Old, Strong, and Fast

fpotp01Although I saw no single piece of equipment that possessed all three attributes, over the last couple of days I saw a lot of old stuff, strong stuff and fast stuff. The old stuff was primarily at the Greenville Farm Power of the Past 15th Annual Reunion with the strong stuff showing off at the day ending truck and tractor pull. That was Friday. The fast stuff blew by on Saturday at the East Coast Timing Association‘s event in Wilmington, Ohio.

A recent post told of my meeting up with an old friend after two score and seven years. That friend, Terry Wolfe, collects and restores Wheel Horse tractors and had several on display at the Greenville event. Despite my good intentions, I never did get a proper photo of the display. The shot at the top of the article, taken while the two of us, along with Terry’s brother Joe, sat and talked, is the best I can do.

fpotp02fpotp03fpotp04I had timed my arrival to take in a scheduled threshing demonstration. This is not something I haven’t seen before but it had been quite awhile and I generally enjoy seeing older equipment of any kind being used as intended. Before combined harvesters became common, wagon loads of freshly mowed grain stalks would be brought to a stationary thresher where the actual grain would be separated from the straw. As we walked toward the demonstration, Terry told me that this was where the term “straw boss” came from. The primary boss concerned himself with the machine and the grain while an assistant would head up a crew to deal with the accumulating straw. Terry also told me of the tradition of the straw boss tossing his (usually straw) hat into the thresher at the end of a job. Sometimes that hat made it through more or less intact. Sometimes not. The tradition is upheld here. There is no need for an actual “boss of the straw” during the demonstrations but the term is used, a bit incorrectly but quite respectfully, to refer to the fellow who would be the “big boss” in the field. Come Sunday, when the last demo of the year is over, a hat (Lester’s, I think) will go into the big machine.

fpotp07fpotp06fpotp05There is no shortage of big equipment on the Darke County Fairgrounds but Terry and I sort of concentrated on the smaller stuff during our walkabout. I’ve always been intrigued by “hit-and-miss” gasoline engines and the variety of mechanisms creative minds applied to to control their speed. A local connection is worth some extra points so I naturally liked the nicely restored Greenville built 1906 Wogaman in the first picture. Terry, who is under that red hat in the second picture, has exhibited here for several years but this year the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America is holding their Ohio regional show in conjunction with Greenville Farm Power of the Past and there are even more of the smaller tractors than usual. Maybe the item in the last picture doesn’t quite fit the normal definition of “power” but I had never seen anything like it and just had to include it. A sign identified it as a MantaMower and a web search turned up the information that it was patented in 1923 and manufactured (in Grand Rapids, MI) until about 1962. There is no question of its being light and safe and I don’t doubt it was rather effective as long as you didn’t let the grass grow just a tad too tall.

fpotp08fpotp09fpotp10Here we have the strong stuff. The Darke County Tractor Pullers Association is a pretty big organization and this was one of their events. I don’t know enough about it to describe things much beyond saying there were some really big tractors dragging a bunch of weight for a pretty good distance.

fpotp12fpotp11The previously pictured tractors were clearly not stock but I do believe they were powered by engines that began their life in a tractor. These are from a class powered by transplanted and modified V8s. The announcer referred to them as “hot rods” although I have no idea whether that’s an official designation or not.

fpotp13fpotp14Trucks followed the tractors with more classes as well as more total entries. I think we made it to the beginning of the final class but left well ahead of the final pull. If you don’t count the clutches that were sacrificed getting off the line, there was very little equipment damage. Only one tractor had needed a tow and the dragging drive-shaft on the blue Ford was the only failure we witnessed among the trucks. Opportunities remained, however.

ecta_om01Calling it the “Ohio Mile”, the East Coast Timing Association holds several events each year on the former DHL facility now known as Wilmington Air Park. Speed runs take place on the runway in the background while the foreground pavement is the return lane as well as being used by spectators and other traffic.

ecta_om02ecta_om03ecta_om04We parked then walked to the starting line where a wild variety of vehicles, in no particular order, awaited their turn. It took us awhile to figure it out but we eventually realized that entrants were not timed through the mile but were clocked at its end. There is no need for jackrabbit starts or even super quick acceleration.

ecta_om07ecta_om06ecta_om05After watching a few fairly unexciting starts, we set out for the other end of the track. On the way, we paused at one of the field’s more unusual vehicles. It’s a 1951 Crosley Super Sport whose owner believes will go 110 MPH. Whether it did that today is unknown. In fact, I didn’t realize we had seen the car on course until I was home and looked at my pictures. I’ll update this when results of this meet are posted but, for now, the only performance information I have is the 56.9548 MPH it turned in during the May meet. The website promoted on the car contains little information about the car but does include a video that, along with a certain amount of “Jesus is my mechanic” flavoring, has some pictures of the car being built.

