A really rice festival


antique farm tractor in parade

The 35th Annual Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen, Arkansas, included a parade of finely restored farm tractors. The family-friendly event was well attended by an enthusiastic crowd.

 For 35 years, folks at Hazen, Arkansas have been celebrating a crop that grows well on the Grand Prairie of Arkansas, where they just happen to reside: rice. The Grand Prairie boasts fertile soils, is as flat as a pool table for the most part, and has an underlying clay strata which tends to hold surface moisture in place. If ever there were ideal conditions to cultivate rice, these are it. And cultivate it they do. Since the late 1800s. The good folks at Hazen consider these conditions to be a good foundation for celebration — and celebrate they do at the Grand Prairie Rice Festival. And we are there, so to speak.

Monster motor

fairbanks-morse pump engine

Click on the big engine to see more

Before we go too much further, let us point you to see where this story started at Corndancer dot-com, where you will see a well-restored, giant 92-year-old antique rice well pump engine operating at the festival. You will also meet the gentleman who did the restoration and shows the machine.

Though this neck of the woods was rife with these units at one time, this one is the only one left that we can find. Click here to see seven additional pictures of this unique piece of mechanical history.

Model T Ford sedan

Mason Sickel of Tollville leads the parade in his restored T-model Ford.

The festival is a is an exercise in and a fine example of living history. Eighteen well-restored tractors participated in the parade. Click here to see all 18 tractors. I was originally invited to attend the festival in 2009 by Mason Sickel of Tollville AR. I had photographed his pink 1963 R185 International Harvester tractor and had the good fortune to meet him after the shoot. He showed me some of his antique restored tractors and invited me to the festival. I’m glad I finally made it. (That weekend is when I accompany several of my hoodlum friends on a fishing trip. They fish. I shoot).

antique mecormick-deering rice threshing machine

Seth Skarda of Hazen set up and operated his restored forties-era rice threshing machine and demonstrated its operation. His good friend Mason Sickel is operating the pitchfork to feed the machine.

Seth Skarda’s fully operational forties-era rice threshing machine was a hit. Dozens of onlookers watched the ancient machine shake, rattle and roll as it separated rice from its stalks. The machine has no power source of its own and was driven from a large “flat-belt” running from the power-take off pulley of a 1949 Oliver Model 90 tractor. Click to see 11 pictures from a complete walk-around of the threshing machine operation, including the 1940 International truck full of rice and the Oliver tractor.

Anitque New Holland gasoline power unit

This completely restored New Holland power unit hit the streets in about 1912 according to Bob Sutton, the owner. These units were used wherever one had the need for rotary power. Water pumps, grist mills, and generators were among those uses.

 Not all of the machines on display were large. I found a small 1912 New Holland gasoline power unit with its fly wheel spinning and its cylinder hitting only often enough to keep the machine going. I struck up a conversation with the owner, Bruce Sutton of Mount Ida. About five minutes into the conversation I discovered he originally hailed from McGehee, Arkansas. After further interrogation, he freely admitted that he grew up with my friend and Ouachita Baptist College college classmate Jimmy Dale Peacock, formerly of McGehee. Further, he knew a number of other classmates from that area. Small world.

antique operating grist mill

Alan Sickel smiles as he prepares to hand me one of four bags of freshly ground corn meal. He refused payment from me and any one else who wanted some of his meal.

The antique grist mill above has been in the Sickel family since the 1800s. It is powered by an antique International Harvester gasoline power unit. Click here to see additional pictures of the grist mill.

great horned owl

Great Horned Owl from Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas. The non-profit organization's home is at El Paso, Arkansas.

 Not all of the attractions were mechanical. Notably some were alive, well, and feathered. Rodney Paul and volunteer Kenley Money of Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas brought some of their charges including the Great Horned Owl you see above, a barn owl, a barred owl, and a screech owl. They carried some of the birds with them as they strolled through the festival and explained some of the noble work the organization does. They also made a detailed presentation to an attentive and appreciative audience. Click here to see all nine of our owl pictures.

The good folks at Hazen know how to put on a great event. I give it five big ol’ stars. For history buffs, it’s like a trip to a history candy store. For gearheads, it is near Nirvana. For kids it will be an eye-opener. Do yourself a favor and put this one on your calendar.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

A ’63 pink binder


It’s an R-185

Miss Marci, Mason Sickel's '63 pink International Harvester R185 tractor

Miss Maci, Mason Sickel's ‘63 pink International Harvester R185 tractor.

