A host of antique tractor enthusiasts from the area, like Brad Krenke, who chugs 10 to 12 miles an hour in the 1955 Massey-Harris 44 special he learned to drive as a small boy when he had to use both hands to move the clutch, were on the roads in June.
The annual Tractor Relay Across Nebraska at the beginning of June started in Gothenberg, traveled to Lexington and North Platte, and eventually went to Juniata after stops at Fort McPherson Cemetery and Nebraska’s largest electric-generating facility to 600,000 residents, Gerald Gentleman Station in Sutherland.
“I like seeing all the different tractors. Some guys have done a really nice job of fixing them up, and there are stories behind the tractors. Mine was my dad’s tractor and it’s pretty special to me,” Krenke said. “Also, it’s just the people that come back every year.” Krenke’s dad Wayne, Glenn Kirchhoff, Roger Bohling and son Dan, Rod Watson, Marv Koester, Mike Hoops and Dave Wenske are some of the regulars.
The Tractor Relay raises funds for its drives. This year’s jaunt was for the American Legion, Operation Comfort Warriors and Gifts for Yanks.
By the near end of June, the group was back on the road for the All Nebraska Tractor Drive.
“The tractors have to be at least 25 years old,” Krenke said.
Drivers gathered in Red Cloud to start this year’s ride that went along the Republican River to Riverton and a little north to Russell Falls, a small feature on private pasture.
“Rod Watson used to go there all the time when he was a kid. He was on the drive, too,” Krenke said. They had lunch at the falls.
On the trip, the group also explored the town of Cowles, pronounced “coals,” platted in 1878 because of the railroad and where Denton True, better known as Cy Young, pitched some of his first games.
Cowles was also home to mini-resort Malick Park with a pool, dance hall, horseshoe pit and other amenities for weekend recreation seekers, according to the historical record.
The pool was the only one in Webster County and used for ice skating in the winter. Malick Park was forced to close in the early 1930’s due to the Great Depression. It had been open just six years.
“It’s everybody’s tractor drive. I’m just reporting it,” Krenke said.
Wife Crystal calls him a sprinkler head because while driving, Krenke is always looking to the right or left to see everything.
“We have a lot of fun with it,” he said.
Krenke and the others will be chugging the back-roads Aug. 10 for the annual tractor drive organized by Glenn Kirchhoff and Roger Bohling during the Thayer County Fair.