time the Spindens' have hosted it at their farm, he said. He describes the Thunder Mountain Flywheelers as "a group interested in preserving antique tractors and the rural way of life they supported."
There's not a friendlier or more welcoming bunch of folks around than members of the Thunder Mountain Flywheelers. Spinden and the others are eager to share their excitement and love of the old machines, and also their deep, heart-felt respect for the sturdy and brave Americans who used them to tame a rugged continent and uncover the riches it holds.
Anyone can feel free and welcome to walk up and start a conversation with the Thunder Mountain Flywheelers when you see them at a county fair tractor pull or other event.
Club members are always happy to visit with people interested in their antique tractor passion. Anyone wanting more information about the group, or just looking for information on an older machine from local folks who know a lot about them, can call Spinden at 874-3973, or Dennis Natal at 527-5331.