There are a lot of things one simply does not expect to see: Martians disgorging from a “flying saucer,” a pick up ice hockey game on the White House lawn, and a flying giraffe with zebra stripes. Add to that list a pink 1963 International Harvester R185 tractor parked in a barn in the middle of a soybean field in the Grand Prairie region of Arkansas. Until now. Folks, this is not a computer creation. It’s real.

Corndancer dot com

Corndancer dot com

But there’s more to see in this rural neighborhood including a still-standing one-room school built in 1921. The school has a rich history not only as a center of education, but as a community center and a place where things happened.

See the Idlewild Schoolhouse and some pumpkins on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer cot com. Click here to go there, a very cool thing to do.

The truck wasn’t originally meant to be pink, but …

When I first spotted the truck from a distance, I figured it was red and sorely in need of a paint job. Closer inspection revealed that theory wrong.

The truck now belongs to Mason Sickel of the Tollville, Arkansas community .  It originally belonged to a neighboring farmer who bought it new in 1963. “It was one of the first tractor-trailer rigs put into operation in this area,” Sickel said. “Farmers were using ‘bob-trucks’ (for the uninitiated, a ‘bob-truck,’ in this use environment, is a single axle truck with a flat bed, in the two-ton and up range), to carry their crops to elevators or mills.”

A change of plans

Sickel had coveted his neighbor’s truck for a while, but could never convince him to sell. Then the winds of fortune changed and Mason Sickel got his truck. He had owned it for more than a year when he decided to repaint in in the fire engine red common to IHC trucks of that era. Then he and his wife discovered their child-on-the-way was a little girl. That changed everything. From that moment, he decided he would honor his unborn daughter with a pink truck emblazoned with her name.

"You can hear it coming from a far piece," says one of Mason Sickels associates on his farm.

"You can hear it coming from a far piece," says one of Mason Sickels associates on his farm."The exhaust system is what you see, hooked up to a split manifold." To the non-mechanically inclined, that means there are no pesky mufflers to impede the engine's roar.

A family tradition

Mason is continuing a farming operation originated by his great-grandfather and subsequently carried on by his grandfather and father. He likes to restore old stuff. “I come by it naturally,” Sickel says. “My grandfather was a junk supreme junk collector.” Sickel then told me about one of his storage buildings that was full of stuff. He asked me to follow him to see for myself. I trailed behind his ancient doorless IHC Scout until we arrived at “the place.” He opened the door. I did not know what to expect, but should have suspected, given my experience with the truck. The building was full of pristine condition restored antique farm tractors. John Deere, Farmall, Minneapolis-Moline and Allis-Chalmers to mention a few.

Mason Sickel smiles beside his showroom new antique Farmall tractor. It is restored to perfection and is typical of the Sickel collection.

Mason Sickel smiles beside his showroom new antique Farmall tractor. It is restored to perfection and is typical of the Sickel collection. The tractor is showing a bit of storage dust in this picture, but a quick hosing and wipe down will make it shine like new money.

Mason says he will show several of his tractors and some other restored vehicles and equipment at the 33rd Annual Grand Prairie Rice Festival in Hazen, Arkansas October 24, 2009. The family-oriented event includes a parade and show of antique farm equipment, an inflatable playground for kids, bands and other entertainment. And it’s free. Mark your calendars. I bade Mason farewell and headed into the sunset so to speak. It is indeed refreshing to meet congenial people like Mason. He had never seen or heard tell of me and treated me “like comp’ny.” Thanks Mason.

A couple of weeks later,

I was through the territory again. Heading home, close to England, Arkansas, I encountered a couple of respectable thunderstorms. Thunderstorms fascinate a lot of folks and I am one of those. These put on a good show.

This is storm one, taking shape. Sometimes the clound dipping toward the horizon can form into something more serious, but not this time

This is storm one, taking shape. Sometimes the clound dipping toward the horizon can form into something more serious, but not this time

I followed the storm traveling east to west for several miles until I out ran it. There was another one ahead with a bit more oomph.

A few miles further west, storm one had begun to consolidate. This time a rice field is in the foreground.

A few miles further west, storm one had begun to consolidate. This time a rice field is in the foreground. As fascinating as these storms are, it's a good idea to give them some distance.

I turned south for home and another storm running east to west was bearing down on me. Fortunately, the storm would do nothing worse than pelt the truck with some major league rain drops.

Storm two. We were on a collision course, but a pounding rain was the worst this storm could generate. A rice field is in the foreground.

Storm two. We were on a collision course, but a pounding rain was the worst this storm could generate. A rice field is in the foreground. Just a few minutes after this shot, the truck got a good soaking.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the “Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

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