Plowing the way

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— On the afternoon of April 22, 2007, members of the Yampa Valley Antique Power Club, families and friends gathered at an alfalfa field - which adjoined a dryland wheat stubble field - in the Breeze Basin area.

Some brought their antique tractors. Others brought antique plows.

It was the first Plow Day. The idea for the event came from Wesley Counts and other club members. Counts said the purpose of the event was to "plow like we used to farm in the '40s and '50s."

The stubble field, owned by Blaine Tucker, is farmed by the Counts family. Wesley Counts explained that dryland wheat ground is rotated each year. This particular field would be plowed and worked during the summer. The plowing on April 22 was the first farm application for the year. Twelve acres of the field would be plowed that day with antique machinery.

Counts said there were 15 or more tractors at the plowing and eight to 10 plows. There were more tractors than plows, so the drivers traded off.

Most of the plows were on steel wheels, but some were on rubber tires. The plows ranged from one to five bottom, compared to today's eight to 12 bottom.

The tractors ranged from 18 to 40 or 45 horsepower. Among them were various models of John Deere, Farmall, Moline, Oliver and a Fordson Dexta. No model was newer than 1961.

The drivers worked until evening. Counts said the soil really was too wet, but they plowed all 12 acres.

"It was a pretty good afternoon's work for the old machinery," Counts said. He said it would be about one hour's work for modern machinery.

Smokey Werner, who was president of the Antique Power Club for four years, said the tractors are a return to the past.

"The tractors bring back lots of memories," he said. "It's fun to get the old tractors out, to reminisce, and to do things with them."

Plow Day 2008 still is being planned, but it will be held in the same area, possibly in June.

Some club members have several tractors and have restored them, but a person does not have to own a tractor to belong to the club. Some members have other antique equipment, thus the "Antique Power Club" name.

MaryBea Neu, Yampa Valley Antique Power Club secretary, said Mike Fredrickson owned an antique steam engine. At one of the club's events, he hooked it up to an ice cream machine so it would turn the crank, and everyone had ice cream.

Plow Day is just one of several events for club members. They also drive in parades, and one year, they had a Poker Run.

During the Poker Run, the tractor drivers started at one location and drove a loop. At designated locations, they picked up cards. At the end of the run, each driver put the cards together to see who had the best hand.

Perhaps the biggest events for the club are the tractor pulls. Neu said that, in past years, club members participated in tractor pulls at county fairs. However, the club members recently voted to quit doing fair pulls.

The club now has a permanent track set up at the Wyman Living History Museum and plans to eventually put up bleachers and a shed for announcing and storage.

Tractor pulls for this year have been planned during Muzzle Loading Rendezvous activities in June and during Grande Olde West Days on May 31 and June 1 and 2. Others are in the planning stages.

The Yampa Valley Antique Power Club got its start in 1996. The first officers were president Frederickson, vice president Lou Wyman and secretary/treasurer Betty Frederickson.

Present officers are president Gary Fultz, vice president Jim Simos, treasurer Janette Rollins and secretary MaryBea Neu.

The club's dinner meetings take place the third Wednesday of each month. The meeting's hosts decide the location.

In summer, potluck dinner meetings take place at members' homes.

The dues are $20 a year, which covers insurance through the Western Antique Power and Pullers Association. Yampa Valley Antique Power Club has a membership of 60 to 65, but Neu said some of the members live elsewhere, such as Encampment, Wyo., Delta and Grand Junction.

That's because when the local club hosts a tractor pull, visitors join the organization for insurance coverage.

"Club members like to see the old machinery continue to be used," Neu said.

"There's camaraderie. It's not cutthroat competition. People get together and help one another out."

"There are always people interested in old tractors," Werner said. "We get to talk about things we used to do with the tractors when we were younger.

Werner started driving a tractor when he was a kid.

Neu summed up owning antique equipment and participating in related events:

"It's pretty addictive," she said.

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