Old Time Farm Day returns to McClure Farm

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

The sky was a cloudless blue that matched the color of the overalls many folks sported. The big names were all there: Massey-Ferguson and Farmall, Ford, and the most famous of all - John Deere. The distinctive green and yellow of the famous farm equipment company appeared on caps, T-shirts and the lovingly restored tractors that were paraded by admirers.

&#8220Harold has put a lot of work into itŠand he's proud of the results,” Jerre Turner of Greenville said of her husband's restoration work on a 1955 John Deere Model 50.

You might not be able to take a tractor home, but John Deere items - purses, bibs, aprons, pillows, throws and more - were there in abundance for shoppers to buy.

Last Saturday, throngs of folks gathered once again at the James McClure Farm on Halso Mill Road.

They came to enjoy the sights, sounds and flavors of Butler County Old Time Farm Day.

After an inaugural event in June, the celebration of rural life returned this fall, to what organizers say will be its permanent annual date - the last Saturday in October.

&#8220The weather is absolutely perfect. This is better than the summertime - it's so nice out here,” April Smith of Greenville said.

Pedal tractor races allowed the small fry to try out their skill on miniature John Deeres and Fords, while cookie walks gave them the chance to win a delicious treat. The adults also enjoyed cakewalks for &#8220Death By Chocolate” concoctions.

Kids of all ages were able to enjoy the antics of Gimpy the Clown, a.k.a. Thurston Mosley of Greenville, in the morning. Many folks sported his &#8220I hugged a clown today” badges.

The disabled Vietnam vet returned in his normal guise for the afternoon and enjoyed cruising the farm in his motorized chair. &#8220It sure is a beautiful day, isn't it? Folks seem to be having a good time,” he said with a broad smile.

Recalling and making good memories

His wife agreed. Rochelle Mosley and best buddy Kathy Atchison shared a booth space offering hand-crafted Christmas ornaments, painted gourd decorations, monogrammed purses and more.

&#8220We've had a lot of folks out here todayŠwhich is just wonderful,” Mosley, who grew up on the farm, said. She watched children play near the old barns where she once played, and smiled.

&#8220It brings back a lot of good memories.”

AnnaLee Newton and Zoe Bloodsworth were making their own memories over at Glenn King's cornmeal mill. The seven-year-old girls were busy feeding husked corn into the grinder.

&#8220They are good help, too,” King said with a grin.

Four-year-old Gavin Pipkin was trying out a John Deere - the miniature kind - while his little brother, one-year-old Matthew Pipkin, Jr. climbed on board a Ford.

Three-and-half-year-old Thomas Rutherford had a slow start on his John Deere, but insisted he didn't need a helping hand.

&#8220The kids are so cute,” Smith said, as she enjoyed one of the burgers charcoal grilled by her husband, Richard, at the barn turned concession stand.

Smith's grilling skills proved profitable. The vendors sold out of hot dogs and finally ran out of charcoal for the burgers. The fresh air and lively music seemed to fuel appetites.

Live music, courtesy of performers such as Southern Comfort Bluegrass Band, kept toes tapping, while taped tunes like the &#8220Cha-Cha” got children on their feet and on the move.

&#8220I'm glad to see things going so wellŠI tell you, there's a lot of worse things these kids could be doing today then being here, having a good time,” Smith said, nodding his head toward a group of giggling youngsters seated on hay bales.

A look into yesterday

Youngsters weren't the only ones having a good time.

&#8220It amazes me, watching the older people. You seem them coming through the gate, and you can see how excited they are to be here,” Jerre Turner said, as horse and mule-drawn buggies and wagons, filled with passengers of all ages, traversed the field behind the McClure homestead. Mule-drawn plows kicked up dust.

Folks kept an ear open in hopes of hearing event emcee David Norrell call out their number for one of many door prizes given away throughout the day.

Some played dominoes; others watched quilters and other needle-crafters at work, or browsed among the country crafts and charming &#8220critters” on display. Some wandered among the vintage trucks and tractors, chatting with their proud owners and recalling days gone by.

Poultry farmer Tom Crenshaw of Greenville brought his 30s-era gasoline engine.

&#8220Back before Pioneer Electric came along, this kind of engine was used to pump water from a well,” he explained to onlookers.

Over at the cane mill, Gerald McGough and Charles Bryan Massey of Honoraville oversaw what appeared to be a giant black bowler hat of cast iron, turned upside down and bubbling away over a fire. Nearby, a mule patiently walked around the vintage mill in the old time process of making real cane syrup.

&#8220This isn't efficient, but it's what folks would have used in the old days to make syrup for their family. If you were making it for a community, you would have needed one of those evaporating pans,” McGough explained.

Saturday's syrup making demonstration was a true community effort, he said.

&#8220One person supplied the mill, someone else brought us the mule, the cane all came from Crenshaw and Butler CountiesŠwe all worked together on this.”

The ribbon cane syrup sold by local Boy Scout Troop Number 45 quickly sold out. Folks were hungry, it seemed, for a taste of old days on the farm.

Basket-maker John Boggan of Greenville was one of those who craved a little of that old-time syrup.

&#8220We've done sold out of all the baskets I brought or made. I wish I had come over earlier,” he told McGough and Massey.

McGough was glad to bring a bit of farm history to life for spectators.

&#8220The kids helped us feed the mill and everybody got a taste of the cane juiceŠmy own granddad used to make a 100 gallons a year for the family to use,” McGough said.

The cane mill on display at Farm Day had a special distinction.

&#8220Notice the direction the mule is walking? He's going clockwise. Old-timers will tell you the mills always used to run counter-clockwise,” McGough explained.

‘They're all gone'

James McClure was a happy senior citizen last Saturday. The farm owner was thrilled to see the bustle of activity at the place he has called home for the past 65 years.

&#8220This house dates all the way back to 1903Šat least two governors visited here, Governor Sparks and Governor Dixon,” McClure said.

McClure was a dairy farmer for two decades and hauled milk for another six years.

His daughter, Rochelle, remembers the days of milking the 100 or so cows on the farm, each and every one of which, she said, &#8220we called by name.”

Dairies once dotted the landscape of the area, but no more.

&#8220There's not a single diary in Butler County, or Crenshaw or LowndesŠI don't think there is one in Montgomery

County anymore. They're all gone,” McClure said.

In the meantime, McClure's great-grandchildren, four-year-old Miranda Bottoms and her two-year-old cousin, Ian McClure, were enjoying a ride on a genuine John Deere wagon.

His daughter, Rochelle, was tired, but still smiling.

&#8220It's been a wonderful day. You can smell that fertilizer they spreadŠit smells good to me,” she said with a twinkle in her dark eyes.

&#8220It all takes me back.”