Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

MC Weekly

August 21, 2013

Steam power comes to Hoosier Heritage Festival

Farmer's century-old tractor on display at fairgrounds.

In 1913, Earnest Zimmerman shoveled coal into his newly purchased J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. steam engine tractor, as he made his way up and down fields outside of Logansport, separating wheat in the thresher he towed.One hundred years later, his grandson, Gil Zimmerman of Logansport, continued to carry on his grandfather and father’s legacies by showing the refurbished and devotedly maintained tractor at the Hoosier Heritage Fest in Peru last weekend.Earnest Zimmerman had three steam-powered tractors, but the 1913 Case was the one he decided to have refurbished after using it for 20 years, wanting to eventually exhibit it. He took it into Logansport, which then was at the height of its time as a rail hub and had plenty of places that worked on steam engines.He never got around to showing it, however, before passing away in 1952.Six years after grandson Gil Zimmerman’s birth in 1935, his family moved onto his grandfather’s farmstead, where he still lives today.Gil Zimmerman said his father, Basil Zimmerman, wanted to show the tractor as well, but never got further than moving it out of the mud and into the barn. He passed away in 1964.“It was his wish to see it like this, to see it in shows,” Zimmerman said.Before it became the showpiece it is today, Zimmerman said he remembers playing on it as a kid and finding chickens nesting in the firebox.“I never once dreamed it would be up and running,” he said. “I can look at it and say it’s not a pile of junk anymore. I know my dad would be tickled to death by that, and I’m sure my grandpa would be too.”In 1983, Zimmerman began acting on the same desire his father and grandfather had to have the tractor exhibited in shows. He introduced himself to Frank Miller of Winamac, a man who knew his father and his way around a steam engine. Miller taught Zimmerman how the machine operated while the two began replacing necessary parts.Today, the cast-iron beast is painted in J.I. Case’s colors of red, green-black and includes the company’s logo — two eagles, each resting atop globes flanking a rustically painted bird's-eye image of Racine, Wis.“After a lot of years and some money, it goes like new,” he said.Zimmerman showed it at an exhibition the next spring in Winamac and continued over the next three decades in places like Lafayette, Tipton, Battleground and other cities across the Midwest. He showed it at an exhibition in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, for 20 years in a row.He looks back on when he first began showing it, fulfilling a dream of both his grandfather and father’s, with a sense of nostalgia.“I was so overwhelmed, I’m surprised I didn’t run over anyone,” he said with a laugh.It’s taken all of the 30 years for him to feel completely comfortable around it, he said. He knows each valve, tank, lever and gauge in the tractor, inside and out.“It’s probably the most outstanding achievement of my life,” he said.He said his father and grandfather would likely be surprised if they saw the path the tractor has taken.“My grandfather thought I’d probably never take an interest in these, or my father for that go,” he said.He’s experiencing a similar dilemma with his own descendants, explaining that he would like to pass the tractor down, but first wants to ensure they’re able to come to have the same familiarity with the machine that he has.“I’d like to see it go on,” he said.A lot of it has to do with the changing mentalities of emerging generations, he said. Long gone are the days of the threshing ring, when farmers of a community pulled together to help each other get things done. Never to return are the days when he would work for $2 to $3 a day, feel rich and then spend his free time with his friends jumping off a rope swing into the Eel River.“Farmers all helped each other,” he said. “Everybody worked together. Now, you don’t even know your neighbors. And we’ll never go back; those times are gone.”While those times may be gone, they were remembered Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Hoosier Heritage Fest at the Miami County Fairgrounds in Peru, where Zimmerman’s tractor was on display and performed wheat-threshing demonstrations.The event, hosted by Pioneer Power of North Central Indiana, included more than 200 tractors, buzz saw demonstrations, a tractor pull, quilt show, craft and flea market, children’s activities, live entertainment and other activities.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
MC Weekly
  • RAY MOSCOWITZ: No joke: His life changed forever 50 years ago Do you remember the first major turning point in your life? It’s easy for me: April Fool’s Day, 50 years ago yesterday. At 8:54 a.m. on April 1, 1964, I parked my ’62 Chevy Impala in front of the Sears store on East Clinton Street in Frankfort, Ind.,

    April 2, 2014

  • Our current MC Weekly issue

    October 9, 2013

  • April 2, 2014: Police reports March 24, 1:40 p.m., deputies arrested Cassieopia Rhoads, 19, 200 block of West 6th Street, Peru, on a failure to appear warrant. March 24, 4:40 p.m., police arrested Charmichael Williams Jr., 18, and Lisa M. Hagedorn, 23, both of the 100 block of Ea

    April 2, 2014

  • MCW - 040214 - Brett Bowman column - pic BOWMAN: Grant, Hery back together After a season that saw them go different directions, Justin Grant and Mark Hery have reunited for the 2014 season. In the first event of the season over a month ago at the Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., Grant put the Claxton Race Engines/Hery Mo

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • RAY MOSCOWITZ: Ole Olsen has been a Peru gem for 50 seasons When the final curtain drops on “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which runs April 24-27 and May 2-4, it will close the 50th season for Ole Olsen Theater, a Peru gem that deserves oodles of kudos. The first-ever curtain went up in March 1965, when Ole present

    March 26, 2014

  • Miami County Weekly sports briefs Maconaquah board votes to join TRC BUNKER HILL — The Maconaquah school board voted 5-0 last week in favor of having the Braves join the Three Rivers Conference, beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The Braves join fellow Miami County school Peru in

    March 26, 2014

  • March 26, 2014: Police reports March 17, 3:45 p.m., deputies arrested Jordan A. Cook, 23, 70 block of West 5th Street, Peru, on a probation violation warrant. March 17, 7:05 p.m., state police arrested William B. Stoller, 19, Elkhart, on a charge of possession of marijuana. March

    March 26, 2014

  • Farming exhibit at museum 4 A farming community It was in the 1880s when farming started shifting from old pioneer techniques that relied on hand tools to new-fangled machines like the steel plow, two-row cultivator and thresher. It’s also the time new scientific research recommended a crazy idea

    March 19, 2014 8 Photos

  • RAY MOSCOWITZ: Stepfather was inspiration for Peru trailblazer She remembers seeing him in his uniform and listening to the scanner while he was working. She wished she could be with him. That was when she was 2 or 3 years old. He would let her ride with him on Saturday night. A rush of excitement would shoot t

    March 19, 2014

  • UPDATE: Peru extends school day PERU — Students at Peru Community Schools will be staying at school longer for the next two weeks after the Peru School Board last week approved a one-hour extension to make up for snow cancellations. The one-hour extension started March 12 and will

    March 19, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military Holder: Americans Stand With KC Mourners Obama Greets Wounded Warriors Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.