Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

Collecting smaller machines is in style at the Pawnee Steam and Gas Engine Show

PAWNEE, Okla. -- The history of machines on the farm started with steam then graduated to gas-powered.

The Pawnee Steam and Gas Engine Show has lots of those to look at, but the fastest growing segment of the show, only 4 years old, concerns the miniature versions of these giants.

They're called garden tractors and guys like Bob Lynch and Les Currie can't collect enough of them.

"The heyday of the garden tractors," says Currie, "kind of coincides with the muscle car era."

Lynch points out, "I've got a 1975 CASE. These two are '77's. All three of them came out of a scrap yard."

The earliest garden tractors go back almost as far as their big brothers.

Some were just replicas, but as farm kids moved closer to the city after World War II, their smaller lots required smaller machines.

That's where the garden tractor came in.

"It's a one cylinder, air-cooled, Kohler gas engine," describes Lynch as he lifts the hood on one tractor.

"It can run a pump or a generator," says Currie. "They have hydraulic lifts and hydraulic drives."

Even a few years back the steam engine grease monkeys and big gas engine restoration guys kind of look down on the garden tractor collectors.

"But that's changed over the years," smiles Lynch.

When they came to the show four years ago there were only seventeen on display.

This year there might be ten times that."

Currie says, "Every year we get something new, something we haven't seen yet."

These days the garden tractors and the steam behemoths go together like stone ground corn, mixed together in the great sifter definition of antique machinery.

You might have a riding mower in your shed but you can't call it a garden tractor unless it does other jobs.

The nice thing about these machines is you can still find them around.

They're easy to work on and to take to the show.

For the people who have them they're even good for transportation on the show grounds themselves.

The Pawnee Steam and Gas Engine Show runs May 3rd and 4th, 2019.

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