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Santa Fe Trail Center’s Tired Iron Show a chance to marvel at machines of yesteryear
Members of the Nolte family drive a 1948 John Deere B and a 1958 John Deere 420 owned by Don and Donna Nolte in the Parade of Power Saturday morning at the Santa Fe Trail Tired Iron Show in Larned. Overhead, a crop duster whizzed by. - photo by Veronica Coons

LARNED — Taking a drive in the country, it’s not uncommon to see stately weathered barns, and wonder what treasures might be inside. Saturday, visitors to the 18th Annual Santa Fe Trail Tired Iron Show had the opportunity to satisfy their curiosity as they strolled past antique tractors and machines lovingly restored that once were the everyday tools of hardworking farmers and ranchers. 

The machines that made it possible for the American farmer to ramp up production of food to feed a hungry world seemed remarkably simple compared to the computer driven hardware common in today’s digital age. Still, yesterday and today existed peacefully as exhibitors displayed and demonstrated their machines, and visitors photographed and shot videos from their cell phones to share on social media. 

Saturday morning’s Parade of Power featured a lineup of antique tractors and farm machinery, passenger and military vehicles. Following the parade, attention turned to a full-size steam engine driven sawmill. After the engine was maneuvered into place, belts looped, and blades tightened, a crew of operators began demonstrating its action by sawing thick planks of cedar that will later be used to build a section of fence at the Santa Fe Trail Center. The scents cut wood and steam engine smoke mingled on the air.

These children seemed more interested in running their hands through the corn than finding the coins scattered in the pile Saturday morning. - photo by Veronica Coons

Nearby, kids hurried to stock tank filled with corn, excited to take their turn scrambling for coins. Others visited the pumpkin patch, played corn-hole, and visited rope maker Dean Gipe, Salina, who demonstrated his antique rope making machines. He prompted them to pick colors from the numerous rolls of nylon twine he had in buckets by the machine. Then, he grabbed ends, ran them through loops, and showed how to turn the handle as he guided a notched paddle along the length as the strands twisted. Together, they created a length of rope together in less than a minute. Best of all, the children could keep their length of rope at no charge. 

Ropemaker Dean Gipe shared the secrets of his craft with a young visitor at the Tired Iron Show Saturday morning. - photo by Veronica Coons

Over at the school house, historian and actor Marla Matkin, portrayed a turn-of-the-century school teacher. Matkin is from Northwest Kansas, and has recently appeared in Larned for the recent Santa Fe Trail Association Rendezvous and last week’s candlelight tour at Fort Larned National Historic Sight. For one family that visited, she passed out kazoos and “taught” the kind of music class that could have been taught in a one room schoolhouse decades ago. After a brief explanation, she led them in a round of “Old Susanna.” 


Historical reenactor Marla Matkin teaches a class of students how to play the kazoo. - photo by Veronica Coons

Strolling the grounds, exhibitors displayed scale model steam engines and implements, unique sculptures made from old metal hand tools welded together, and other odds and ends. And some simply offered for sale some of those simple barn-find tools and treasures small enough to carry off as mementos.