ADDENDUM 27-Aug-2014: The Run Log posted by the ECTA shows that the Crosley managed a run of 97.6987 MPH. Not quite the targeted 110 but getting closer.

ecta_om08ecta_om09ecta_om10One reason that we don’t know how the Crosley did today is that there is nothing like a scoreboard or other visual indication of speeds or anything else. Nor is there any PA in the normal sense. There is a low powered FM radio broadcast which, had we brought a pocket radio or chose to sit in the car, would have kept us informed. As it was, we picked up the occasional scrap of information only when we passed an appropriately tuned radio.

ecta_om12ecta_om11This is pure conjecture but my guess is that about one-third of ECTA  members would like more spectators to help with expenses and another third want more spectators to add some legitimacy and prestige to what they are doing. To the remaining third, spectators are probably a real aggravation. When we did hear the announcer, it was interesting and definitely added to the enjoyment. A signboard flashing a car’s speed might help but I think a few radios hanging on poles would help more and probably cost less.

Wilmington’s Denver and Murphy

dandm1I live about thirty miles from Wilmington, Ohio. It’s where my daughter lives as do some very close friends. The nearness of my own bed means there’s hardly ever a reason for me to spend the night there and the willingness of friends and family to put me up means there’s really no need to resort to commercial lodging in any case. In fact, when I first mentioned I that intended to spend a night at the General Denver Hotel, I was met with incredulity. Why would anyone, I was asked, want to stay in that old place when they could stay in a nice warm no-cost bed just a few blocks away? Fortunately, they know me well enough that there wasn’t a big fight when I explained that I wanted to stay there precisely because it was such an “old place”. I did realize, however, that the warmness of the available bed was stressed because my friend’s parents had once nearly frozen while staying at the GDH and that the temperature of my room would be a hot topic, so to speak.

dandm2I’ve mentioned the General Denver in this blog before. It’s where I’ve eaten, in addition to several other meals, my last four Thanksgiving dinners. I wrote of the one in 2011. It was built in 1928 by Matthew Denver who named it for his father, James Denver. James was born in Virginia and seems to have dropped off his parents, and eventually his own offspring, in Wilmington while he went out west to became the Governor of the Kansas Territory, a Civil War General, and enough other high profile things to warrant having the city of Denver, Colorado, named after him.

dandm4dandm3The General Denver Hotel was certainly a high toned place when it opened but it wasn’t alone. The ten year old Murphy Theater stood across the street and the nine year old courthouse was barely a block away. The courthouse and theater had cost $300,000 and $250,000 respectively. It was a pretty classy neighborhood and still is. All three buildings remain in use today. In fact, it was an event at the Murphy that allowed me to finally justify a night at the Denver on Saturday. Lisa Biales, who I’ve also mentioned in this blog, performed there as a New Lyceum Circuit artist.

The guy who the Murphy’s named after was a pretty high profile fellow too but he built the theater himself rather than waiting for the next generation to do it. Charles Murphy was born in Wilmington. He worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer and Times-Star newspapers and the New York Giants baseball team before becoming a team owner himself. The Chicago Cubs were his from 1906 through 1913. The Cubs have won exactly two World Series in their long history. Both — 1907 and 1908 — were on Murphy’s watch.

dandm5dandm6Matt and Jim and Chuck are still in town. I stopped by Sugar Grove Cemetery to see them before checking in to the hotel. There are large family markers — the Denvers have a truly impressive Washington Monument style obelisk — surrounded by smaller individual ones. Finding them took some luck in addition to the FindAGrave clues but I could now be a guide if the need ever arises.

dandm9dandm8dandm7Checking into the General Denver involved signing a real register. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve never signed one before but I certainly can’t remember ever doing it. My friend, John, met me in the bar and, although I did eat dinner there and had good intentions, lively conversation made me forget to take a picture. I did get a picture of breakfast. I had the Denver Bake which is simply a casserole version of a Denver omelet. It seemed super appropriate to eat, as I Tweeted at the time, a Denver omelet in the hotel named for the man that the city that the omelet was named after was named after. Both meals were good and the from-the-menu breakfast is included with the room. That elevator is the original with manual controls that must be operated by a trained professional (i.e., essentially any member of the hotel staff). I took a ride before I left and found it very smooth. Like most hotels more than a few years old, the The General Denver is reportedly haunted and I’ve mentioned the heating problems of the past. I saw neither ghosts nor frost during my stay and thought my room rather comfortable.

dandm10The bartender had suggested that, if the concert audience was small enough, it might be placed entirely on stage as had been recently done at another show. I didn’t give it much thought and John and I walked across the street as show time neared with me thinking we would simply take our reserved seats. The bartender’s prediction had indeed come true so our last minute arrival put us in the last rather than the first row. That was hardly a problem, though, as the last row on the stage put us at least as close to Lisa and violinist Doug Hamilton as the front row on the floor would have and the setting was clearly much more intimate. Lisa was just getting over a cold she had been fighting for several days but you would not have known that from her voice which was spot on. I think this was probably the first time I’ve seen just the two of them perform which may explain why Doug sang a bit more than I’m used to. Nice addition. Of course, both handled their instruments masterfully and the duo delivered two great sounding sets separated by a short break. Anyone with even slightly sharp eyes may have noticed that Lisa Biales is not listed on the marquee in my picture of the theater. That’s because I didn’t get around to taking the picture until Sunday morning after the sign had been changed. However, her name can be seen on an enlarged section of the photo at the beginning of this article.


