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Field Days brings history alive

A threshing crew shows what hard work bringing in the crop was. Above, Wilbur Norman explains the process to Jim Crowell. Hay was shoved or forked into a conveyor belt that was moving all day long. It’s on the other side of this tractor. (Sarah Smith/Enterprise)1 / 2
Jim Crowell took a stroll down memory lane, selecting a Farmall M tractor to inspect. “I’ve got one of those things in the yard,” he said. “Only mine’s got a bucket on it.” (Sarah Smith/Enterprise)2 / 2

The shingle mills, threshers and saw mills sputtered into service over the weekend as the 23rd annual Field Days brought yesteryear back to life.  The Park Rapids Antique Tractor & Engine Club members hosted hundreds of people wanting a nostalgic experience, or just curious about how farmers brought in the crops nearly   a century ago.  This year’s featured tractors were manufactured by Minneapolis-Moline, with a 1939 Model R tractor being awarded in a raffle drawing.  The weekend was full of tractor pulls, tractor parades, demonstrations, a petting zoo, a blacksmith shop and a flea market.  Vintage farm implements had their day in the sun – literally – while bands entertained in the pavilion.  

The people mover farm shuttle made circles around the grounds, ferrying guests to various demonstration sites.  “Bees are a problem,” said Mike Gartner, who was operating a saw mill with dad Bob and swatting away pesky stingers.  George and Marlys Peters of Hawley were attending their first Field Days, although they are veterans of bigger shows throughout the Midwest such as the Rollag Steam Threshers Reunion.  “We heard about this last weekend at the Blueberry Festival,” Marlys said.  “Thank God it’s not as hot as it was in Lake George,” George remarked of the previous weekend’s festivities.  A cool breeze kept guests comfortable as they milled about the grounds, watching stationary gas engines putt-putt away.  

“I got one of those in the yard,” said Jim Crowell of the Farmall M tractor on display. “Mine’s got a bucket on it.”  Crowell said he was trying to liquidate his stock after his son passed away. “I’d like $1,500 for it, but I’m negotiable,” he offered.  Wilbur and Earl Norman were operating a stationary thresher and explaining how it worked.  “They’d bring the grain over to the thresher,” Earl said as two healthy teens shoveled grain into a hopper on a conveyor belt.  Wilbur tied his bandanna around his face to keep the grain dust from overcoming him.  Quintin Trumpold, 2, of Duluth, tried out a kids’ tractor several decades older than he was. His little legs struggled to work the pedals, so he hopped off and used his arms to push the tractor forward.  His mom smiled at his ingenuity.

“He’s my little problem solver,” she laughed.  Back at the shingle mill, the Gartner men, who are regulars at Field Days, fired up a tractor to drive the sawmill, churning out shingles and planks of board like clockwork.  The hard work done, it was time to pack up the equipment and go home.