Share story

Sure, farming is labor-intensive, but it also takes love — of land, of the food produced, of machinery used and, sometimes, of new relationships.

Those connections were celebrated at the 33rd Annual Threshing Bee and Antique Equipment Show in Ellensburg. Bob Paul, president of the Early Iron Club, says it’s a “love of a way of life, working together, camaraderie.”

Jeremy Johnson’s granddad’s 1937 John Deere thresher, bought by the club, still separates the wheat from the chaff.

Thirty-six bushels were produced from two wagon loads of “very clean wheat” on the first day of the event, says Paul.

Fourth-generation farmer Richard Bailes, who grows timothy hay, says, “a tractor will last a lifetime, a computer two to three years and you need a 12-year-old to fix it.”

Bailes says tractors revolutionized farming. “We would not have the food we have today were it not for them.”

Willie Miller and his son, Houston, brought two matching 1955 Case 400 diesel-powered tractors to the Bee. They’re from Royal City in the Columbia Basin. The machines look almost new.

Willie’s dad, Willis, bought the first one new in Yakima and drove it home.


Some of the roads were not yet paved and the interstate did not exist. At 15 mph, that was an all-day affair. Willis once walked atop the engine cover, leaving footprint indentations. They’re still there and remind Willie of his late father every time he sees the slight denting.

The tractors have sequential serial numbers, and just about everything matches, including the paint drips.

Both still are used to work the land.

Gus Smith, of Moses Lake, had three John Deere tractors, a ’44, a ’53 and a ’57.

Divorced and looking for a new relationship a few years back, Smith was headed to a second date with a woman he met online.

There were two John Deere tractors parked in the driveway.

Smith thought, “Yep, this is a gal for me.”

They’ve now been married four years, and he has five John Deeres.