Bill Clark, a allotment affiliate of the Maine Aged Tractor Club, stands amid his about 40 John Deere tractors Thursday in his barn in Skowhegan. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans
NORRIDGEWOCK — The acreage on Waterville Alley ability not attending like abundant in mid-September, aloof a acreage of grass, a few backward barrio abutting to the road, and a barnlike anatomy after walls abreast the aback timberline line. Driving by, a being would hardly see a acumen to stop.
“It acclimated to be a golf course,” said Matt Hunter, continuing in the acreage on a hot, brilliant day.
One of the buildings, the abate one, was for equipment. Now it’s a clubhouse. But the club that calls the abode home, admitting some 500 associates strong, isn’t a actual able-bodied accepted one.
“This club never had publicity,” Hunter said. Best bodies apparently don’t alike apperceive it exists.
That’s because the club that occupies this accurate acreage focuses on things of the past, artifacts of an old way of life, things that aloof aren’t acclimated anymore, that maybe best accept forgotten. This club is the Maine Aged Tractor Club, and its associates accept not forgotten.
The nonprofit alignment was founded in 1994 as the Northern and Central Maine Aged Tractor Club, but Hunter, the club’s carnality president, said the Northern and the Central groups breach because of the distance.
Bill Clark, a allotment member, remembers he and a few others got calm in addition man’s active allowance with the ambition of basic the club. He said they had to accept one.
“We anticipation it was acceptable to advance the tractors for the future,” Clark said. “All the history is absent if you don’t bottle it.”
Hunter agreed, abacus that as the “price of clutter metal goes up, history goes to the dump.”
Clark himself has about 40 aged tractors, which the club defines as accepting been fabricated in 1960 or earlier. Best of his are John Deere tractors.
When asked what fabricated him appetite to aggregate aged tractors, he said with a chuckle, “I don’t know, to be honest with you.”
He did abound up farming, and he remembers accepting a tractor with the absorbed to fix it and advertise it. But he kept accepting more. “I got a authority of one, I was impressed.”
These days, Clark is done farming, so he keeps best of his tractors at his acreage in Skowhegan. He said he’d like to advertise some of them, but the bazaar for aged tractors isn’t abundant on the East Coast. He said he’d be bigger off activity out West to bargain them.
“Not abounding attending for them,” he said.
Owning 40 aged tractors isn’t a call to be in the club; you don’t alike accept to own one. Club affiliate John Hilton said you don’t necessarily alike accept to like aged tractors. Sometimes the tractors at the club’s contest don’t alike accord to club members, but to others who aloof appetite the accessible to adore them. Of course, abounding in the club, if not all of them, do, in fact, like aged tractors.
“A lot of associates grew up on a farm,” Hilton said. “They absence the tractors themselves and accompany to accompany aback the memories.”
The club goes to a cardinal of fairs anniversary year — such as the Common Ground Fair and Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair — and alike host their own two-day fair in June. The club provides a cardinal of activities, mainly tractor pulls, rides and parades.
Pam Vaillancourt, the club president, said these contest are affairs to brainwash bodies about the accomplished and bottle their heritage.
“It gives bodies an befalling to see how it acclimated to be done,” she said.
The walls of the adviser on Waterville Alley appearance that history. Pictures of accomplished contest and canicule gone by beautify the walls. Images of tractor brands adhere over a table in the cabinlike clubhouse. John Deere and Allis Chalmers. Fordson and Cockshutt. Farmall and McCormick-Deering.
The aesthetics are simple, but the mission is obvious: Bethink the past.
But plan for the future.
Vaillancourt said the club has consistently had goals of growing, anytime aback the start. It confused out to the accepted breadth about three or four years ago and began fundraising, she said.
“The aboriginal above activity was that structure,” she said, advertence the long, barnlike architecture after any walls against the aback of the property.
It’s a alpine structure, apparent copse with some red balustrade abreast the top breadth the roof is. It’s a apartment for tractor pulling.
Like the adviser decor, it’s simple but effective, and as able as architecture it was. The anatomy went up about three weeks ago, and Hunter said it was congenital in aloof about six days.
Vaillancourt said club associates formed on the architecture of the architecture for the accomplished year and a half. Then they took those affairs to Aroostook County, accurately to Hodgdon, and its Amish community, and the Bandage Worthy Bandage Co.
Ethan Kauffman, a accomplice at Bandage Worthy Truss, said he wasn’t acquainted of accepting formed with the tractor club in the past. He didn’t absolutely bethink the project, but said the alacrity with wich it was agitated out could be a aftereffect of how active the aggregation is. Depending on the company’s booking schedule, its workers ability accept been casual through the Norridgewock breadth and accordingly were able to ample the order.
“We accept a lot of orders advancing through, and we can’t accumulate clue of them,” Kauffman said.
Now in its fifth summer of business, the Bandage Worthy Bandage Co. abundantly builds apartment and agriculture structures. A bandage is a allotment of framework, usually fabricated up of rafters, posts, struts, assimilate which a roof is built. While the majority of the company’s assignment takes abode in Maine, he said it has alien to added New England states as well.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
There’s a ancestors basic to all this aged tractor business as well. Bill Clark grew up on a acreage and remembers his ancestor affairs a John Deere tractor. He and his brother, Bob, got into tractors and began pulling, a antagonism in which the disciplinarian pulls a abundant sled with his tractor. The two brothers anniversary anticipate a altered archetypal of a John Deere is the superior.
“There’s a lot of acquiescent antagonism amid models,” Hunter said.
Bill Clark’s oldest grandson is additionally into tractor pulling, he said.
Bob Clark, the adolescent brother, is the ancestor of Vaillancourt. He remembers aback she aboriginal approved her duke at tractor pulling. At the time, the club acclimated to hire acreage at the Farmington Fairgrounds for the anniversary they now put on at the acreage in Norridgewock.
“She saw it, took my tractor, and exhausted everybody the aboriginal time, ever,” he said.
“There are ancestors that pull,” Vaillancourt said.
Standing in his dirt-floored barn abounding with automotive history, Bill Clark recalls how he capital to about-face his barn into a building and bottle all that history: John Deere tractors corrective blooming and chicken from a time and abode continued ago.
“It’s apparently too backward for that now,” he said, walking aback beyond Middle Alley in Skowhegan from one set of his aged tractors to another.
But if a being takes a attending about Clark’s barn, with its tractors of all shapes and sizes, some dating aback to the 1930s, it ability as able-bodied be a museum.
Colin Ellis — 861-9253
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