General Denver Thanksgiving BuffetThere’s no doubt that Thanksgiving and road trips go together. One of the most wonderful trips in the world is a drive home for a meal with family. As a kid, I remember riding in the backseat as we traveled to my grandparents for the big day. The  distance wasn’t much but the presence of seldom seen aunts, uncles, and cousins made it an exciting outing. After moving to Cincinnati, I returned to my grandparents’ Darke County home several times for Thanksgiving. The distance was now greater and so were the odds that I hadn’t seen those aunts, uncles, and cousins since the previous Thanksgiving or Christmas. The excitement, though subdued by the adult me, was still there.

Hosting Thanksgiving sort of skipped a generation in my family. By the time my grandparents passed on, I was married and participating in my wife’s family events and my sister was on her way to a sizable family of her own. She became a Thanksgiving host pretty much without even thinking about it. I even made the trip there a couple of times while my parents joined the group at my sister’s or visited other relatives. My sister’s brood reached seven with six being girls who inherited her mothering and cooking talents. Somewhere along the line, Sis moved into a hostess emeritus role and spends the day stopping by meals hosted by her offspring for their offspring. Her itinerary this year included three different households.

While I was between wives and significant others with cooking skills, I managed to fumble my way through a couple of Thanksgiving meals. All three of my kids moved out almost as soon as they could and I’m thinking those meals might have had something to do with that.

There was never a shortage of invitations to spend the holiday with friends though I think they may have increased just a bit when I went from head of household to sole occupant. Nature abhors a vacuum. Wives and mothers abhor a bachelor. Not abhor in a we-don’t-like-you sort of way but abhor in a we-can-fix-that sort of way. Friends and coworkers who were wives and/or mothers along with the wives and/or mothers of friends and coworkers who were neither wives nor mothers assured me I was more than welcome at their celebration. I like to think I was polite while declining most invitations.

In 2005 I hit upon the idea of a road trip to avoid the drama and trauma of turning down invitations without a note from my doctor. I suspect I was partially driven by the desire for a break from a heavy work schedule but the whole world seemed simpler once I could honestly tell people I’d be out of town for Thanksgiving. I hit the road early on Thanksgiving day and had pulled pork for dinner in Nashville. I repeated the escape in 2006 by going to Bryson City, North Carolina. This was also the first year I went on the lam for Christmas. I returned to Nashville for Thanksgiving 2007 then drove the Dixie Highway to Asheville, North Carolina, in 2008.

Things changed in 2009. I retired in the middle of November, drove to Illinois a week later, and found myself in the unusual position of driving toward home as Thanksgiving approached. The Nawrockis, close friends who I had actually enjoyed a few past Thanksgivings with, had some changes, too. Their two daughters had moved out and the idea of a big at home feast was not as attractive as it once was. I’m not entirely certain that ’09 was the Nawrockis’ first time at the buffet in the old hotel but I believe it was. In any case, it was my first. For the unemployed, the need to wring pleasure from a four day weekend doesn’t exist. In fact, four day weekends don’t exist and you have to watch carefully to pick out weekends at all. Though I continue to scurry out of town for Christmas, Thanksgivings since 2009 have found me home and at the buffet. My daughter and son-in-law live nearby and they attend too so I even have some real family there.

General Denver HotelThe old hotel I mentioned is the General Denver in Wilmington, Ohio. If it wasn’t for that city in Colorado, the hotel might be the best known namesake of a fellow who left Wilmington to become, among other things, a California Representative to the US Congress, the US Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and Governor of the Kansas Territory. The hotel is named after James W Denver. His son, Matthew R Denver headed up the group that built the first-class four-story hotel in 1928.

General Denver HotelMark and Molly Dullea own the place now and live on the top floor. It has an abundance of old time charm which makes it the perfect place for Thanksgiving dinner and the buffet table is filled with all the appropriate goodies. For motherly cooks responsible for feeding a family every day, orchestrating a holiday dinner might be no big deal. For empty nesters and others who don’t feed even a small flock on a regular basis, it can be stressful. I’m quite happy leaving the orchestrating to professionals, eating my fill of turkey, stuffing, and pie, and going home thankful that I didn’t impose on anyone.

On Thanksgiving day I posted a link to a video on Facebook. I’d seen the video just a few days earlier on a blog that I follow. Ara Gureghian is an accomplished chef and photographer who sort of dropped out of the main stream about five years ago. His blog, which he has described as “My daily therapy, published weekly or so…”, includes some great photographs, some soul searching, and some travel. Until quite recently, all the travel was on a BMW motorcycle with sidecar. In September, a Honda based ECamper, which will allow some cold weather outings, was added. The video isn’t his. It’s the creation of filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg and Ara just passed it along as I’m doing. I believe that most readers of this blog will like the six minute video. Many may also like the blog.
Gratitude (Louie’s video)
The Oasis of My Soul (Ara’s blog)